(Jay Kaufman with coffee farmers in St. Catherine, Jamaica, applying a biological control mechanism for the Coffee Berry Borer pest.)
Jay Kaufman is Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Fintrac. He is an expert in market analysis and commercial distribution channels; smallholder and local partner grants administration; and agricultural sector rehabilitation post-disaster. He designs and evaluates field programs, is fluent in Spanish, and holds a master's degree in international business and law.
In your view, what are the most critical problems facing smallholder farmers in developing countries?
There are a range of diverse and complex challenges facing today’s farmers. Climate change is impacting farming communities across the globe and in many ways. At the same time, international food markets are increasingly sophisticated and marked by constantly evolving trends. This is in addition to the higher prices we are seeing for fuel and inputs. In many countries, problems are also compounded by limited access to technologies and markets due to poor physical infrastructure, storage and transportation services.
Perhaps the greatest problem, however, is the poor image that farmers have with governments, the private sector and donor organizations. Across the globe there is a failure to recognize the potential that smallholders in particular hold for unleashing the growth of agricultural industries. Smallholders are the key to economic growth, not the constraint.
What are the solutions to address those problems?
With respect to agricultural growth, many industries are constrained by limited access to high quality and consistent raw material supply. With training and technology transfer, it is possible to raise the production and marketing capacity of small-scale growers in order to upgrade the quality and consistency of their produce. Rather than simply focus on boosting production, training and technology packages should focus on empowering smallholders to meet the product specifications of the marketplace. For crops, this means tailoring production systems to meet requirements for variety, size, weight, coloration, maturity, etc. Postharvest systems are also critical to maintaining quality throughout the supply chain.
There are also opportunities to integrate “smallholder commercialization,” as we call it at Fintrac, with climate change adaptation. This is achieved with practices and technologies that improve resiliency at the farm level in addition to quality and consistency. These include sustainable land practices, low-cost drip irrigation, integrated pest management and a range of other measures that mitigate pressures from floods, droughts and pests and diseases.
You spent time in Jamaica to help farmers recover from major hurricanes. Based on your experiences, what are some immediate challenges that farmers and communities face in the aftermath of disasters?
Recovery programs are under pressure to quickly re-activate farming and other economic activities. Despite this urgency, the process of re-activation needs to incorporate elements of adaptation and resiliency so that communities are not left as vulnerable as before. The Jamaica Business Recovery Program promoted the theme of “building back better,” where integrating grants with technical assistance was aimed not just at re-activating crops and livelihoods, but ensuring that the farming systems and practices put into place were better suited to withstand future shocks.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Ivan was followed less than a year later by Dennis and Emily. Although their impact on Jamaica was not as devastating as Ivan, farmers who incorporated improved practices and technologies saw fewer crop losses following those lesser storms. It was a real eye-opener for many of the grower groups we worked with.
The 2014 Agriculture Act (farm bill) authorized $1.47 billion for the PL 480 Title II Food for Peace program, a slight increase over FY 2013. The Act contained reform measures, designed to increase the flexibility and effectiveness of the food aid program. According to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, the Act will allow the agency to reach 600,000 more people with the same resources.
US agencies now have more flexibility to conduct their development and food aid programs.
The Act decreased the need to monetize commodities by giving more flexibility.
The Act encouraged more local and regional food aid practices.
American Maritime Officers (AMO) issued the statement that the farm bill maintained key provisions that support the maritime industry but warned that the changes may bring some reductions in U.S. food-aid cargoes. Tom Bethel, American Maritime Officers National President said: “The conference report is not what we had hoped for, but it would have been much worse without the efforts of senators and representatives on both sides of the aisle who recognize the crucial roles of the U.S. merchant marine and the importance of the Food for Peace program.” Additionally, the AMO does not think the recent change to the Maritime Administration (MARAD) reimbursement will have a major impact on U.S. maritime industry but it said, “if the prices of commodities comprising U.S. food-aid shipments decline and transportation becomes a larger percentage of the total program cost, the absence of reimbursement from MARAD could result in less money being available for the program.” The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, passed in December 2013, eliminated the requirement for MARAD to reimburse USDA and USAID the difference when shipping expenses for food aid exceed 20 percent of total program cost.
*CORRECTION – the original post appearing on February 26, 2014 highlighted a statement by the Alliance for Global Food Security in the section discussing the response of the maritime industry. However, the Alliance for Global Food Security is not a maritime industry organization but an alliance of development organizations.
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Imelda Nasimiyu practices digging up a mature cassava root at a farmer training in Namikelo, Kenya.
Photo by Kelvin Owino, courtesy of the One Acre Fund blog. One Acre Fund provides smallholder farmers with the tools and financing they need to grow their way out of hunger and poverty. Working with farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania, One Acre Fund supplies a complete market bundle of seeds, fertilizer, training, and market support on credit—and delivers these services within walking distance of the 180,000 farmers they serve.
On March 6, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs will host a half-day International Women’s Day Global Health Symposium at the Fairmont hotel in Chicago. This symposium will explore how women are affecting change in the health field – locally and globally - and examine the economic, political, geographic, and cultural factors involved in addressing global women’s health. Watch a short video of last year's Global Health Symposium. Click here to find out more about the Symposium.
(Baby being weighed in Chuicavioc, Guatemala)
There are several reasons why Guatemala sits atop the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index, a ranking compiled by the Institute of Development Studies in the UK measuring the political and social commitment to reduce hunger and undernutrition in developing countries.
One, the Guatemalan government is beginning to implement a Zero Hunger Plan that aims to reduce chronic malnutrition in children less than five years of age by 10% by 2016. That would be quite a feat, since Guatemala has one of the world’s highest child stunting rates at 48%.
Two, the country’s influential public sector is backing the plan and has formed a business alliance against malnutrition, which annually diminishes Guatemala’s GDP by some 5%.
Three, the International Rabbits (Internacionales Conejos) are on the case. The Rabbits are arguably Guatemala’s most popular marimba band. Working with the international humanitarian organization Save the Children, the Rabbits have provided a jaunty soundtrack to the national war on child stunting, which particularly emphasizes good nutrition, sanitation, and hygiene during the 1,000 days from when a women becomes pregnant to her child’s second birthday. After their hit song “Give the Breast,” about the importance of breastfeeding during the first six months, now comes the follow-up “Give Complementary Foods,” about the nutritional needs of children through two years. Marimba has carried the health messages of the 1,000 days to the far reaches of the Western Highlands, where child malnutrition rates soar to 75%.
With the horns and drums and mayhem of marimba in mind, here are the lyrics to the songs, translated from the original Spanish.
Secretary Kerry said climate change is a national security threat and called it "the greatest challenge of our generation" during his visit to Indonesia. He urged the international community to tackle climate change because it would fundamentally transformation global agriculture and food systems. Secretary Kerry said that according to scientists, "heat waves and water shortages will make it much more difficult for farmers to be able to grow the regular things we grow, like wheat or corn or rice." Watch Secretary Kerry's speech on climate change here.
Highlights from Secretary Kerry's trip to Asia:
Photo credit: U.S. Department of State
Farmers in Kimwanga, Kenya, learn how to measure seed and fertilizer for planting at One Acre Fund's base education trainings.
Photo by Kelvin Owino, courtesy of the One Acre Fund blog. One Acre Fund is an NGO in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania that helps 137,000 smallholder farmers grow their own way out of poverty by providing a "market bundle" that includes education, finance, seed and fertilizer, and market access.
By Dr. Joanna Syroka
Dr. Joanna Syroka joined ARC at its inception in 2009, and is currently the Programme Director of the ARC Secretariat. She oversaw the overall work programme of the ARC design phase and is now in charge of all the technical and R&D work of the ARC Secretariat. A native of the UK, Joanna holds her Bachelors in Physics and PhD in Atmospheric Physics from Imperial College in London.
The development of products tailored to address the risk management needs of African smallholder farmers has received a lot of attention in recent years. Instruments such as index-based weather insurance have been identified as potentially important tools in a smallholder’s risk management toolbox. There are many exciting ongoing initiatives seeking to find scalable and sustainable methods for delivering such products—together with other much-needed financial services. However, recent events, such as the 2010/11 drought in the Horn of Africa, serve to remind us that it is not only smallholders that should be the focus for investment in, and innovation towards, better risk management, but also the governments and the international community who are called upon to support these farmers and their vulnerable neighbours in times of crisis.
In Kenya for example, despite early warnings, events in late 2010 and early 2011 saw two consecutive rainfall seasons fail before a national emergency was declared and international financial resources arrived to support the government and its partners in assisting the drought-stricken communities. In the meantime, livelihoods—and in some cases lives—were lost, household assets were depleted, and malnutrition rates soared as communities were left to cope with the impact of drought alone. Although there were many complex factors at play that led to the delayed response in 2011, had the Kenyan government had access to index-based drought insurance that year, it is conceivable that events could have played out differently. Given the severity of the drought, Kenya would have received insurance payouts in February and June 2011, following the poor short and long rains respectively, reducing uncertainty about funding and the need to reallocate resources from other important programmes. Had the early payouts been used to respond to those affected before they started taking negative coping actions, it is likely that, at the very least, international assistance to support the government would have been mobilised sooner; at the very best, a humanitarian crisis could have been averted.