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Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

8:59 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In Zambia, sorghum—a drought resistant cereal that thrives in the country— was considered a “poor man’s crop” in the past, often shunned by small-scale farmers for the more commercially viable maize. But an article in the June issue of Farming Matters explains how a Zambian brewery with a new brand of beer is changing the way small-scale farmers think about sorghum.

While most clear beers such as lagers and pilsners are made with expensive, imported malts, the Zambian Breweries’ Eagle Lager is made from sorghum. A subsidiary of the South African-based SABMiller, Zambian Breweries purchases sorghum from local farmers, increasing farmers’ income and providing local grocery stores with an affordable lager.

To help farmers partner with the brewery, the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides loans for farmers’ start-up expenses, as well as agricultural training to make sure their crops meet the brewery’s quality standards. With CLUSA’s support, the brewery gets a consistent supply of sorghum to produce its beer and farmers gain access to a secure market, a fixed price for their crop, and a consistent income.

To produce larger crop yields of higher quality sorghum, CLUSA and the brewery, encourage farmers to implement conservation agriculture—a combination of simple techniques such as minimal or zero-tillage, ground cover, crop rotation and inter-planting. Conservation agriculture can reduce the need for inputs, including artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And it benefits the other crops farmers are growing by helping improve soil fertility, controlling pests and weeds, and improving water management. In Zambia, maize yields have been increased by 75 percent and cotton yields by 60 percent thanks to conservation agriculture. (See also: Using the Market to Create Resilient Agriculture Practices, To Improve Competitiveness of Rural Businesses, Linking Farmers to the Private Sector, and a Sustainable Calling Plan.)

While Zambia Breweries’ collaboration with local farmers is working, not all partnerships between companies and farmers go so well. Without appropriate regulation, companies may take advantage of a monopoly; farmers can become indebted to the company and lose control of their farms and crops; and A BIG financial incentive to grow a specific crop can threaten overall crop diversity.

But in Zambia, more than 4,500 small-scale farmers in 14 districts are currently seeing an increase in their incomes due to their contract with Zambia Breweries. Recognizing the significance of this benefit, the Zambian government recently lowered taxes on Eagle Lager in order to encourage Zambian Breweries to continue working with local small-scale farmers. And SABMiller is trying to form similar partnerships with sorghum farmers in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

To read more about how partnerships between local companies and small-scale farmers can improve livelihoods and provide other benefits to the environment and community see: Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Improving African Women’s Access to Agriculture Training Programs, and Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Burkina Faso next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates. Also, please don’t hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you.

The Challenges Farmers Face

10:47 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4256717202_4676947963_m.jpgThe International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is holding the third global meeting of the Farmers’ Forum this week in Rome, Italy. The Forum—which brings together more than 70 farmers groups from around the world—is an opportunity for IFAD and other groups to learn firsthand, from farmers, the challenges they face in the field.

On Saturday, the Forum held a workshop to discuss the unique challenges faced by women farmers. Women are the majority of farmers in the world—particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where up to 80 percent of farmers are women. In addition to the day-to-day problems faced by women farmers—including the lack of access to credit and land tenure—women also are underrepresented in farmers groups, associations, and unions, making it hard for their voices to be heard.

But by increasing women’s participation and representation in these groups, women and men farmers alike can work together to improve gender awareness, as well as improve their access to loans and agricultural inputs and land tenure.

Participants at the forum are also discussing the importance of increasing agricultural education among youth. Youth make up 60 percent of the population in rural areas and making agriculture an attractive and economically viable option for them in the future will be important for improving food security and livelihoods (See Cultivation a Passion for Agriculture).