Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’

Haiti Update: Supplying Farmers, Reviving Farms

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Here’s the latest update from CRS’ program manager for Haiti, Greg Elder. He’s working with emergency responders and keeping us informed on conditions following massive storm damage in August and September.

Gonaives mud

A mattress is spread to dry beside a mound of mud removed from the rooms of a Missionary of Charity compound in Gonaives. Photo by David Snyder for CRS.

In the southern departments of Haiti we’ve been doing agricultural activities for a long time. We are now complementing this by using Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) funds to help farmers get back on their feet. We will be starting seed fairs in January, and will supplement this with farming tools and animals.

These seed fairs will be a CRS first in Haiti. We’re training local farmers and seed merchants on how a seed fair works. We’ll then set a date and organize the varieties of seeds being sold and set prices with the vendors in order to ensure they bring the seeds that the farmers need at prices they can afford.

We will provide vouchers to farmers so that they can purchase the seeds they most need. It’s widely accepted as one of the best methods to provide agricultural assistance. You’re not only helping farmers who need seeds, but you’re helping local providers who make their livelihoods from the sale of seeds. We are essentially creating a market chain to build relationships that will help them in the future.

Every little bit helps in achieving our goal of getting Gonaives and Haiti back to normal. We’re helping families leave the shelters and return to their homes, and we’re helping kids return to school. That is the main progress we’ve made so far.

– Greg Elder

World Toilet Day: Arbor Loos Do Double Duty

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Mayling Simpson-Hebert, a CRS regional technical advisor in East Africa, shares her dream of 100 percent sanitation coverage across the globe.

Happy World Toilet Day! Although it may be hard to believe, almost 40 percent of the world’s population has no access to a toilet. Imagine it: More than one out of every three people living on earth relieves themselves in the open.

Arbor Loo

Arbor loos are inexpensive toilets that first serve sanitation needs then later provide a rich source of nutrients for fruit trees. In Ethiopia, a family has built a basic privacy fence around the concrete toilet slab of this arbor loo. Photo by CRS Staff.

Simple toilets can make a significant health impact. Many families, though, are either unable to afford proposed latrine designs or simply don’t buy into the benefits. But one model, the “arbor loo,” is making headway. Designed by Peter Morgan in Zimbabwe for the African situation, it is affordable for most rural African households.

Key to the arbor loo’s success is how it serves double duty: first as a basic toilet, then as an extremely fertile pit for a fruit tree. The design provides a wealth of benefits:


Irrigation Aplenty

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Members of a farming co-operative in the Mchinji District of Malawi are now able to irrigate their land with help from a CRS program. Irrigation during the dry winter months allows these farmers to vastly increase the amount and diversity of crops they are able to grow, which allows them to earn money selling their surplus food on the local markets.

CRS works through local partner agencies to implement agricultureand environment programs for the poorest farm families and rural communities worldwide. Given certain climatic conditions, proper irrigation is key to making the projects sustainable.

Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Kenya: Families Return to Fields After Election Violence

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Catholic Relief Services has been providing emergency relief and reconciliation support since the start of the post-election violence in Kenya in early 2008. This past month in partnership with CAFOD (the Caritas agency of England) and two local dioceses, CRS began helping 4,500 families to restart agricultural activities in the Rift Valley.

Kenya vouchers

Families affected by post-election violence in Kenya are receiving about $200 worth of vouchers for agricultural materials to restart farming.. Photo by Debbie DeVoe/CRS

Each family receives about $200 worth of vouchers, funded by the European Union. The families then use the vouchers to purchase seeds, tools, fertilizer and small livestock from approved vendors, who in turn receive cash for the vouchers from CRS’ diocesan partners.

“This project is not only helping thousands of families affected by the post-election violence in Kenya to grow critical food but is also helping communities to reconcile,” explains Massimo Altimari, emergency coordinator for CRS Kenya. “When we first started working with affected communities, tensions were quite high among disputing residents. Now they have come together to help identify beneficiaries and support project activities, helping them to resume normal relationships.”

– Debbie DeVoe, CRS regional information officer, East Africa

A Harvest Rebirth

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

Life is gradually returning to normal for people living in tsunami affected areas. A woman farmer in the town of Pulo Aceh, Indonesia weeds what would become the first rice harvest since the 2004 tsunami ravaged the northwest coast of Sumatra, particularly the province of Aceh.

To help farmers restore their crops and livelihoods, CRS provided fertilizers and local “hybrid” seeds, which grow faster than traditional varieties. CRS continues to work with communities in Aceh with reconstruction projects:  building new homes, parks and  water systems and replacing washed-out roads.

Photo by Sean Sprague for CRS

Defying Drought

Monday, October 27th, 2008

An Ethiopian youngster displays corn grown by members of the Mede Gudine Cooperative. Supported by CRS and our partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, dozens of farmers now have year-round access to irrigation through a range of pumps, water cisterns and underground water level controls that collectively provide ample water to farmers all year round.

During the current drought, similar CRS supported irrigation projects have helped farmers survive dry periods. Thanks to irrigation projects, farmers grow vegetable crops they can harvest and sell two or three times a year, reducing dependence on rain-fed crops.

Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Hands that Shell the Nuts

Monday, October 20th, 2008

In Baucau, Timor Leste, candlenut farmers shell nuts by banging them against a stone. The shelled nut is held in a dried palm leaf.

This innovative project, supported by CRS, improves the quality of life for candlenut farmers by helping them form cooperatives, and by providing training on agricultural techniques and marketing and sales methods.

Photo by Sean Sprague for CRS

Rice Advice in West Africa

Friday, October 10th, 2008

CRS information officer for West Africa, Lane Hartill, visited eastern Sierra Leone last week and met with farmers who have increased their production thanks to CRS.

Rice Program

Musa Fomba, a farmer in Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone, has increased his rice yield thanks to CRS’ farmer field schools, which teach farmers techniques to improve their crop yields. Photo by Lane Hartill/CRS

Musa and I have something in common: We both grew up on a farm. I raised hogs and steers; he has sheep and pygmy goats. We chat about corrals and the price of goats per head. But then the conversation turns to rice, Musa’s main crop. When he offers to show me his field, I can’t wait.

I tromp for an hour through the forest, past the kids bathing in the stream, under the shadow of the palm oil trees he planted in 1984, through the 10 ft. high elephant grass, and up a dry, rocky riverbed. I’m soaked with sweat by the time we arrive. Musa sometimes does this trip four times a day. Farming is good exercise, he says, and judging by the map of muscles on his back, he’s right.

Spread out before us are rolling hills of rice. It catches the light and glows neon green. Musa beams, too. But the thing he is most proud of is missing: birds. They’re his sworn enemy, eating his profit right off the plant. But birds don’t like the deep jungle, he says, and he’s willing to hike here in order to harvest more rice.

Musa could have gone the route of thousands of Sierra Leonean young men: roaming the streets of major cities like Kenema or Freetown, hawking flip flops, pungent perfume, or anything else that lets them earn enough money to eat at night.

But he prefers farming, he’s not ashamed of saying. It’s what he grew up with. He knows that with persistence and a strong back, there’s money in it. This year he and his workers cleared 5.5 acres of land for his upland rice, grueling work done with sharp machetes and a rusty hoes. Two years ago he harvested 10 bags. This year, he’s thinks he’ll get 40. The difference? CRS. A field agent told him not to “broadcast” as much seed on the ground. That gives it more room to grow, increasing the yield.

Growing up, my sister and I got up every morning before school and fed the calves. Farming got old, quickly. But after talking to Musa, after wading through the armpit-high rice field and seeing how happy he was, I got to thinking: it might be nice to get place with a garden someday and broadcast a few seeds of my own.

Boosting Rice Production to Fight the Food Crisis

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Dear Friend,

The global food crisis has brought an end to what The Economist magazine has called “the era of cheap food.” This refers to the two decades before 2005 when food prices fell by three-quarters in real terms on world markets.

Food was so inexpensive that many developing countries found it was more cost effective to import food than to produce it themselves. In many African countries, for example, imported rice from Asia was so cheap that local farmers couldn’t compete, and so production flagged. But with many Asian nations limiting exports as a result of the food crisis, cheap imported rice is a thing of the past for African families—perhaps forever.

This is certainly the case in Burkina Faso. Rice there is the fourth most important food crop, after millet, sorghum and maize. For years, the west African country imported more than 70 percent of its rice from abroad, with local production covering the rest. But this has all changed after the price of rice rose by at least 60 percent in the first half of this year. Although this is a disaster for urban consumers, small-scale rice farmers can find in it an opportunity to increase their production, which will benefit them and their fellow Burkinabe.

Catholic Relief Services is carrying out a broad-based response to the global food crisis caused by skyrocketing prices for both food and fuel. A key part of our strategy is helping small-scale farmers to boost local crop production, increasing their incomes and putting more food on the market, which should lower prices for all.

An important component of this response is the CRS Rice Initiative, which seeks to increase the productivity of rice farm families in Africa. Sixteen CRS country programs across Africa have committed to participating in the Rice Initiative, which will provide small-scale rice farmers, most of whom are women, with access to improved seed varieties and high-quality nitrogen fertilizer that will quickly produce higher yields. We will also provide support to farmers in preventing post-harvest loss and in marketing their crops.

CRS has already begun “quick start” activities in four countries—Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana and Madagascar—using our private funds to support farmers so they can take advantage of the upcoming planting season.

CRS has also been invited to participate in a $5.1-million, two-year proposal by the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA, also known as the Africa Rice Center) to boost productivity in Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ghana.

It is our hope that we can build on our quick start in west Africa, and expand this Rice Initiative to east and southern Africa, as well as to Asian countries including the Philippines and India. In addition to WARDA, CRS intends to partner with the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute, which brought the Green Revolution to Asia.

The Rice Initiative is an example of CRS’ ability to leverage our expertise acquired over long years of experience to launch bold new programs. Our work in seed fairs and vouchers will help us effectively distribute seed and fertilizer to the farmers most in need. Our ability to provide follow-up technical assistance, including agro-enterprise initiatives linking African farmers to profitable markets, will help them to help their neighbors by producing a more bountiful harvest.

Thank you for your continued support and for your prayers for all the suffering who are going hungry as a result of this global food crisis.

Ken Hackett