According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, agricultural growth can be twice as effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector of the economy. Leveraging the success of NCBA CLUSA’s Uganda Conservation Farming Initiative, our Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture (YETA) project improves youth livelihoods by integrating numeracy, literacy and life skills with technical expertise in agriculture, business, entrepreneurship and management. YETA is among projects featured in a World Food Day piece published by the MasterCard Foundation about its work with partnering organizations that directly impact smallholder farmers, creating pathways to prosperity. The full piece follows:
Rising temperatures and changing rain patterns are resulting in droughts, floods and storms that, over time, will impact where our food is grown and how much is produced. By taking a holistic and substantive approach to ensuring smallholder farmers are equipped to meet the challenges of climate change, we can help alleviate poverty and ensure food security for all.
In Africa, persistent drought conditions have led to crop failure, migration and food insecurity. Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 percent of farmed land in Sub-Saharan Africa. With the world population rising—there will be 9.7 billion mouths to feed by 2050—it is critical that those growing our food, including some 450 million smallholder farmers worldwide, are equipped with the tools they need, such as training, information, resources, finance and income, to adapt to the challenges presented by changing climate conditions.
Africa is home to approximately 51 million smallholder farmers. The continent has the equivalent of 25 percent of the world’s arable land; yet, many smallholder farmers are only able to produce enough to feed themselves and their families. According to Feeding Africa: An Action Plan for African Agriculture Transformation, underperformance of the African agricultural sector has a direct link to national poverty. In the recent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders have recognized that by helping smallholder farmers boost their agricultural productivity, they can help end rural poverty, guarantee food security and combat climate change.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agricultural growth can be twice as effective in reducing poverty than growth in any other sector of the economy. Removing barriers to agricultural production could increase the continent’s agricultural output from US$280 billion per year to as much as US$880 billion by the year 2030. This has the potential to create eight million stable jobs in Africa by 2020, and up to 14 million if the sector is accelerated.
Transformation of the agricultural sector is already underway in Africa. Practical farming techniques such as diversification, intercropping, crop rotation, post-harvest management, and improved soil and water management are being used to increase yields, reduce soil degradation and preserve water resources. Young people are beginning to see agriculture as a business and are increasingly engaging in agriculture—both on the farm and off—to earn sustainable livelihoods. Access to both markets and financial services (such as insurance products) are helping smallholder farmers demand a better price for their crops and help them weather the storm during uncertain and challenging times.
Through our financial inclusion, education and youth livelihoods programs, The MasterCard Foundation is partnering with organizations that work directly with smallholder farmers to address some of these challenges and create pathways to prosperity.
One Acre Fund, an innovative non-profit based in Kenya, exists to make farmers more prosperous by directly extending microfinance and bundling in other value-adding services. In the last year, One Acre Fund has expanded its core microfinance model—with financing, farm input distribution, agricultural training and market facilitation—to a total of 329,9000 farmers across Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi.
Their training includes sustainable agricultural practices that help protect the soil and includes topics like erosion prevention and integrated soil fertility management, as well as composting for the production of organic fertilizer.
Our partnership with NCBA CLUSA mobilizes young people to form new or strengthen existing Youth Associations, which provide mentoring and skills training in the agriculture sector, helping youth to improve their livelihoods over the long term.
This project leverages NCBA CLUSA’s successful Uganda Conservation Farming Initiative in Northern Uganda. Conservation farming preserves soil and water and improves the fertility of the land for agricultural activity.
MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program partner, EARTH University, is an international, non-profit university in Costa Rica that emphasizes ethical entrepreneurship, and environmental and social commitment. There, students are taught to consider biodiversity conservation when thinking about agricultural productivity in order to ensure long-term protection of the environment.
One Scholar, John Awiel Chol Diing is a committed agent of change. He has joined with another Scholar, Lucia Lebasha Epur, to form “Save The Pastoralist Initiative”, a community give-back project aimed at improving the lives of the nomadic communities in Northern Kenya. By merging the pastoral way of life with improved arid agricultural practices, John and Lucia will help increase food production and improve resource management.
Thanks to the knowledge they are acquiring in their studies and the ethical entrepreneurial skills they have learned at EARTH University, the project was one of five winners in the Resolution Social Venture Challenge that was held during the Baobab Summit in Accra, Ghana this year.
The Foundation is proud of these partnerships but recognizes there is more work to be done. A multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach that engages governments, corporations, researchers, funders and NGOs at the global scale is the best way to build resilience for smallholder farmers and guarantee food security for everyone.