Posts Tagged ‘Agriculture’

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