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Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector

Hyea Won Lee's picture
Nguyen Van Khuyen (right) and To Hoai Thuong (left). Photo: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
 
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
 
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

Our food system depends on the right information—how can we deliver?

Diego Arias's picture
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.

The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.

Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.

Blog post of the month: Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles

Vivek Prasad's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For May 2017, the featured blog post is "Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles" by Vivek Prasad and Iftikhar Mostafa. 

Millions of urban dwellers cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale. In Dakar, 7500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens. In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. Low-income city gardeners in Zambia make US$230 a year from sales. In cities like Bamako, Accra and Kumasi, depending on crop and season, between 60 and 100 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed are produced within the respective cities with employment figures ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 jobs. Even megacities such as Shanghai, with about 15% population growth per year, one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, maintains its urban farming as an important part of its economic system.

 

Farm plots amidst apartment blocks in Chaozhou, China.

Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population.    

Most cities in developing countries are facing challenges to create formal job opportunities. Urban agriculture can play an important role not only in enhancing food security but also in contributing to the eco-system - improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, local economic development and job creation as well as productive reuse of urban wastes.

Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighborhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. In Havana, 117,000 jobs in Havana and income for 150,000 low income families were directly provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles

Vivek Prasad's picture

Millions of urban dwellers cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale. In Dakar, 7500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens. In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. Low-income city gardeners in Zambia make US$230 a year from sales. In cities like Bamako, Accra and Kumasi, depending on crop and season, between 60 and 100 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed are produced within the respective cities with employment figures ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 jobs. Even megacities such as Shanghai, with about 15% population growth per year, one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, maintains its urban farming as an important part of its economic system.

 

Farm plots amidst apartment blocks in Chaozhou, China.

Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population.    

Most cities in developing countries are facing challenges to create formal job opportunities. Urban agriculture can play an important role not only in enhancing food security but also in contributing to the eco-system - improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, local economic development and job creation as well as productive reuse of urban wastes.

Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighborhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. In Havana, 117,000 jobs in Havana and income for 150,000 low income families were directly provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Helping Afghan farmers build better lives

Mohammad Hassan Ibrahimi's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy

I am a messenger between local farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). That’s my role as provincial coordinator of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) for Daykundi Province. I lead agricultural trainings, visit farmers, oversee all project activities in the province—there is no typical day. I’m constantly working to understand and help improve the situation of Daykundi’s farmers. I usually learn as much from my interactions with farmers as I teach—one of the favorite parts of my job is when farmers share the wisdom they’ve gained farming the land for generations.
 
Most of the farmers we work with are very poor, and it is easy to see the direct impact our work has in improving their livelihoods and lives. In teaching basic horticultural skills, creating sustainable livelihoods, and giving farmers the resources they need, we are helping rebuild Afghanistan from the grassroots. With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP works to promote the adoption of improved horticulture practices and spark grassroots efforts that will be self-sustaining beyond the direct work of our projects.
 
Since NHLP launched in Daykundi Province in 2014, we have established 1,400 jeribs, or 280 hectares, of grapes, almonds, apples, and apricots, and we’re working to build 18 water harvesting structures to improve irrigation across the province.

Measuring family farming is tricky business

Vellore Arthi's picture



Of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty, the vast majority resides in rural areas, relying on smallholder agriculture as a source of income and livelihood. Agricultural labor statistics are needed to study some of the most pressing issues in development:  how households earn income, the factors driving urbanization, the causes of un- and under-employment, the constraints to growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, and, in the big picture, understanding the potential for structural transformation. And, as climate change continues to impact smallholder farming outcomes, collecting quality data is even more important as we think ahead to interventions that promote climate-resilience for family farmers.

Agribusiness can help to unlock the true potential of Africa

Teodoro De Jesus Xavier Poulson's picture
A woman farmer works fields in the Conde’ community of Morro da Bango, Angola. © Anita Baumann

The challenges faced by small farmers are similar across the developing world – pests, diseases and climate change. Yet in Africa the challenges are even greater. If farmers are to survive at current rates (let alone grow), they need to have access to high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizers and irrigation technologies. These issues threaten the region’s ability to feed itself and make business-growth and export markets especially difficult to reach. Other factors include the rise in global food prices and export subsidies for exporters in the developed economies, which leave African farmers struggling to price competitively.

Mwomboshi Dam: Ushering in a new era of farming in Zambia

Ina-Marlene Ruthenberg's picture
Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu cuts the ribbon to mark the construction of the new Mwomboshi Dam, projected to be the largest dam in the country’s history.
Photo credit: Royd Sibajene


Amid pomp, traditional dance and splendor, in rural Chisamba, central Province, the President of Zambia, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, cut an elaborate ribbon donned in Zambian colors of red, black, green and orange to lay a foundation stone to mark the construction of the Mwomboshi Dam. The dam construction is funded by the World Bank under the Irrigation Development and Support Project (ISDP) with the amount of $37 million. Not only did I attend this significant ground-breaking ceremony as a representative of the World Bank Group (WBG), but I also took the opportunity to say a Bemba agriculture idiom I have been taught by my colleagues at the office.

Campaign art: Sounds of life in the forest

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from POL, an agency in Oslo Norway, and the Rainforest Foundation reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  They are complex ecosystems that affect almost every species on the planet.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' and show the life in the rainforest.
 

Sounds of life


Campaign Art: Sounds of life

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from the Rainforest Foundation and POL, an agency in Norway, reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' the life in the rainforest.
 
Sounds like life

 


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