Search Results for ‘ecova mali’


Five Organizations Sharing Local Knowledge for Success Across the World

By Jenna Banning

As Nourishing the Planet has witnessed first-hand, small-scale farmers and local communities have developed innovative ways to meet the challenges facing people across the world. But until recently, they have often lacked the ability to share their solutions, or their knowledge has been overlooked by governments and international groups.

Nourishing the Planet Director Danielle Nierenberg meets with farmers at the Ecova-Mali center. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five organizations that recognize the valuable contributions farmers can share with their neighbors, with policy makers, and with people across the world.

1. AfricaRice Center:

Created in 1971 by eleven African countries, the Africa Rice Center now works with 24 countries across the continent, connecting researchers, rice farmers, and rice processors.

AfricaRice has been developing learning tools that focus on reaching as many farmers as possible, aiming to both “decentralize and democratize learning within the rice sector.” One powerful method has been farmer-to-farmer videos, which feature local experts sharing their knowledge about seed drying and preservation, rice quality, and soil management with viewers. These videos have been translated into more than 30 African languages, with great impact.

Reaching even beyond the continent, the African Rice Center has also created a set of four videos on seed management with rural women in Bangladesh, helping to further facilitate valuable knowledge exchange between rice farmers.



Five Microcredit Programs That are Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

By Isaac Hopkins

One of the best ways to encourage economic growth in poor areas is to provide affordable small loans to farmers and small-business owners. Called microcredit or microloans, these programs can inject capital into communities that lack the collateral required by conventional banks.

Ecova Mali’s first microgrant went to Fatoumata Dembele, to buy vegetable seeds for her village. (Photo credit: Ecova Mali)

Today, Nourishing the Planet introduces five innovative microcredit programs that are encouraging economic growth in poor communities.

1. Farmer-to-Farmer Programs: Microcredit programs tend to be most sustainable when they promote cooperation between residents of a community. Encouraging farmer-to-farmer support can be an effective technique because it allows participants to be less reliant on outside financing and guidance.

Farmer-to-Farmer Programs in Action:  When Africa’s Sustainable Development Council (ASUDEC) connects farmers with microcredit loans, the recipients have several expectations placed upon them. ASUDEC requires farmers to not only pay back the loans, but also to offer equally affordable loans to their neighbors. This policy generates a ripple effect, helping communities increase their incomes and fund their own progress, rather than relying on ASUDEC. As the trust and cooperation between farmers builds, it “helps the poor transition from subsistence to entrepreneurship,” says ASUDEC’S Director, Dr. Salibo Some.



In Case You Missed It: The Week in Review

We just had an exciting week in New York City where we continued to meet with NGOs, researchers, and food activists to share the innovations we’ve found over the last year and a half as we traveled through 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa for our research for State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.

(Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Some highlights from the week: This week we featured saffron, a versatile spice that is giving flavor to dishes as well as helping to relieve muscle pains. The deep yellow pigment from this little flower can be used for threads in rugs, leather goods, and as make-up – in fact, even Cleopatra used it to preserve her skin’s beauty!

Check out this blog on the Co-operative Group, a U.K.-based organization that is working to plan bee corridors in the country to try and save the local honeybee population. “[Bees] pollinate a vast number of crops. They pollinate all the strawberries, all the raspberries, apples, pears… They’re absolutely essential to agriculture,” says the organization’s Senior Technical Manager, Simon Press.

This week’s innovation highlights the System of Wheat Intensification (SWI), an innovative method to increase the productivity of irrigated wheat. This method, based on System of Rice Intensification (SRI) techniques, is already helping small-scale farmers in India and Mali increase their yields by up to three times higher than conventional methods.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


What Works: Untying the Knots of Transportation in the Developing World

By Andrew Boyd

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

For those familiar with the hustle of urban life, it should come as no surprise that per capita GDP is directly correlated with the number of roads in an area.  Douglas Gollin, an Economist at Williams College pointed out during the  African Economic Conference of 2009 that in Sub-Saharan Africa, only 20 percent of the population lives within one hour of a market center.  Even more shocking, Uganda has the same road density as the United Kingdom in the year 350 AD.  With greater travel time to market, farm inputs like fertilizer as well the food produced is more expensive and the prices received by farmers are lower.  Poor transportation networks also forces farmers to chose from a smaller pool of transportation companies, skewing price negotiations in favor of middlemen.  Poverty for farmers in these remote locations should come as no surprise.


Transportation solutions like everything else must be uniquely engineered to compliment the qualities of the immediate landscape. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

One method of developing a functional transportation system is through example.  In the African Trade and Investment Program (ATRIP) Proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Professional Development Program, a two-week training in the U.S. is suggested for twelve East African transportation specialists.  The group will consist of mid-level managers in the rail, road, port, and customs sectors from both government agencies and private institutions.  Choosing mid-level experts ensures that while they are familiar with the unique demands of their individual communities, they are flexible in their thinking and will also have ample time in their career to develop and reach their goals.  These representatives will also have the degree of competency in order to scrutinize what they have learned overseas and make the final decision on whether or not similar methods will work at home.  These leaders will then convene back in Africa to discuss transportation standards between countries.

Better yet, give individual citizens the skills to improve the roadways in their own communities.  In Sri Lanka, the organization Practical Action is helping women from 80 families in Mulberigama build 1.2 kilometers of road.  These women learn techniques for engineering level elevation, drainage, and durability.  In turn, security and safety, two preconditions for the expansion of agricultural investment, are established.  Participants were compensated for their work but chose to donate a portion toward future maintenance costs. While the unifying tendency of travel is obvious, the women of Mulberigama show that the very act of building this infrastructure creates salient community bonds through cooperation. (more…)


What Works: From One Farmer to Another

By Matt Styslinger

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question, and every week you can join the conversation!

As the global community spends fortunes looking for silver-bullet, high technology solutions to end hunger and poverty, African-led innovations are already helping farmers address these issues across the continent. Farmers know what they need and are sharing solutions with each other—farmer to farmer. By supporting farmer-led knowledge sharing, governments, development, and aid organizations can help them value—and invest in—their own local knowledge.

Farmers know what they need and are sharing solutions with each other—farmer to farmer (Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

The Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice), for example, has developed a simple solution to help farmers share knowledge: farmer to farmer videos. From Bangladesh to Benin, farmers are developing different solutions to improve the process of rice production. AfricaRice has developed an instructional video series with farmers demonstrating techniques on film. The videos include demonstrations of seed sorting by flotation, drying, and  preservation in Bangladesh; improving rice quality and parboiling in Benin; land preparation for rice planting in Burkina Faso; and seedbed preparation, transplantingweeding and soil fertility management in Mali. In collaboration with Farm Radio International (FRI), the videos were also used for radio scripts. The scripts were sent to more than 300 rural radio stations, making the videos more widely known and linking distant farmers with common interests.

In Maputo, Mozambique Prolinnova, Spanish NGO Centro de Iniciativas para la Cooperación (Batá), and the National Farmers Union of Mozambique (UNAC) organized a workshop for farmers to share their experiences and learn from each other about different innovations they were practicing in their communities. Energindo Paulo from Nicassa province, for example, was there to explain how to make and use natural, non-toxic pesticides from Neem tree leaves to protect crops. Other farmers talked about how to prevent crop disease and how to raise farmed fish. Prolinnova, Batá, and UNAC plan to identify 12 to 14 practices highlighted in the workshop for a book to be translated into three of Mozambique’s languages, helping farmers’ innovations spread throughout the country. (more…)


Video Spotlight of the Week

Each week Nourishing the Planet features a video to give you the inside scoop on the different projects we see on the ground that are working to alleviate hunger and poverty. We showcase past favorites and some brand new videos you’ve never seen.  Check out Nourishing the Planet’s Youtube channel to see more.

In this video a farmer at ECOVA Mali tells  Nourishing the Planet co-Project Director, Danielle Nierenberg, how the organization teaches farmers to use compost made from available materials as opposed to expensive chemical fertilizers in their gardens.


Video Spotlight of the Week

Each week Nourishing the Planet features a video to give you the inside scoop on the different projects we see on the ground that are working to alleviate hunger and poverty. We showcase past favorites and some brand new videos you’ve never seen.  Check out Nourishing the Planet’s Youtube channel to see more.

This week’s video features Madou Camara, country director of ECOVA Mali, an NGO that encourages and facilitates accomplished Malian farmers training other farmers in sustainable agriculture techniques. They also provide investment for micro-loans and mini-grants for the creation and development of worker-owned and managed, sustainable agricultural enterprises based on principles of environmental and social responsibility.


Innovation of the Week: Improving the Harvest, From the Soil to the Market

Farmers in the Uluguru Mountains in Tanzania are fighting a losing battle against increasingly degraded land. Repeated plantings are quickly depleting the nutrients in the soil, leaving it nearly barren and vulnerable to erosion. Meanwhile, downstream, the water is dark with sediment, unfit for drinking and expensive to treat. “Downstream, people are complaining about the quality of water,” says Lopa Dosteus, program manager for CARE International’s Equitable Payment for Watershed Management (EPWM) program. “And upstream, the farmers are struggling to grow enough food while their soil washes away.”

CARE encourages farmers to plant trees as crops to help sequester carbon in the soil and restore nutrients. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

In response to the growing concerns voiced by those living both up and downstream, CARE International, an organization fighting poverty and hunger around the world, is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Institute for Environmental Development (IIED), to improve farming practices and create financial incentives to take better care of the soil. “The objective,” says Lopa, “is to see if we can help farmers manage natural resources while, at the same time, increase their income.”

EPWM encourages, and works closely with, smallholder farmers to use various farming techniques that help to restore—and hold in place—the soil. “We encourage these farmers—who are all farming on small pieces of land—to build terraces to limit soil runoff and erosion,” says Lopa. “We also encourage them to plant trees as crops and to plant trees in the areas of their land that are otherwise going unused—this helps sequester carbon in the soil and restores much needed nutrients.” EPWM also provides supplies and support, such as seeds and crop maintenance training, and encourages farmers to leave sections of their land alone to long year-long, or even two-year long, periods in order to give the soil a chance to regenerate on its own.

Once the harvest is improved, EPWM works to make sure that farmers have a place to sell the surplus. Most farmers in the region do not have relationships with sellers at local markets. Instead, farmers take their produce to market dealers who purchase the rice, maize, beans, groundnuts, tomatoes, cabbages, and bananas at the lowest rate possible in order to turn around and sell them to local businesses at marked up prices. “We support farmers throughout the process to go out and identify the market for themselves,” says Lopa. “They collect information and meet with interested businesses. Then they don’t need the dealers anymore.”

While transportation of crops to the market is a problem, especially during the rainy season when mountain roads almost entirely inaccessible even by foot, Lopa says that the farmers participating in the project, motivated by their improved harvest and increased incomes, are working together to fight for government assistance and improved infrastructure. “Farmers are seeing that this is increasing their production and their incomes and its motivating them,” says Lopa. “They are happy that the area is being well conserved and they are feeling like they have access to more things. We are helping them shout together and be heard by the government so that their already improved access to the market can be improved even more.”

“Farmers are seeing that they can do this on the small level,” continues Lopa. “And it’s making them think and act bigger. Now they are improving things all on their own.”

To read more about innovations that increase harvests, mitigate environmental degradation, create access to markets and  improve livelihoods, see: Aid Groups, Farmers Collaborate to Re-Green Sahel, Re-greening” the Sahel Through Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration, Improving Farmer Livelihoods and Wildlife Conservation, Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Helping Conserve Wildlife–and Agriculture–in Mozambique, Bringing Inputs to Farmers, ECOVA MALI: Building Home Grown Knowledge, New Frontier Farmers and Processor Group: Reviving Farmland and Improving Livelihoods, The Abooman Women’s Group: Working together to Improve Livelihoods, It’s All About the Process and Turning the Catch of the Day into Improved Livelihoods.


Innovation of the Week: Getting the most from crops, in the field and at the market

In Cameroon, one of the foods that grows best is cassava. But farmers struggle with low yields because of pests and diseases that damage crops, making each harvest much more labor intensive than they are worth. “Farmers are spending more on planting materials and field maintenance to grow cassava and they are unable to make profit from the poor harvests,” says Emmanuel Njukwe, Chief of Service for the Crop Improvement and Utilization Unit at The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). “They are fighting an expensive battle against pests and diseases.”

IITA, in partnership with the Cameroon Government National Program for Roots and Tuber Development (PNDRT), is developing and introducing improved varieties of cassava with resistance to major pests and diseases to help increase production. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

To help make the battle a little less labor intensive and financially costly, IITA, in partnership with the Cameroon Government National Program for Roots and Tuber Development (PNDRT), is developing and introducing improved varieties of cassava with resistance to major pests and diseases to increase production. IITA and PNDRT are also training farmers in post-harvest processing techniques to improve quality and add value to products farmers have to sell and connecting those farmers to high-paying enterprises and markets.

“Once we identify varieties of cassava that we think will benefit local growers,” says Emmanuel, “we work closely with farmers to identify and select the new varieties and ensure that the new varieties meet farmers’ needs.” Groups of farmers participating in a field test of a new IITA cassava variety compare the new variety with their best local variety. “The farmers then pick the variety they like best,” continues Emmanuel. “They tell us what they like and don’t like and then we help train them to get the most out of those varieties, in the field and at the market.”

One of the farmers’ groups that received training and materials from IITA and government extension officers to process cassava into flour is now connected to a bakery that uses the flour to make cakes. Being able to grow and process cassava as a group, explains Emmanuel, helps reduce production costs for individual farmers. Says Emmanuel, “When we train the farmers to process their crop it makes it easier for them to transport and store the product, and to sell to larger consumers like a business to improve their livelihoods.”

IITA encourages the farmers’ groups to specialize in different processing options or storage techniques and then encourages them to work together. Farmers who specialize in processing cassava into flour, for example, can reach out to another group that specializes in storage and utilization for support and services. In this way, the groups can create financially beneficial links to each other, in addition to the links to the market that IITA also helps to cultivate.

“The model we want to use is to promote the smallholder farmers,” continues Emmanuel. “Right now, many farmers do not earn high income from cassava production. But the potentials are there to change all of that. We give them the information, the training, and the crop varieties they need to do that. But we do it with the help of the farmers, in every step of the process.”

To read more about how farmers are improving their income and livelihoods through improved crops and processing, see: Bringing Inputs to Farmers, ECOVA MALI: Building Home Grown Knowledge, New Frontier Farmers and Processor Group: Reviving Farmland and Improving Livelihoods, The Abooman Women’s Group: Working together to Improve Livelihoods, It’s All About the Process, Turning the Catch of the Day into Improved Livelihoods and Transforming Crops into Products.


Snapshots from the Field

(Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack)

Each week the Nourishing the Planet team picks out some of our favorite photo memories from the projects we’ve visited in sub-Saharan Africa. Help us choose what to highlight!

Check out our Flickr photostream and let us know what you think.

This week’s pick is from our visit with ECOVA MALI, a non-profit based outside of Bamako that hires local experts to provide “hands-on” agricultural training, as well as instruction on business planning, basic accounting, and marketing to Malian farmers.