Adaptive agriculture program increases food security and income generation in rural Free State
Phahameng Township, Free State, South Africa, Feb. 17, 2015 – The ripening tomato crop on the Itshokolele farm promises to be one of the best harvests to date, guaranteeing income to feed the extended family, pay the fees for their children to attend school, and buy enough seeds to plant an even bigger field next season.
It was not long ago that the family only scraped by, never able to grow enough to protect their children from hunger. But now, through INMED Partnerships for Children’s South African Adaptive Agriculture Program (AAP), everything has changed.
With support from the Monsanto Fund, INMED’s AAP is transforming livelihoods and creating opportunities in poor farming communities in rural Free State, where many small farmers lack the training, resources and access to water that allow them to rise above subsistence levels of production.
“For 15 years, INMED and the Monsanto Fund have worked together to address critical needs in a variety of communities where our program skills match the Fund’s commitment to investing in targeted solutions,” said INMED President and CEO Dr. Linda Pfeiffer. “We are proud to count the Monsanto Fund as a leading partner in our work to rescue children from harm today while building strong leaders for the future.”
Through the AAP, INMED is helping the Itshokolele farm, a disabled persons’ cooperative, and at-risk youth in two high schools achieve food security and generate income by producing nutritious, high-value produce on their small plots of land in a way that adapts to the increasingly visible effects of climate change. Improved planting, cultivation and irrigation—including rainwater harvesting and intensive cultivation techniques—is the first step to help farmers maximize production, while training in business planning helps them gain access to new markets, budget effectively, and secure loans and grants to expand their operations.
“Two of the biggest challenges that rural communities in the developing world face are poverty and malnutrition,” said Gyanendra Shukla, Monsanto Africa Regional Lead. “This project helps ensure families can earn enough income to prepare healthy meals. And its education program is helping the next generation experience innovative ideas for how to farm in the future.”
At the Monyakeng Disabled Persons cooperative, INMED has introduced aquaponics—a resource-efficient agricultural technique combining fish farming with hydroponics—as a adaptive strategy for food security and income generation. INMED has implemented aquaponics on a broad scale in Jamaica, Peru and other locations in South Africa, and while the organization did not invent the technology, it has developed a low-cost, scalable design using readily available “off the shelf” materials and simple plans that local builders can easily implement, making this innovative agricultural technique accessible even to low-income families and farming groups.
Education on aquaponics, adaptive agriculture and climate change in local high schools—as well as the opportunity to work directly in school gardens—also involves and motivates youth to view agriculture as a viable career, helping to bridge a gap in which South Africa risks not having enough new farmers to work the land, leading to further food insecurity and negative economic impacts from having to import staple foods. Currently, many farming family youth who watch their parents struggle for subsistence see no future in agriculture, and are leaving their rural communities to seek jobs in the cities instead. Aquaponics in particular sparks interest among the younger generation. As one youth put it, “it is technology, not a hoe and a shovel.”
“INMED’s Adaptive Agriculture Program has the potential to serve as a national model for helping poor farming families achieve both food security and economic self-sufficiency in the face of climate change and water scarcity,” Dr. Pfeiffer said. “We thank the Monsanto Fund for its generous commitment to INMED, which makes it possible to deliver this innovative and effective program in close partnership with the communities we serve. Our approaches work, and the Fund’s support plays an essential role in enabling us to multiply their reach.”