Locally Produced Crops for Locally Consumed Products

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet.

In Zambia, sorghum-a drought resistant cereal that thrives in the country- was considered a "poor man's crop" in the past, often shunned by small-scale farmers for the more commercially viable maize. But an article in the June issue of Farming Matters explains how a Zambian brewery with a new brand of beer is changing the way small-scale farmers think about sorghum.

While most clear beers such as lagers and pilsners are made with expensive, imported malts, the Zambian Breweries' Eagle Lager is made from sorghum. A subsidiary of the South African-based SABMiller, Zambian Breweries purchases sorghum  from local farmers, increasing farmers' income and providing local grocery stores with an affordable lager.

To help farmers partner with the brewery, the Cooperative League of the United States of America (CLUSA), with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), provides loans for farmers' start-up expenses, as well as agricultural training to make sure their crops meet the brewery's quality standards. With CLUSA's support, the brewery gets a consistent supply of sorghum to produce its beer and farmers gain access to a secure market, a fixed price for their crop, and a consistent income.

To produce larger crop yields of higher quality sorghum, CLUSA and the brewery, encourage farmers to implement conservation agriculture-a combination of simple techniques such as minimal or zero-tillage, ground cover, crop rotation and inter-planting.  Conservation agriculture can reduce the need for inputs, including artificial fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. And it benefits the other crops farmers are growing by helping improve soil fertility, controlling pests and weeds, and improving water management. In Zambia, maize yields have been increased by 75 percent and cotton yields by 60 percent thanks to conservation agriculture. (See also: Using the Market to Create Resilient Agriculture Practices, To Improve Competitiveness of Rural Businesses, Linking Farmers to the Private Sector, and a Sustainable Calling Plan.)

While Zambia Breweries' collaboration with local farmers is working, not all partnerships between companies and farmers go so well. Without appropriate regulation, companies may take advantage of a monopoly; farmers can become indebted to the company and lose control of their farms and crops;  and A BIG financial incentive to grow a specific crop can threaten overall crop diversity.

But  in Zambia, more than 4,500 small-scale farmers in 14 districts are currently seeing an increase in their incomes due to their contract with Zambia Breweries. Recognizing the significance of this benefit, the Zambian government recently lowered taxes on Eagle Lager in order to encourage Zambian Breweries to continue working with local small-scale farmers.  And SABMiller is trying to form similar partnerships with sorghum farmers in Uganda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Mozambique.

To read more about how partnerships between local companies and small-scale farmers can improve livelihoods and provide other benefits to the environment and community see: Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods, Improving African Women's Access to Agriculture Training Programs, and Using Small Businesses to Create Local Markets.

Thank you for reading! As you may already know, Danielle Nierenberg is traveling across sub-Saharan Africa visiting organizations and projects that provide environmentally sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.  She has already traveled to over 18 countries and visited 130 projects highlighting stories of hope and success in the region. She will be in Burkina Faso next, so stay tuned for more writing, photos and video from her travels.  

If you enjoy reading this diary, we blog daily on  Nourishing the Planet, where you can also sign up for our newsletter to receive weekly blog and travel updates.  Also, please don't hesitate to comment on our posts, we check them daily and look forward to an ongoing discussion with you.



Picture Us In Uganda

Ready for a math nightmare -- every US Dollar is 1,800 Ugandan Shillings! Here's a test for you: if  something costs 51,450 shillings -- what is that in US dollars? (No cheating with a calculator...)

Aside from mental mathematics, Uganda is much more affordable than the other countries in East Africa. With the exception of taxis (petrol is a fortune for drivers), everything here is a bit less expensive than Uganda's neighbors: Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya. That's of course if you don't go Gorilla Tracking (at least $USD200 per person) or whitewater rafting at the source of the Nile ($USD125 per person). Looks like our schedule will prevent us from the first and bad weather kept us from the latter.  But we love this country so much we have no doubt we'll be back sometime in the future and we'll try to do both!

People here are also very laid back -- I've even gone three days without a cup of coffee here and didn't seem to mind.

You hear the words "Hakuna Matata" everywhere. Literally.

Internet services down nationwide all day? Hakuna Matata...

Flights cancelled? Hakuna Matata...

Two hours in wall-to-wall rush hours in Kampala? Hakuna Matata...

I am just trying to let go and not be that stereotypical American traveler who can't go with the flow....(and sometimes failing miserably at it)...

We like the money here, no former or current presidents or war generals, just birds and mammals on the bills. And they are all different colors--very pretty.

We also tried the local beer -- called Club -- which reminded me of Budweiser (no offense to  to Dani's home state of Missouri).They have a darker local beer aptly called "Nile" which we will try before leaving. Oh, and for some reason Smirnoff is not only the vodka of choice -- but those little Smirnoff Ice wine coolers are ubiquitous in local hands...

I can't complain about the toilets (mostly clean, toilet seats almost everywhere in Kampala, but almost nowhere outside the city) -- mostly because Uganda offered me my first hot shower since landing in Ethiopia!

Follow us as we visit toilets, drink beer, and spend money across East Africa ;-). Check out Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

There's more...

Picture Us In Tanzania

Currency: Any country will seem affordable once you leave Kenya -- but we've fallen in love with the Tanzania shilling for three reasons:

(1) The US dollar is a lot less mighty on the road -- but in Tanzania it is still golden. One dollar is worth approx a whopping 1350 shillings -- meaning you can get a good budget hotel for less than $20 dollars.  

(2) It pays in Tanzania to be vegetarian! Not only do most menus have a "vegetarian page" (thank you India and China!) -- but veg food, unlike in the United States, also costs considerably less on the menu.

(3) Unlike most countries -- no dead or living presidents on the Tanzanian currency! Instead, the lions, rhinos, and buffaloes rule--the 10,000 bill features a elephant, the 5,000 bill features a rhino, and the 500 shilling bill features the buffalo.

Toilets: We've also been surprised by how many nice flushing toilets we found, even outside of Dar or Zanzibar.

Beer: Ok, so -- Kilimanjaro beer is terrific (smooth light taste, cool looking label, one of the best beers we've had in East Africa) and we were ready to move Tanzania to the front of the line in the best beer category -- until we tasted their other main local beer Serengeti. Don't be fooled by the cute cheetah looking cartoon on the front, this brew sucks and leaves a lingering aftertaste. It may be the only beverage (and certainly only beer) that we disliked so much that we categorize it in the same company with Starbucks "drip coffee," which they intentionally make taste so terrible that you're forced to shell out an extra $3 to buy a latte or a mocha.

Check out our previous "countries in photos" posts -- click here for Ethiopia and here for Kenya.

There's more...

LiveBlogging the MyDD Beer Caucus

Jonathan Singer-"We decided to plan it yesterday. We're not in the official schedule"

Have some refreshments (beer) in this warm Texas heat. Not the South here, just Texas.

Adam Conner & Josh Orton are both here. Todd Beeton will be here soon. Jerome is spending some good time with his family

There's more...

How The War Lead To The Death Of (American) Budweiser

This Bud is for Big Oil, War Profiteers & Europeans, Middle-Class Americans Lose Again

The takeover of American icon Anheuser-Busch by Belgian Brewer InBev, a company that barely anyone had heard of 5 years ago, is another example of how middle-class Americans are paying dearly for the failed war in Iraq.  Simply put, the result of the war is sky high oil prices, a major inflationary pressure, and the worst economy in a generation.  In the process the dollar has dropped like a stone.  Imagine what the real estate crash has done to home values in a world economic context -- given dropping property values and the dropping dollar, many homes have declined in the neighborhood of 50%, ouch!  Call me a whiner but it's the truth.

There's more...


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