By Jiayi Wang
DES MOINES, Iowa — Charles F. Nicholson holds a small box of dried mangoes and invites people at the 2015 World Food Prize to taste the product made by farmers at Tiron, a small Indonesian village.
Nicholson is a principal director of SunRei Marketing Company, a non governmental organization (NGO) that trains mango farmers at Tiron and provides them with processing machines. Their dried mango products ship and sell to supermarkets in the U.S.
“Most importantly, the farmers’ daily incomes double,” Nicholson said.
More international NGOs like SunRei are trying the model of combining education, assistance and business to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers in developing countries. One, Self Help International, an NGO with 56-year history, started by donating tractors from the U.S. to Ghana and then developed a long-term development strategy in 1989. They built training center to provide education on agriculture, women, health and hygiene. Self Help also encourages women to take control of their financial future by giving micro-loans and business management courses.
“Our goal is to help these people no longer need us,” Beth Grabau, Central Iowa Development Officer of Self Help, said.
Smallholder farmers manage eighty percent of the farmlands in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Viable livelihoods of these smallholders directly influence sustainability in developing countries.
Although international food-aid can pull people through in an emergency, said Kofi Boa, director of Center for No-Till Agriculture in Ghana, depending on food-aid, over time, will be harmful to sustainability in Africa. However, smallholder farmers urgently need agriculture education and technology, Boa said, especially since many agricultural companies in Africa are not only taking farmland from small farmers but use machinery which will replace the workforce and increase unemployment.
Boa described an ideal model for helping smallholder farmers: large-scale agricultural companies provide technology supports and training to smallholders with little capital and then buy the crops produced by the smallholders to sell and export.