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Category: Agriculture

The Hult Prize: Food Security in Urban Slums

The Hult Prize: Food Security in Urban Slums

A few weeks ago, I competed in a social enterprise business plan competition called the Hult Prize.  The competition is ambitious in scale and scope, giving a broad mandate to competitors and rewarding the best ideas with the chance to win $1 million in seed funding.  This year’s challenge was developing a solution to the problem of urban hunger by 2018. The catch is that the business needs to be scalable and financially sustainable.  The product or service needs to be…

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Technology Sea Changes: Re:Char and Kiva Zip

Technology Sea Changes: Re:Char and Kiva Zip

Product design is all the rage in poverty alleviation, and has been for the past few years.  By applying the principles of lean manufacturing and waste minimization to the challenge of designing products for people living on less than a dollar a day, we can now create stripped-down products at a fraction of the cost.  But product design is only one small component of the process.  The two other challenges in bringing these products to market – financing and distribution…

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What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 3

What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 3

The following is part three of a three-part post on agriculture economic development.  Read part two here. Aid, as I have discussed in this blog, is one of the three D’s of foreign policy: defense, diplomacy, and development.  It is the hearts in the phrase “winning the hearts and minds.” Being so, the work is certainly not borne entirely, or even at all, out of altruistic motives.  Instead, it is one way of winning sympathy and gratitude from people whose…

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What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 2

What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 2

This is part two of a three-part post on agriculture economic development.  Read part one here. In the previous post, I explained my experience working in agriculture.  In this one, I will talk more generally about the challenges of agriculture economic development in general. Needless to say, the challenges are great, as I have written about before.  And, while I feel the idea of market facilitation has merit and has seen some successes, particularly in cash crops like coffee and…

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What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 1

What Do I Think of Agriculture Development? Pt. 1

This is part one of a three-part post on agriculture economic development. After the better part of a year working for Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF), a microfinance institution in the Philippines, I decided to head west again – specifically, to West Africa.  In late 2010, I moved to Ghana to work with TechnoServe, a non-profit specializing in market-driven solutions to economic development.  This is really just a fancy way of saying that TechnoServe recognizes the importance of competitive…

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Yes to Industrial Agriculture in Tanzania

Yes to Industrial Agriculture in Tanzania

Agrisol, an American agriculture company, is considering investing $100 million in purchasing and developing 325,000 acres of farmland in Tanzania.  This development has raised the ire of the Sierra Club, an environmental group that is concerned with the impact on the smallholder farmers that will be displaced by project and the inequity of repatriating money out of the country.  They are concerned that the move amounts to a land grab – developing land in Tanzania to the detriment of Tanzanians….

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Wal-Mart (Does Not) Come to India

Wal-Mart (Does Not) Come to India

There is a fierce debate going on right now in India about a new piece of legislation that that will allow multi-national corporations to operate as joint ventures in the country, owning up to 51%.  And a week ago, the Indian government backtracked and announced that it would not pass the legislation after all.  It is worth examining the potential pros and cons. There has been no shortage of voices from the left and right commenting about whether or not…

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Trust and the Invisible Hand in Agriculture

Trust and the Invisible Hand in Agriculture

The following is a guest post from Mark Brown, an agriculture value chains specialist with Engineers Without Borders Canada working in Ghana.  The post originally appeared on EWB’s blog, Untapped Markets. Market Facilitation is about fostering new relationships between businesses in agriculture. In sub-Saharan Africa much of the business that takes place happens “informally”. Informal business is any business activity that it is not overseen by the government. These activities are not taxed or regulated. They are also not legally…

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Fewer Farms, Bigger Farms

Fewer Farms, Bigger Farms

Right now, the world is in the midst of a food crisis.  Some might contend that we never fully recovered from the food crisis of 2008, but what is certain is that food prices are rising.  The reason for the spike is open for debate, but some combination of a growing demand due to population growth, an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events (floods in Pakistan, the Moscow heatwave, etc.), an expanding middle class with a growing taste…

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A Lesson about Statistics in Development from David Simon

A Lesson about Statistics in Development from David Simon

David Simon, the creator of the greatest television show ever made, The Wire, is interviewed by Bill Moyers in Guernica magazine.  The topics vary, but one particular answer to a question about the relevance of “facts” in understanding the nature of a problem – or the progress and impact of the solution – resonated with me. One of the themes of The Wire really was that statistics will always lie. Statistics can be made to say anything. You show me anything…

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