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Oliva works in fields growing beans near her home in Karatu District in Tanzania, August 2020. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

Agriculture

Agriculture is a source of food and livelihoods for many communities around the world. We are equipping farmers in vulnerable communities with sustainable agricultural training to help strengthen food security and build resilience against adverse weather events.

80%

of people living in poverty live in rural areas, with many relying on agriculture as their primary source of food and income.

65%

Agriculture is a source of income and employment for approximately 65% of the world’s working poor.

690 million

In 2019, nearly 690 million people worldwide had insufficient access to food.

Photo credit: ARD Cambodia.
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Photo credit: ARD Cambodia.

Nearly 80% of people living in poverty live in rural areas (World Bank), with many relying on agriculture as their primary source of food and income. In subsistence agricultural households, farmers grow crops to meet their own family’s immediate food needs and are often dependent on producing healthy crops for their survival. When a family has secure access to food, they are less vulnerable to disease and poverty and more likely to have improved nutrition.

In addition to providing food on the table, agriculture is also a source of income and employment for approximately 65% of the world’s working poor (World Bank). This makes it the second largest provider of jobs in the world, behind services. It can be a key driver of economic growth, particularly in less developed countries where agriculture can make up more than 25% of a country’s GDP (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation).

Agriculture helps to feed a growing population

Agriculture is essential to tackle global hunger and food insecurity. In 2019, nearly 690 million people worldwide had insufficient access to food (United Nations). The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to push this number even higher, with lockdowns further disrupting global supply chains and aggravating pre-existing food security issues for vulnerable communities.

Phany working in one of her gardens with newly planted vegetables at their home in Pursat District, Western Cambodia, 2019. By using the drip irrigation system, plastic covering to keep in moisture and other techniques learnt through the Caritas Australia supported Environmental Protection and Development Organisation (EPDO) project, she can now grow vegetables during the dry hot summer. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.
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Phany working in one of her gardens with newly planted vegetables at their home in Pursat District, Western Cambodia, 2019. By using the drip irrigation system, plastic covering to keep in moisture and other techniques learnt through the Caritas Australia supported Environmental Protection and Development Organisation (EPDO) project, she can now grow vegetables during the dry hot summer. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

Supporting rural farmers through training and technology can help to sustain agricultural production during this pandemic and beyond. By empowering famers with sustainable agricultural techniques, they can continue to harvest crops throughout the year while also minimising their impact on the environment. With the world’s population predicted to grow to grow to 9.7 billion people by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 50 per cent globally in order to feed the world’s population (World Bank).

Oliva walks to work in fields near her home in Karatu District in Tanzania, August 2020. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.
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Oliva walks to work in fields near her home in Karatu District in Tanzania, August 2020. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

Rising global temperatures are threatening livelihoods

Extreme weather events pose a challenge for farming communities, who rely on water to nurture their crops and to feed their livestock. Agricultural production currently consumes approximately 70% of the world’s freshwater usage (World Bank). This is even higher in South Asia, where more than 90% of freshwater is used on agriculture.

A changing climate has also led to increasingly unpredictable rainfall and extended dry seasons, posing a significant challenge for farmers. Rising temperatures and prolonged droughts can potentially wipe out harvests and destroy the livelihoods of communities. Over 40% of the world’s population is affected by water scarcity (World Bank) and water shortages can have significant repercussions for global food production.

Sustainable agricultural training can help farmers to thrive

Working with our local partners around the world, we help to empower farmers through sustainable farming training programs. Through these programs, farmers are able to learn techniques to produce healthier, high-yielding crops that they can sell for a higher profit and secure a regular income stream.

Sustainable farming methods can improve agricultural practices through:

Planting drought-resistant seeds.

Cultivating long-life trees.

Water and soil conservation.

Training farmers in making organic fertilisers.

Installing drip irrigation infrastructure.

Increasing access to water sources for agriculture and farming through the construction of water canals and water ponds.

Improving business knowledge and skills through training on small business development, product packaging and sorting.

Strengthening market connections and access through Agricultural Cooperatives.

Sustainable farming can transform lives. Many small-scale farmers who live in vulnerable communities do not have access to the technology, skills or resources they need to maintain their crops consistently throughout the year. But when farmers are empowered with life-long agricultural skills, they can diversify their crops, become more self-reliant and develop strategies to mitigate the impact of adverse weather conditions.

How we are supporting farmers in Indonesia

Indonesia is home to some of the world’s largest rice, cocoa and coffee bean plantations. Agriculture provides jobs and livelihoods for nearly 30% of the country’s workforce, making it the second largest-employer across the archipelago (Asian Development Bank). But environmental changes are having a significant impact on Indonesia’s agricultural sector, with shorter rainy seasons, changing precipitation patterns and intense floods impacting the livelihoods of farming communities (International Food Research Policy Institute).

Tatik (38) in part of her communities preserved forest collecting belinjo leaves used for cooking soup in Tembak hamlet, Sintang District, Indonesia, 2018. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.
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Tatik (38) in part of her communities preserved forest collecting belinjo leaves used for cooking soup in Tembak hamlet, Sintang District, Indonesia, 2018. Photo credit: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the livelihood of farmers, with semi-lockdowns severely disrupting trade networks. The price of perishable goods, such as vegetables and fruits, has also dropped, leading to lower profits for producers (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research).

In Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara Province, our local partners work with farmers in vulnerable communities, who are primarily dependent on subsistence agriculture, to improve their income security. East Nusa Tenggara is the driest province in Indonesia and experienced severe drought throughout 2020.

Through our program, farmers have been trained to harvest corn as an alternative staple food to rice. They also learnt conservation farming, climate change adaptation techniques and other agricultural technologies to increase their income generation opportunities. With these new income streams, the farmers are in a better position to send their children to school and provide food for their families.

Some achievements of the program include:

3,702

farmers have adopted sustainable farming practices.

1,733

farmers have reported an average increase of corn production by 27%. 

7,568

people have improved access to sufficient food, including 3,806 children.

3,415

farmers have reported an annual increase in income by 24%.

Lat and Em from Cambodia. Photo credit: Sam Rinang.
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Lat and Em from Cambodia. Photo credit: Sam Rinang.

Sustainable farming can transform lives: Em and Lat’s story

Em and Lat are rice and poultry farmers living in rural Cambodia. Water shortages are a significant challenge for many rural Cambodian communities, where a lack of basic infrastructure and sewerage means that water is often not effectively captured or stored during rainy season.

The ongoing water shortages meant that Em and Lat’s rice fields would yield poor harvests every season and their livestock would often get sick or perish. They struggled to earn enough income to provide food for their family.

But after they participated in a training program, run by Caritas Australia in partnership with eight local NGOs, the couple learnt sustainable farming techniques, developed water management skills, and started cultivating a variety of vegetables throughout the year.

Now, their farm is thriving, their income has increased and they have even helped to build a school in their local village. The couple no longer have to live day-to-day and have the security of a sustainable income stream throughout the year.

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