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  • Every Farmer Every Tool: 2023 Gap Report Executive Summary
    Agnew, J.; Hendery, S. (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2023)
    The 2023 GAP Report "Every Farmer, Every Tool," explores the opportunities and barriers to farmer access and adoption of proven, appropriate tools for sustainable agricultural productivity growth.
  • 2022 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Troublesome Trends And System Shocks
    Steensland, Ann (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Programs, 2022)
    Global agricultural systems are being rocked by COVID-19, climate change, extreme weather events, and conflicts in Ukraine and elsewhere, driving up prices for food and agricultural inputs. The agricultural systems of high- and upper-middle-income countries are withstanding the shocks relatively well. However, food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty rates have risen sharply, especially in low-income countries since 2020. In 2022, 40 million people faced emergency or catastrophic levels of food insecurity, twice as high as in 2020 and six times more than in 2016 (Food Security Information Network, 2022). The troubling trends in agricultural productivity growth are mainly unnoticed; updated data reveals that the world’s shock-sensitive systems rest on increasingly fragile foundations. Reversing the downward trajectory of global agricultural productivity growth demands urgent action from policymakers, leaders, donors, scientists, farmers, and others in the agri-food system.
  • Participatory farmer research and exploring the phytobiome: Next steps for agricultural productivity growth
    Zeigler, Margaret M.; Steensland, Ann (NP Voprosy Ekonomiki, 2022-03-25)
    Agriculture and food systems must provide nutrition and agricultural products for nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Agriculture is a powerful economic driver, and by prioritizing agricultural productivity and innovation, food systems can become more resilient and improve the wider economy while generating employment. Yet, powerful solutions and approaches are needed that must move beyond “low-hanging fruit” when investing in low-income country agriculture systems. As part of the solution, we discuss innovations such as participatory research models from the International Potato Center (CIP) as well as how to unlock and harness existing plant genetics through the phytobiome.
  • Product Brief: Linking the AgUnity Blockchain-based Platform to the Kenyan Agricultural Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy
    Agnew, Jessica L.; Hall, Ralph P.; Kristofikova, Nurvitria (Virginia Tech, 2022-08-22)
  • Embedded Research Translation Report: Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Promote the Production and Consumption of African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya
    Kristofikova, Nurvitria; Muskoke, Irene; Agnew, Jessica L. (AgUnity, 2021-08-04)
    AgUnity worked with Virginia Tech and Egerton University on the LASER PULSE-funded project entitled Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Promote the Production and Consumption of African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in Western Kenya. AIV value chains are characterized by transactional and informational inefficiencies that contribute to inconsistent supply and mismatched demand in Kenya. This research program explores how digital applications built on blockchain technology (BCT) can be deployed in AIV value chains in western Kenya, in a way that improves food and nutrition security for all value chain actors. Specifically, there was interest in understanding how the BCT-based smartphone application could assist groups of individuals who typically face constraints in accessing economic or nutritional benefits from value chain upgrading (i.e., smallholder producers, women, youth, low-income consumers). This project was one of the first times the AgUnity app was not deployed in a centralized supply chain context (i.e., with a union or cooperative supplied by hundreds of farmers). We have found that in decentralized supply chains, there is a particular need to ensure that the system supports the users' values and needs for conducting their respective value chain activities. When this is achieved, trust that is garnered through the use of the technology shall translate directly into more cooperative and coordinated value chains. Both the value chain app adaptation and configuration and the technology service design were built around this premise, using embedded research translation (ERT) processes to ensure that it was achieved in the target population and value chain. This report outlines the steps taken by AgUnity to translate Virginia Tech and Egerton University’s research into the adaptation and deployment of our proprietary BCT-based smartphone application. It is directed toward readers interested in understanding the product and service design of the AgUnity application, the use of BCT in digital platforms designed for last-mile users, and those interested in successful examples of ERT. It walks the reader through the value chain mapping and community immersion processes, the steps needed to adapt the technology to fit the local value chain context, and the development and selection of app functionalities for the target users and value chain. The report may be of interest to researchers, farming associations, and cooperatives or agricultural non-governmental organizations interested in the AgUnity solution as well as stakeholders involved in strengthening agricultural market systems, AgTech, or FinTech.
  • Transaction and Information Pain Points in African Indigenous Vegetable Value Chains in Western Kenya: A Gender-Responsive AIV Value Chain and Market Analysis Report
    Agnew, Jessica L.; Mwangi, Joseph; Hall, Ralph P.; Sumner, Daniel M.; Kristofikova, Nurvitria (2021-08-23)
    The use cases for blockchain technology (BCT) have taken off since its initial development for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In agricultural value chains, BCT has been developed for agri-food products from source to retail outlets, increasing transparency between value chain actors, and creating secure transaction platforms. However, BCT is not a magic bullet for addressing all value chain inefficiencies and challenges. This study, Exploring the Use of Blockchain Technology to Improve Food Security Through African Indigenous Vegetables in Western Kenya, aims to investigate the types of challenges within the value chain for African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) that BCT is appropriate to address. It also aims to investigate if deploying a BCT-based digital platform in AIV value chains will lead to improved food security for all value chain actors. This gender-responsive participatory value chain analysis (PVCA) investigates the transactional, informational, and other types of pain points within AIV value chains to identify where BCT is needed. AIVs are known as ‘female’ crops, as women are primarily responsible for their production, marketing, and preparation. This PVCA also investigates gender disparities in the value chain with the view to understanding how a BCT-based digital platform might help to secure the place of women in the value chain as it is upgraded. According to the findings of the PVCA, the main pain points that need to be addressed in order to improve income-earning opportunities and availability of and demand for AIVs are the lack of coordination throughout the value chain, assurance of vegetable safety for consumers, improved transmission of information through the value chain, standardization of grading and pricing, improving the market power of women, and technical assistance for producers in pest and disease management and production practices to improve yield. BCT cannot address all of these pain points. However, it is well suited for improving vertical coordination between actors by organizing and standardizing transactions and making information on the AIVs accessible at all stages of the value chain. It will also provide women a safe and secure platform for transacting that will protect the revenues earned from their respective activities. This study also finds that while smartphone ownership is low, value chain actors are willing to pay for a smartphone as well as a monthly subscription fee to use a digital platform if it will address their key pain points. This study will continue to investigate key knowledge gaps such as how technology use might more effectively engage youth in AIV value chains, how information on the blockchain can be certified, and how to scale up the use of a BCT-based digital platform. However, this PVCA demonstrates there is potential for BCT to offer important solutions to address transactional and informational inefficiencies along AIV value chains.
  • Breakthroughs in Agricultural Productivity: Participatory Research and the Phytobiome
    Steensland, Ann; Zeigler, Margaret (Russian Journal of Agricultural and Socio-Economic Sciences, 2022-01-17)
    Agriculture and food systems must provide nutrition and agricultural products for nearly 10 billion people by 2050. Agriculture is a powerful economic driver and by prioritizing agricultural productivity and innovation, food systems can become more resilient and improve the wider economy while generating employment. Yet, powerful solutions and approaches are needed that must move beyond “low-hanging fruit” when investing in low-income country agriculture systems. As part of the solution, we discuss innovations such as participatory research models from the International Potato Center (CIP) as well as how to unlock and harness existing plant genetics through the phytobiome.
  • The Case for Productivity: Invigorating agricultural systems for the twenty-first century
    Steensland, Ann; Thompson, T. (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2021-06-15)
    Accelerating agricultural productivity growth at all scales of production is imperative to meet the needs of consumers and address threats to human and environmental well-being.
  • 2021 GAP Report Launch: Strengthening the Climate For Sustainable Agricultural Growth
    Steensland, Ann (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2021-10-20)
    During the launch of the 2021 Global Agricultural Productivity Report (GAP Report), the newest data on agricultural productivity across the globe was revealed to be well below the Global Agricultural Productivity Index target. Through a solution-oriented discussion, experts across the globe discuss what we can do now to address the looming crisis.
  • The Case for Productivity: Invigorating agriculture for the twenty-first century
    Steensland, Ann (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2021-06-15)
    Animation covering the basics of productivity growth.
  • 2021 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Climate for Agricultural Growth
    Steensland, Ann (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2021-10-20)
    During the next 30 years, the world’s population will grow larger and more prosperous. Demand will soar for food and agricultural goods, including meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, timber, oilseeds for cooking and industrial uses, and biomass for energy, heat, and cooking. At the same time, the natural resource base and ecosystems are under stress from climate change, soil degradation, and poor water management. Poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition remain stubbornly high, condemning hundreds of millions of people to ill health and unfulfilled potential. Accelerating productivity growth at all scales of production is imperative to meet the needs of consumers and address current and future threats to human and environmental well-being. The human, economic, and environmental consequences of not meeting productivity targets are profound.
  • Filling the GAPs: Expert Essays
    Thompson, Tommy; Grove, Ben; Archibald, Thomas G.; Agnew, Jessica L.; Steensland, Ann (2020-10-12)
    Agricultural productivity is best expressed as Total Factor Productivity-TFP. TFP is a measure of efficiency in agriculture — the efficiency with which agricultural inputs such as labor, fertilizers and seeds are converted into outputs of crops and livestock. According to the the Global Agricultural Productivity Index (GAP Index), global TFP must increase by 1.73 percent annually to meet global goals for adequate food, feed, fiber, and biofuel for 10 billion people by 2050. When we fall short of this target growth rate, as we have each year since the GAP Index was developed in 2010, this creates a “productivity gap”. The productivity gap is worsening in the world’s poorest countries, where TFP growth now averages only 0.58 percent annually. The productivity gap threatens food security and often forces farmers to cultivate marginal lands, which can also threaten biodiversity. How do we close the productivity gap and get back on track to achieving global food security? This year, the GAP Report editors invited scholars and experts to submit essays based upon their research about strategies for closing the productivity gap and increasing agricultural sustainability and resilience.
  • Organizational Innovation in Times of Crises: The Case of Extension and Advisory Services
    Since it formally began, extension institutions have been innovating in response to the changing environment. Past crises have induced organizational innovation in limited ways. The COVID- 19 crisis appears to have brought about more radical change in extension organizations. In this manuscript, we apply organizational change theory—including insights from recent research on adaptive management in international development—to examine how extension organizations innovated during the COVID-19 crisis. We explore how extension organizations modified inputs such as human capital, technology, and equipment; outputs such as services; and organizational components, such as social structures, participants, and goals. We review previous crises to learn how global extension adapted and then examine contemporary experiences of organizational change during COVID-19. This allows us to provide suggestions for future directions for implementers on how to strengthen extension services to respond in times of crisis and continue to support clientele in varying circumstances. We suggest that extension organizations embrace inclusive technology cautiously, provide staff with skills to adapt and problem solve, and ensure flexible structures that allow for collaboration.
  • 2020 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Productivity in a Time of Pandemics
    Steensland, Ann; Thompson, Thomas L. (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Programs, 2020-10-12)
    Agricultural communities battle pandemic-scale pest and disease outbreaks every year. The health and productivity of people, livestock, and crops are all vulnerable. Food and nutrition security, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability are all threatened by these outbreaks. The Global Agricultural Productivity Report lays out some of pandemic scale threats that must be addressed to ensure that we can sustainably produce food, feed, fiber, and bioenergy for 10 billion people in 2050. Agricultural productivity is not just essential for sustainably meeting the demands of a growing world. The technologies and practices that increase productivity can also be harnessed to cultivate resilience, especially to pandemics that can strike with little warning, with catastrophic results.
  • Extension and Advisory Services: Supporting Communities Before, During, and After Crises
    Grove, Ben; Archibald, Thomas G.; Davis, Kristin (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 2020-10-10)
    Extension and Advisory Services (EAS) providers are important partners for communities to prepare for, respond to, and recover from shocks such as natural disasters and human, plant, and animal disease and pest outbreaks. EAS providers work long-term in communities to equip people with knowledge, skills, and technical resources to improve their livelihoods. EAS are provided by various actors including governments, nongovernmental organizations, private sector entities, higher education institutions, and other organizations. EAS often serve in bridging roles connecting resources from numerous actors operating in communities and are valuable conduits of information during shocks. EAS are seen as key partners in helping communities rebuild and strengthen food systems after the initial shock, given their long-term work horizons. There are numerous examples of EAS responding to crises around the world, such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Avian Influenza, malaria, and, more recently during the current COVID-19 pandemic. During COVID-19, EAS have undertaken an unprecedented shift to virtual and distanced programming as daily life has been disrupted through restrictions on movement and gatherings. EAS agents have been challenged to modify program delivery and remain effective in serving their clientele while navigating this new landscape. In this essay we explore examples of EAS supporting communities before, during, and after crises, and discuss implications for future EAS work, including considerations of lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic response.
  • 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Productivity Growth for Sustainable Diets and More
    Steensland, Ann (Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Global Programs, 2019-10-16)
    The world must sustainably produce food, feed, fiber, and bio-energy for nearly 10 billion people in 2050. Using publicly-available data and peer-reviewed analysis, the 2019 Global Agricultural Productivity Report puts agricultural productivity growth at the heart of a global strategy for achieving sustainable diets, and more.