Visit any farmer field school across Plant With Purpose’s international programs, and you’ll find people enthusiastic about why you should diversify your crops and income.
Why? To put it simply, diversity is strength.
In many developing countries, farmers have been encouraged to over-invest in a single cash crop. At various points in time, certain cash crops have been hailed as the solution to poverty- a product with that has a high demand, that grows well in the country’s natural environment, that can be quickly harvested and easily resold.
More often than not, this has produced harmful results.
Sometimes, a disease or pest that targets a single crop comes and wipes out an entire crop, and with it, a farmer’s sole source of income. Other times, experts have overestimated the demand for a product, leaving a farmer with a surplus he or she cannot sell.
Diversity is resilience.
Diversity can refer to both crop diversity, as well as income diversity. Both are beneficial and important for rural populations seeking to overcome poverty. When a farmer is less reliant on a single source of income, he can avoid the setbacks that erase the progress made by millions of poor people around the world.
Partners in the Dominican Republic are familiar with the difference that it makes. Years ago, Andres began to plant lemon, cocoa, zapote and other crops, after focusing heavily on coffee for years. The decision paid off when his farm became victim to Coffee Rust Disease. Having other crops to rely on allowed his family to continue improving their lives, in spite of the challenge.
Arfanio also made similar decisions to diversify both his farm and his income.
“After Plant With Purpose arrived, several farms have started planting pine, eucalyptus, citrus, cocoa, and other important crops. These are important and need to go along with taking care of the environment. These crops offer nutritional and economic benefits,” he explained. “What worked before was cilantro- but now we have many sources of income. Cocoa. Citrus. Wood. Saving money helped me pay my debts, buy appliances, and manage houses.”
This was just the first step for Arfanio as he began to diversify his income and grow out of poverty.
“I then took out a loan to buy a motorcycle-“ he told us. A single purchase of a motorcycle can often allow someone in the developing world to start a taxi business. “I used income from this harvest to buy some farming tools to help me with growing crops.”
Without missing a beat, Arfanio connected his experiences to a growing faith. “We try to get closer to God. The Word of God is read before each meeting,” he said of his savings group. “I have gotten closer to my neighbors and family. We have solidarity.”
As Arfanio’s sources of food and work have diversified, the many good things taking place in his community have also expanded.
“My community has now built a bridge, a street, a meeting space, a nursery, and a greenhouse. I help install floors in my community. Solving the problems that they face. I have an engine, I have timber.”
“Now there are more sources of work for all of us.”