Sustainability: Food
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Sustainability: Food

 

The Mosaic Villages Project

In many areas of the world smallhold farmers, in particular, are trapped in a cycle of insufficient crop yields and poverty. Generally living on one acre of land or less, they often struggle simply to feed themselves — much less generate a surplus of food. With the world’s ever-growing population, helping smallholders become more productive is imperative.

Since 2008, The Mosaic Company and The Mosaic Company Foundation have invested in programs in Guatemala, India, Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia, along with our partners, HELPS International, the Institute of Rural Research and Development and Millennium Promise. The average yield across the Mosaic Villages Project has increased three to five times over traditional farming practices.

India

In India, there is a strong and direct relationship among agricultural productivity, hunger and poverty. Many farmers struggle to produce enough food on small parcels of land — in fact, more than 70 percent of Indian farmers have only two hectares of land or less. In Mewat, one of India’s most impoverished districts, Mosaic has partnered with the Institute of Rural Research and Development (IRRAD) to create Krishi Jyoti.

Krishi Jyoti means “enlightened agriculture,” and it’s bringing modern agricultural inputs and practices to farmers in Mewat with the goal of improving the productivity of their fields. Mewat is a closed community with little contact with the outside world. Similar programs in the past have failed due to a top-down mentality and a resulting lack of trust in the program sponsors. The Krishi Jyoti team is taking a more collaborative approach that treats the locals as partners. Working side by side with farmers in Mewat, this program is building trust and collaboration while helping achieve increased agricultural yields, economic security and water conservation.

In its first three years, Krishi Jyoti focused on five key aspects of agricultural improvement — soil health, seed and fertilizer, water resources, agronomic training and market linkages — and brought about remarkable changes. With the help of Mosaic’s products, agronomic expertise and financial support, Mewat’s participating farmers have increased yields by 19-45% in three major crops — mustard, wheat and pearl millet. The partnership is for a fixed term of three years, with the aim that the participants no longer need assistance after that period.

In 2011, as the three original villages all successfully graduated from the program, Krishi Jyoti began an expansion into 15 new villages. By the time the expansion is complete, the project will impact 1,856 farm families with 2,891 acres under management. In Patkhori — one of the new project sites in the Aravali foothills — there are significant water scarcity issues. High gradient and low retention time for rainwater runoff and the low permeability of the soil has led to inadequate recharging of the aquifer. In addition, excessive pumping for domestic and agricultural use has further depleted the fresh water supply.

Water is the greatest limiting factor in the success of agriculture in this dry region, where it only rains during the monsoon season. One of the first steps is to construct a new checkdam to trap the monsoon rains as they run off the nearby hills behind the dam, and let it sink into the aquifer, replenishing the groundwater supply. Mosaic and our partner IRRAD have built checkdams before, but this project is larger in scale, with the dam spanning 185 meters between two adjacent hills. The project was completed in 2012 and now provides agricultural and drinking water for more than 20,000 people.

Guatemala

The Mosaic Villages Project in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, has grown since its inception in 2008 in both scale and success. The combination of a strong implementing partner with deep knowledge of the region in HELPS International and the expertise of the Mosaic agronomy staff has yielded impressive results in just five years. The projects have drawn the interest of other aid organizations as a possible scalable model for Central America. Formal measurement was necessary to provide a quantitative perspective to help take the projects to the next level. An independent evaluation by Deloitte confirmed that average yields have reached four metric tonnes per hectare (MT/ha) compared with 0.8 MT/ha before the program began, representing a five-fold increase.

This has been achieved through the following steps:

  • Soils are tested to understand their overall health, and a balanced blend of macro- and micronutrients is designed, along with a prescribed amount and time to apply (4Rs).
  • The farmers are trained in no-till agriculture to reduce the risk of pests, to grow in dense rows and double crop to maximize yields and reduce the need for farm chemicals, and not to burn the crop residues, in order to maximize the organic matter in soil.
  • This is a partnership, and the farmers choose to use their heirloom corn seed over more high-performing varieties, as they are seen as sacred in their Mayan traditions. But once their corn yields for personal consumption increase, they sometimes convert part of their land to cash crops for sale.
  • The farmers are educated by Mosaic agronomists and given interest-free loans at planting, which they repay when their harvest yields a surplus. After just five years, 97 percent of farmers who started the program have graduated and no longer need loans, as their large yield increases have allowed them to sell a surplus at market.
  • The projects have a fixed annual investment by The Mosaic Company Foundation but naturally expand in scale through continual improvements in efficiency and the reinvestment of the repaid loans.

One of the most exciting discoveries of the Deloitte evaluation is that best practices from the program have been spreading by word of mouth to the surrounding villages without any level of intervention by Mosaic or HELPS. The potency of the project stems from its easily duplicated simplicity and defined focus. In many of these neighboring villages, the doubling of average yield is being observed.

Africa

Africa is a net importer of food today and will experience the greatest population increase of any continent over the next four decades. Today, food shortages affect 30 percent of the population, and the land has been largely stripped of nutrients due to poor management and inadequate fertilization. Yet agriculture has the potential to be one of Africa’s brightest hopes for economic development. Mosaic has impacted the lives of more than 250,000 people in eight African countries by donating more than 2,500 tonnes of fertilizer each year, along with the associated transportation and logistics to the Millennium Villages Project, one of the most ambitious development projects ever undertaken.

The logistics associated with transporting fertilizer to remote parts of Africa is challenging. Mosaic has no formal business presence on the continent, and the lack of deep water ports and bagging and blending facilities means we must divert from our standard business model of shipping in bulk. Bagging is completed in Florida or India, and more than 100,000 bags are shipped in containers to the village sites.

The impact of improved seeds and fertilizers paired with farmer training in agronomic techniques is remarkable. Millennium Promise reports that across the villages, yields of maize have at least doubled and in some sites more than quadrupled. This has contributed to a 30 percent reduction in levels of chronic malnutrition and a 50 percent reduction in the proportion of children under two years old who are underweight.

Mosaic is also partnering with Dr. Pedro Sanchez and his team at the Earth Institute at Columbia University on a series of test plots across Africa to pinpoint nutrient recommendations that will take the agriculture program at the Millennium Villages to the next level.

Growing Food and Food Security

Over 20 years ago, The World Commission on Environment and Development posed what was then a pressing question — how could the world address growing hunger concerns in a way that was also ecologically sustainable? Their Advisory Panel on Food Security, Agriculture, Forestry and Environment reported that achieving this goal would pose a greater challenge to global food production than had ever been faced before. Increasing yields in the face of unprecedented demand was going to be a major undertaking. And achieving those goals, while at the same time preserving the ecological integrity of agricultural systems, was going to be colossal in magnitude and complexity. This is as true today as it was then.

Today nearly one billion people are hungry. By 2050, the world's population is expected to reach nine billion, with much of this growth in regions of the world most susceptible to food insecurity. To meet this demand, world food production must increase by at least 70 percent, assuming the growing global middle class continues to demand higher-quality proteins in its diet. To put this in perspective, we need to match the last 10,000 years of improvements in agricultural production in the next 40 years.

Mosaic strives for improved yield from existing agricultural lands, as the world's forests naturally sequester carbon and are a major asset in mitigating the potential negative effects of a changing climate. Between 1961 and 2005, higher net crop yields on existing agricultural land, driven by seed, fertilizer and better management practices, is estimated to have avoided the emission of approximately 161 gigatonnes of carbon by preventing deforestation. Compared with the baseline technology in 1961, every additional dollar invested in agricultural yields is estimated to have resulted in 68 fewer kilograms of carbon emitted. Balanced crop nutrition, improved seed varieties and better crop management are far more effective and more ecologically sound ways of increasing food supply than converting more land to agriculture.

Fertilizers are already responsible for 40 to 60 percent of crop yields. Although these yields are impressive, it is important that we take agricultural productivity to the next level. All farms, whether large or small, must employ best management practices to ensure demand is met. Education is the key to ensure farmers pair the right crops with the right soils, choose the most productive seed varietals, fertilize with a balanced supply of nutrients at the right rate, place and time, and establish efficient market mechanisms to get the food to the consumer at the lowest possible cost. Proper use of fertilizers is also essential to protect water supplies and water habitats, while at the same time increasing farm incomes. With better management practices, production can increase without an environmental compromise.

Product and Services Innovation

Mosaic is continuously developing and testing innovative new crop nutrients specially designed for varying soils, climates and cropping productions patterns throughout the world. And as the world’s growing middle class diet includes more protein, the need for Mosaic’s high-quality, efficient animal and poultry feed products becomes increasingly important. We currently have more than 25 potential products in various stages of development.

Nexfos®

In 2011, Mosaic launched Nexfos, the first innovation in feed-grade phosphate in 40 years. The Nexfos production process requires approximately 90 percent less water and 55 percent less electricity per ton than a traditional feedstock phosphate product.

MicroEssentials®

In 2011, Mosaic expanded production capacity of our MicroEssentials line to 2.3 million tonnes per year. The advantage of premium product innovation is evident in products such as MicroEssentials S10, which delivers sulfur in two forms and provides season-long sulfur availability to the crop. The unique chemistry and proper nutrient ratio of MicroEssentials promote uniform nutrient distribution and improved nutrient uptake.

K-Mag®

One of our premium crop nutrient products is K-Mag, a breakthrough, state-of-the-art product that features a patented manufacturing process that ensures uniform nutrient distribution - providing the essential nutrients crops need in just one granule. K-Mag delivers potassium, magnesium and sulfur in a single granule, reducing the need for nutrient blends. As with MicroEssentials, this premium product increases application efficiency and improves yields.

Agronomy

The growing process is a series of complex chemical and plant interactions. In agronomy, the "Law of the Minimum" is in effect. That is, if just one essential plant nutrient is deficient, then plant growth and crop yield suffers. While all crops require the same nutrients, all soils are not created equally and all crops do not consume equal quantities of nutrients. Uptake and soils vary greatly. When even one part of the equation is out of balance, it will have a domino-like effect on yield. And with every harvest the soil is further depleted of nutrients. At Mosaic, we focus on balanced crop nutrition to restore yields to optimal levels. One of Mosaic's key differentiators is our emphasis on micronutrients and secondary nutrients. This matters because micronutrients address a major global health issue, in which an estimated three billion people worldwide suffer micronutrient deficiencies. Mosaic's ongoing research focuses on understanding the critical level of phosphorous and potassium necessary to provide optimal soil conditions and combatting crops' micronutrient malnutrition.

Balanced Crop Nutrition

With each year's planting and harvest, the essential nutrients — nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) —must be replenished for optimum plant growth and health. The natural replenishment cycle is often slow and generally unable to keep up with the annual agriculture cycle. That's where fertilization plays an essential role, ensuring that each season's crops have the nutrients necessary to yield a plentiful harvest. Mosaic is the world's leading combined producer of phosphate and potash.

The interactions among these three primary crop nutrients create much greater benefits than when used alone. For example, However, if a crop needs phosphorous and potassium, then only applying nitrogen would leave the crop malnourished. When nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium work together in proper formulations, they can significantly increase yields and improve the plant's ability to use each nutrient more efficiently — reducing the amount of fertilizer needed and minimizing the potential for nutrient runoff.

Mineral fertilizers that contain micronutrients (like Mosaic's MicroEssentials) help address a major global health issue: micronutrient deficiencies, which the World Health Organization has identified as the fifth most important risk to health in poor countries. An estimated three billion people suffer the effects of micronutrient deficiencies worldwide. Mosaic believes in balanced crop nutrition and this emphasis sets us apart from other crop nutrition companies. We emphasize micronutrients and secondary nutrients such as zinc, manganese, boron and sulfur. These are not just needed by the plant; micronutrients are needed by human beings. The right nutrients in the soil mean the right nutrients in our food.

Reducing the Environmental Footprint of Farming

With the world’s population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, the global food security challenge looms large — and agriculture has taken center stage. To sustainably meet the world’s ever-increasing need for food, the global agriculture industry must simultaneously increase crop yields and reduce negative environmental impacts. The crop nutrition industry is an important part of this equation.

The efficient use of fertilizers has the potential to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions while contributing to higher yields per acre. Proportionally, the accrued benefit of fertilizer use substantially outweighs the emissions associated with fertilizer production. Emissions associated with crop nutrient production account for 0.8 to 3.2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and total greenhouse gas impacts associated with agriculture and land use change (including deforestation) are estimated at 17 to 32 percent of global emissions.

While Mosaic is part of the global drive to achieve greater crop yields, providing better income for farmers while reducing the pressure to clear for more cropland, we are also committed to helping farmers around the world use crop nutrients efficiently. We support the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Framework, which recommends the use of the right source of plant nutrients, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place to help deliver economic, social and environmental benefits.

The Mosaic Company Foundation is also making investments to help reduce the environmental footprint of farming. In three key agricultural watersheds in the Upper Mississippi River Basin — at Minnesota’s Root River, Iowa’s Boone River and Illinois’ Mackinaw River — we support The Nature Conservancy’s science-based work with farmers and partners to improve water quality. Over the next two years through the Conservancy’s Great River’s Partnership (GRP), the Conservancy will enroll farms associated with crop nutrient loss in federally funded conservation agriculture programs, bringing best management practices (BMP) to scale in critical watersheds and agricultural landscapes.

Nutrient Stewardship: The 4Rs

4Rs Nutrient Stewardship

Upstream Heroes

Mosaic's phosphate is among the most responsibly sourced in the world, and we're committed to the sustainable production and proper use of our products to mitigate otherwise negative environmental impacts. The 4Rs are about doing everything "right" in fertilizer application. Among industry organizations to which we belong and the farmers who use our products, we encourage the adoption of the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place. All farms — large and small — must employ best management practices and education is key.

The advancement of agricultural technologies, education and outreach promoting the 4Rs is paying off. According to TFI and based on figures from the United States Department of Agriculture, between 1980 and 2010, U.S. farmers have increased corn production by 88 percent, while reducing their nutrient use (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) by 50 percent per bushel.

Mosaic’s Nutrient Removal App Supports Higher Yields for Farmers

Mosaic was recognized for its commitment to innovation and excellence in product stewardship when its Nutrient Removal App was selected by CropLife Magazine as a best app for agriculture for 2012. Developed for growers, using years of accumulated nutrient removal research, the app is designed to help farmers put the data to work to produce higher yields. Results can be stored as a profile and e-mailed to contacts for use in input planning. More than 4,000 farmers so far have discovered this valuable tool, which provides nutrient removal data by yield for 36 different crops.