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The plight of farmers has never been more real.

Erosion caused by drought. The increased scarcity of water ... caused by drought. Lack of resources, from equipment to information. Ever-increasing energy costs. Increasingly unpredictable weather. The list goes on and on.


Image via iStock.

According to Tech Times, drought conditions and heat waves caused by an ever-warming planet have led to a 10% drop in worldwide cereal harvests in the past 50 years alone and could result in as much as a 30% loss in total global crop production by the year 2080.

With fewer resources, financial support, and social safety nets to lean on, the harsh reality is that underdeveloped countries will face the greatest setbacks as the effects of climate change continue to increase.

"People who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally or otherwise marginalised are especially vulnerable to climate change," reads a 2014 report by the UN's climate panel.

Image via CIAT/Flickr.

In countries with agriculturally based labor forces like Nigeria, these hardships often force farmers to outsource their labor in order to harvest what few crops they have.

Those who can't afford to pay for seasonal labor, however, are left with little choice but to underuse their land and lose out on the potential income that comes with it.

Image via South African Tourism/Flickr.

While something as simple as a tractor could be a huge help to addressing their financial woes, it's also something that many farmers can't afford because of said financial woes. Not to mention that most commercial banks in Nigeria charge a 30% interest rate and require loan repayment within a year.

This is exactly the kind of fiscal dilemma that apps like Hello Tractor are hoping to solve.

The brainchild of founder/CEO Jehiel Oliver, Hello Tractor is a revolutionary mobile app that connects tractor owners with nearby farmers in marginalized areas of sub-Saharan Africa for the purposes of renting out their equipment and skills.

With a simple SMS text message, a farmer in need can send a message requesting tractor services to the app, which will then connect to the nearest Smart Tractor (a tractor embedded with Oliver's low-cost GPS/telematics system) using local and cloud-based data to connect them.

Image via iStock.

Hello Tractor's system provides a quicker and cheaper alternative to hiring manual laborers and is off to a promising start.

According to TakePart, "Since Hello Tractor launched in the summer of 2014, farmers who participated in the beta period saw their yields increase by 200 percent using a machine that’s 40 times faster than manual labor."

Can't afford to rent a tractor? Hello Tractor's got your back on that, too!

In parts of the developing world with few banks and fewer credit unions, getting access to enough capital to buy a bag of fertilizer presents a difficult challenge in and of itself, let alone renting a tractor.

"The farmers operate on small plot sizes, which means they don't make enough money to invest in a big piece of machinery," Oliver told Fast Company/Co-Exist. "There also aren't bank loans for farmers, so it's pretty difficult to finance a tractor."

While one of Oliver's Smart Tractors can be rented out for just $75 per hectare (roughly 2.5 acres) farmed, Hello Tractor also takes things a step further by connecting farmers to microfinancing companies that can offer lower interest rates as compared with the nationally backed banks.

Hello Tractor is also opening huge doors for female farmers in Africa.

Image via iStock.

A report published by the World Bank last year found that farm plots harvested by women yielded 13% to 30% less crops per hectare than those produced by men. The biggest reason for this disparity lies not in the skill level of female farmers but the "more than unequal access to inputs [and] unequal returns to the inputs they have."

Hello Tractor, on the other hand, is using the anonymity of its users to narrow the culturally fueled wage gap between men and women.

"Uber has made it easier for a black man in New York to hail a cab. You request something through the cloud with no face, and that request is paired with the closest car. It sort of circumvents racism," Oliver told TakePart.

"The same is true of Hello Tractor: When they arrive with that tractor, you’re going to still want that service. This was our way of circumventing the negative gender stereotypes that exist in Nigeria — and they’re really entrenched here."

Image via iStock.

An app helping to end both poverty *and* inequality in the parts of the world that need it the most? Talk about a game-changer.

via FIRST

FIRST students compete in a robotics challenge.

True

Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

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Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Joy

These clips of orchestras pranking their conductors is solid gold

Sometimes you come across something that makes you smile out of sheer uncontrollable delight.

World famous orchestras prank their conductors.

Sometimes you come across something that makes you smile out of sheer uncontrollable delight. Oftentimes when that feeling takes over, it’s about something small but sweet. These world famous orchestras pranking their conductors on their birthdays is the wholesome dose of serotonin you need right now.

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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