THE FOOD SYSTEM
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), one of the systemic challenges facing food and agriculture globally is to make food systems more inclusive. The participation of smallholders in the food value chains is one of the main challenges. By helping these farmers lift themselves out of poverty and grow, they address food security and nutrition as a business and make their way into the food value chain.
FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY
Smallholder farmers already hold a key role in providing food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is hard to imagine reaching SDG 1 and 2 without them. They could typically increase their production fivefold if they had full access to innovations in farming technology. As more than 80% of the population in poorest countries are farmers, the smallholders are the solution to their own problem. Food and nutrition security is a domestic and local challenge, best addressed at the doorstep of the smallholder, starting with what is produced and how it is produced.
NO HANDOUTS, AND NO CREDIT
Many smallholders do not see farming as a business, and with few opportunities elsewhere see themselves entrapped. To change this mindset, they need to see that what they already have can be made very profitable. Our approach focuses on three things:
→ affordable investments,
→ profitability demonstrated from the very first harvest, and
→ re-investment in supplementary capacity several times per year.
The result of combining these three factors is exponential growth. Starting very small reduces the risk and enables the right smallholders to opt in to the program. Those who self-select into our program do so through an investment decision. They do so as fully empowered decision-makers from day one. Profitability gained from their own risk-taking and value creation – verified by the market – will lead to exponential growth for those who reinvest.
A HEALTHY DIET FOR THE FUTURE
Increased consumption of plant-based foods – including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains – could be where food markets expand globally and may represent an export opportunity. Global food production constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries, according to Johan Rockström, co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission. By introducing drip irrigation to produce healthy food with high intensity (yield per acre) throughout the year, small farmers serve the local market, reduce import and contribute to reduced transport and waste. At the same time, they prepare for a growing market as 10 billion people will have to move towards a diet that is sustainable within planetary boundaries.
An integrated approach to poverty eradication and food and nutrition security is possible with small farmers as the main stakeholder. Food systems that serve the next billion citizens in Africa will simultaneously need to address the global challenge of moving towards a healthier and more sustainable diet. This is a long-term opportunity for smallholders to become commercially successful farmers. However, the focus of this initiative in the short-term is enabling a large number of smallholders to make a profit by meeting the local demand for nutritious food.