Celebrating World Food Day
COMMENT | Phomolo Maphosa | The world will be celebrating World Food Day on October 16. As the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) rightly states, this is no ordinary World Food Day. It’s the first World Food Day that our generation is celebrating amid a global pandemic, COVID-19.
Nearly 690 million people in the world are hungry, up 10 million since 2019. FAO estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic could add between 83-132 million people to this number, depending on the economic growth scenario. There is no question that we need more food, however, we cannot afford to take ordinary actions to address the need for more food. We need to rethink how we produce our food.
The Sustainable Development Goals guide our interventions. The SDG2 overarching goal to “End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” is one of the tenets that guides SNV’s work in agriculture. This goal challenges us to rethink about the way we grow and consume our food as it explicitly acknowledges the interdependence between hunger, nutrition and the need to make agriculture ‘sustainable’. Value chains and food systems need to become more inclusive, efficient and diverse, as well as nutrition-sensitive and climate smart, to ensure that people have access to food at affordable prices and opportunities to shift to healthier diets.
SNV takes a market-based approach in agriculture because the sector is primarily driven by the private sector. By using a food systems lens, we are able to identify key bottlenecks in the sector, develop inclusive business models and working with public-private partnerships launch innovative products to address the root causes of why markets fail to meet the needs of people living in poverty. This approach is helping farmers to grow more food sustainably and creating jobs at different stages of the value chains.
Inclusive value chains
SNV works with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to strengthen their supply chains so that they remain competitive while ensuring environmental sustainability. By supporting agribusinesses, we are able to reach more farmers linked to the SMEs and ultimately improve the agricultural value chains and incomes. Support for businesses involves strengthening their supply chains by bolstering working relationships between producers, processors, distributors, small-scale farmers and service providers as well as financial brokering and co-investments.
We leverage additional financial and technical resources through public-private partnerships by providing entrepreneurs with a broad range of financial products on reasonable terms and supporting the agribusinesses to develop sound business cases. This together with technical advisory services is kick-starting markets that can sustain themselves and creating a win – win situation for agribusinesses and the small holder farmers that they work with.
An example is SNV’s partnership with four agribusinesses working in the soybean value chain to encourage 4,100 Ugandan farmers to plant MakSoy 3N, an improved soybean variety that is not only high yielding and early maturing but helps in preserving the soil structure and soil water retention. As a result of the partnership spearheaded by the Climate Resilient Agribusiness for Tomorrow (CRAFT) project, the businesses were able to sell 60 tonnes of the improved soybean seed to the farmers. Despite the late planting, the farmers harvested 1,450 tonnes of soybean most of which is being purchased by the agribusinesses. Not only do the small holder farmers have a ready market for their soybean crop, the SMEs are assured of steady supply of quality soybean to meet their market demand.
Encouraging the uptake of nutrition sensitive agriculture
Sustainable food systems should not only address access to food but the quality of the food that we eat. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese while 462 million are underweight. Around one in ten children are born with a low birth weight and approximately 45% of deaths among children under five are linked to undernutrition.
Africa for example has a cereal-centered food system with less consumption of fruits and vegetables. Access to quality indigenous seed however is still a challenge for many rural farmers.
The SNV Sustainable Nutrition for All (SN4A) project partnered with the National Agriculture Research Organisation (NARO) to build the capacity of local farmers as seed multipliers of an alternative category of seed known as quality declared seed.
Through the partnership and with consultation of the communities and government stakeholders in the districts of Kasese, Kakumiro and Kyenjojo NARO Bean II (rich in Iron and zinc micro-nutrients highly needed by children and pregnant mothers ), and Nakati (also referred to as bitter tomato) were identified as a potential enterprises to be promoted. To date, 13 community seed banks have successfully commercialised their production guaranteeing 17,200 households in the project target districts access to high quality, lower priced diverse seeds required to boost productivity, food security and nutrition. Community seed banks have helped solve the problem of farmers moving long distances to look for improved seeds and encouraged the uptake of nutrition-sensitive agriculture at the household level.
These examples though not exhaustive clearly demonstrate that small steps taken in the right direction can make a huge difference. Our future food systems need to provide affordable and healthy diets for all and decent livelihoods for the people directly involved in the value chains, while preserving the natural resources that we depend on. The world is looking for more Food Heroes and each one of us can be that Hero.
Happy World Food Day.
Phomolo Maphosa is the Country Director SNV Uganda