More than 800 million people across the globe go to bed hungry every night. And the climate crisis is expected to worsen what is already an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Investment is urgently needed to help communities and ensure universal access to nutritious and affordable food. Emergency aid, however, cannot be the only answer. Launched this week, the Forum for Farmers and Food Security will provide a solution by fostering commitments and capital to help farmers increase income and sustainability.
“It’s really about just making sure [communities] have the resources they need, but not trying to change their way of life,” says U.S. Congressmember Sara Jacobs.
Policymakers, the private sector, and producers need to focus on long-term resilience and invest in infrastructure that will enable communities to feed themselves. Humanitarian and development assistance needs “to be more innovative, more engaged, more reliable, and broader spectrum than we’ve literally ever been,” says U.S. Senator Chris Coons.
This approach is also more economically sustainable, argues Samir Ibrahim, CEO of SunCulture, the largest solar irrigation company for African smallholder farmers. “It’s just a good money decision for the government to start thinking about investing in infrastructure because you don’t have to spend the same amount of money and relief every year,” he says.
Fortunately, many of these creative solutions are already in development. Supply chain infrastructure to connect farmers to markets, minimize food waste, and maintain nutrition is a necessity. In North and West Africa, Ifria develops cold storage facilities for perishable goods that can positively impact farmers and businesses “Products need to be harvested, processed, transported, stored, and distributed,” says Matthew Meredith, Executive Managing Director and Co-Founder of Ifria. “We offer services along that entire market system to create market access for farmers and producers.”
And in Mali, Sustainable African Foods is working with farmers to grow fonio, a nutrient-dense grain that thrives in poor soils. By working with the parent company Yolélé, they are creating a global market for this climate-smart crop that will encourage even more farmers to make the transition.
The U.S. Agency for International Development provided a US$1.9 million grant to fund pre-construction of an agro-processing facility to expand the fonio value chain. Their investment is just the beginning. Scaling and implementing solutions to transform food and agriculture systems require even more investment—as much as US$1.3 trillion per year over the next ten years according to Ertharin Cousin, President and CEO of Food Systems for the Future.
While government funding is necessary, Cousin says, “we need to bring private sector capital off the sidelines and into the capital stacks for scaling up the businesses that can make a difference in the transformation of the food system.”
New partnerships have the potential to unlock this capital, to redirect funds that support farmers, consumers, and the planet. That’s why the new Forum for Farmers and Food Security is so important.
The Forum provides a platform that will forge the necessary connections and build relationships that support farmers and their communities. Committed to driving catalytic action, its members will encourage investments in the agricultural sector to help farmers transition to more sustainable production practices.
The coalition will also help to connect farmers with the data and technology they need to make informed decisions. Most importantly, the Forum helps establish purchase commitments that guarantee farmers a market and provide them with greater economic security.
“Let’s make sure the farmer is making money and living well,” adds Craig Cogut, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of the impact investment firm Pegasus Capital, “and then we can have nutritious, reliable food for all.”
The Forum for Farmers and Food Security is just getting started, with inaugural members including the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the United Nations Development Programme, the Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet, the U.N. Capital Development Fund, Africa Adaptation Initiative, Regions 20, U.N. World Food Programme, Pegasus Capital, Producers Trust, and Food Tank.
For more information about how to be involved, visit foodsecurity.net and explore ways to partner for a food and agriculture system that puts farmers first.