This blog is part of a series organized by The Chicago Council’s Global Agriculture Development Initiative and InterAction to highlight the importance of public-private partnerships in agricultural development. This commentary is cross-posted with InterAction’s blog.
Newly-released figures on world hunger are heartening in their downward trajectory. The rate of undernourished people worldwide has declined over the last two decades. But one in eight people, or 12.5 percent of the world’s population, still suffer from undernutrition, and the rate of progress has slowed in recent years. These hunger figures aren’t just a shock to our global consciousness – they are a call to collective action.
How can the world, with 7 billion people and growing, get to a point where it can feed itself? The answer is a complicated one, of course, that food security experts and practitioners now understand pivots on the smallholder farmer, and women in particular. Supporting smallholder farmers and opening new markets is not possible in a high-impact, sustainable way if we work alone. It will require the joint efforts of governments, civil society and the private sector, through public-private partnerships that leverage the added value of all these groups.
It is widely agreed now that ensuring the world is able to feed itself is not about scaling up food production in bread baskets and exporting it to areas of need, as once thought. This costly model of trying to address hunger by providing access to food from afar is too expensive and sidesteps the rural poor living on the margins of roads and other infrastructure. It also proved unsustainable in the face of surging population growth and food price spikes.
We now know that small-scale farmers have a major role to play. When a smallholder farmer is able to nutritiously feed her family and keep a surplus left over to sell, she has spending money that leads to the creation of new local markets. New markets spur local economic growth that can dramatically improve livelihoods by increasing incomes and creating jobs.