Eighty percent of global coffee production comes from farmers who live on less than $1 per day. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has been working with Catholic Relief Services to improve the livelihoods of smallholder coffee farmers in the border area of Colombia and Ecuador through the production and sale of high-value, gourmet coffee. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Partnerships for Agricultural Development and Improved Nutrition

Partnerships between the public sector, private sector, civil society, local communities and agricultural producers are a critical strategy in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Known as public-private partnerships, or PPPs, these collaborations allow the participants to share the risks, responsibilities and benefits of their joint investments.

PPPs do not follow a set model and are formed to achieve a variety of objectives.

PPPs for agricultural development include building road and rail networks that connect farmers to urban markets; developing agricultural technologies and tailoring them for the needs of small-scale farmers; and opening new financing opportunities so farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs can expand their businesses.

Partnerships to reduce hunger and increase diet diversity include educating women and men about the importance of nutrition; improving the cold chain for nutritious foods; and creating fortified and bio-fortified foods to reduce the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiency.

Small-scale women farmers near Livingstone, Zambia, have sold 100 metric tons of fruits and vegetables to high-end hotels and supermarkets through a partnership with the Horticulture Innovation Lab, a USAID Feed the Future initiative. Photo credit: Paul Marcotte, Horticulture Innovation Lab Evaluator

Producers are Partners Too

In 2016, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) published a blueprint for Public-Private-Producer Partnerships (4Ps) as an expanded paradigm for PPPs.  It advocates for the inclusion of producer groups, specifically small-scale farmers, in the design, management, monitoring and evaluation of partnerships for sustainable agriculture value chains.

Producer groups bring essential resources to the table such as knowledge of local growing conditions, access to land and water, capital investment and labor. These 4P collaborations strengthen local buy-in, build leadership capacity and help

Harvesting Zinc for Healthy Soils, Crops and People

Micronutrient deficiency, or hidden hunger, is a lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet and is a devastating form of malnutrition.  Two billion people are afflicted, including half of the world’s children under the age of five.

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Thanks to the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women, indigenous women of Guatemala’s Polochic valley are feeding their families, growing their businesses and saving more money than ever before. Photo credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Pathways to Productivity and Nutrition

Reducing malnutrition in all its forms (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity) is essential for economic productivity and growth, particularly in agriculture.

Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies lead to stunted physical growth, cognitive impairments and increases the risk for chronic disease, all of which make farmers less productive and make it more difficult for people in rural communities to develop off-farm enterprises.

While both men and women have roles to play in reducing malnutrition in the household, women are more likely to spend money on “reproductive” goods that benefit the family, such as nutritious foods, school fees or health care.

Increasing a woman’s income through productivity gains and access to agricultural markets can improve the nutritional status, health and earning potential of herself and her family.

Moove over Cows; Goats Got my Dairy!

Goats are an ideal farming option for smallholder farmers living in challenging climates.  They convert plant material into milk and meat with an efficiency that makes them an appropriate and practical livelihood, especially for rural farm families. They offer a nutrient-rich alternative source of animal protein and are relatively safe for consumers who suffer allergies or sensitivities, including lactose intolerance.

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Photo credit: Ann Steensland/GHI

Women’s Time Is the Key

Maximizing women’s time is the critical consideration for partnerships seeking to increase the productivity of women farmers, as well as nutrition and diet diversity within the home.

These partnerships need to address the two things that most women farmers lack: financial resources to purchase productive inputs and knowledge of agronomic practices.

Without resources to buy the productive inputs of her choice, such as hybrid seeds, herbicides or mechanization technologies, a woman will spend more time planting, weeding and harvesting to increase her output.

This reduces the number of hours she has for tasks such as childcare, eldercare, cooking and housekeeping, which in most contexts she will still be expected to perform.

Agricultural extension systems in low-income countries rarely focus on the specific needs of women farmers, excluding them from critical knowledge that could improve their productivity and reduce their labor burden.

While circumstances vary greatly from one community to another, research in Africa and Asia confirms that identifying women’s time and resource constraints is essential to improving both agricultural productivity and maternal and child nutrition.

The “Golden Girls and Sunny Boys” of Bangladesh Stand Up for Adolescent Nutrition

Today’s adolescents aged 10-24 years represent the largest cohort (1.8 billion) in human history, and about 90 percent live in less-developed countries. Adolescents have generally been overlooked in global and social health policy but have recently been given significant attention.

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Photo caption: Somali refugees receive food and supplies at the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The UN estimates that 69 million people are refugees or internally displaced. They are among the 124 million people in need of immediate food assistance. Photo credit: Ann Steensland/GHI

A Race Against Famine

Following the food price crises of 2007-2008 when staple food prices skyrocketed, governments around the world pledged $22 billion in aid for programs to improve the productivity and sustainability of small-scale farmers.

The private sector, both local and international, is a vital partner in these efforts, offering investments, expertise and access to markets and improved agricultural inputs.

The SDGs enshrined these efforts into a global movement addressing food insecurity and low agricultural productivity, as well as underlying causes, such as extreme poverty, climate change and gender inequality.

Over the last three years, a new hunger crisis has arisen driven by prolonged armed conflict and political instability, in conjunction with extreme drought.

International aid donors and agencies are in a race against famine: 124 million people need immediate food assistance to prevent acute malnutrition and starvation.1 After several years of decline, the number of hungry people in the world is rising again, to 821 million.

More resources are needed to address this urgent crisis, without compromising the longer-term efforts outlined in the SDGs.  Mobilizing these additional investments is a challenge in some donor countries where the political support for foreign assistance is on shakier ground than it has been in the past.

U.S. Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition

In response to the global food price crisis, the U.S. created the Feed the Future Initiative (FTF), under the auspices of USAID.

FTF concentrates U.S. investments in agricultural development, food security and nutrition in select focus countries. Nineteen countries were initially chosen; 12 are in Africa, four in Asia and three in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The initiative has succeeded in moving 23.4 million people above the poverty line.  Farmers in FTF programs have generated $10.5 million in new agricultural sales. More than 900 agricultural innovations tailored for small farmers have been deployed.

The Global Food Security Act (GFSA) passed by both houses of Congress with strong bi-partisan support and was signed by President Obama in 2016. The legislation authorizes funding for the FTF and ensures that the core tenants of FTF will guide U.S. development partnerships.

The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2017 passed the House and Senate in 2018 and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump later in the year.

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