Empowering smallholder farmers to create sustainable change – live discussion

coffee farmerBy Jenny Purt

The Guardia – Do you ever look at where the products you buy come from or ponder over how they were made? Staple commodities such as coffee, tea and sugar all have a human story behind them, one involving hundreds of people across the world, that consumers are largely blinkered to.

However, the recent horsemeat scandal has shone a harsh light on the complexity of global supply chains and has showed how the expansive webs of producers, suppliers and retailers have spiralled out of control with little transparency or accountability. The constant pressure to drive prices down, no matter what the cost or impact on product quality, has created a distorted food system, stripped out true value and started price wars that have devastating economic impacts on the farmers at the start of the supply chain.

According to the Fairtrade Foundation, smallholder farmers produce more than 70% of the world’s food supply, yet shockingly they represent over 50% of the world’s hungriest people. Is this the result of a fair and equitable trade system? Clearly not, but with the correct supply chain management, business, governments and investors can have a powerful impact on tipping the scales.

A new report from the Fairtrade Foundation, outlines five key points that need to be addressed to empower smallholders:

Increasing farmers’ voice, influence and organisation: this includes better access to markets, subsidies for inputs such as fuel, seed and machinery and the opportunity for smallholder farmers to secure land rights

A fair value: currently smallholder farmers receive low returns on their produce in supply chains that are dominated by global corporations so building fairer trading models, improving their negotiating power and building direct business partnerships is key

Access to finance: credit for smallholder farmers is often unavailable or unaffordable making it difficult for them to buy inputs, technologies or diversify their crop base. Subsidies for credit schemes or loan guarantees to banks can help this

Future-proofed farming: increasing sustainable practice and helping smallholder farmers to adapt to the demands of climate change will require investment in training and adaptive technologies

Targeted government spending: developing countries dependent on agriculture currently allocate an average of just 5% of their national budgets to the sector and international aid is also very low. Women farmers should be targeted specifically; they produce 60-80% of food in most developing countries but are often dis-empowered and isolated

Taking steps to empower smallholder farmers that will enable them to build sustainable futures will help companies secure future supply of key food commodities, safeguard the environment for generations to come, curb escalating food waste in the West and give producers the tools they need to tackle threats from climate disruption.

 Source and Photo: The Guardian, 28th February, 2013
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