Supporting agriculture and farmers to improve nutrition

Supporting agriculture and farmers to improve nutrition

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We are facing three challenges: repeated food price spikes, driven by inelasticity in both food supply and demand; feeding the 1 billion people currently estimated to be hungry; and feeding the extra 2 billion people expected by 2050. With shifts in diet in emerging economies towards meat and dairy products, there is additional pressure on crop production – alongside other competing demands like biofuels. Climate change will also have serious impacts on crop yield.

The book, One Billion Hungry, asks, “Can we feed the world?” The answer is “Yes, but…” There 24 “buts” which can be grouped into 4 priority areas: innovation, markets, people and political leadership.


Farmers are part of the private sector.


Markets are crucial. This might seem obvious, but for many working in the area of agriculture and development, it is not. Actually, farmers are part of the private sector, and with the right inputs we know they can significantly increase their yields – as the case of Malawi shows. The central problem is that they are not connected to markets. They produce, can’t sell and then say “forget it”. There are half a billion smallholder farmers, with 2 billion people relying on them for food. If we can increase the productivity of these farmers, we can get an enormous amount of food in the right place and to the right people.

Establishing an enabling environment for farmers.

What we need around these farmers is in an enabling environment. There are very significant opportunities for business on the production side, the input and output sides and in strengthening the connectivity in the value chain – both transport and communications infrastructure. As the case of the rich-in-beta-carotene orange-fleshed sweet potato in Mozambique demonstrates, business can play an important role in both product innovation and in marketing to build demand for bio fortified food and other nutritious crops. Looking ahead, a key priority is to build the evidence base needed to encourage business and donors invest. Mozambique also illustrates the importance of women – not only as mothers making the purchase decisions for their family, but also as the majority of sellers and smallholder farmers.


One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World? Is published by Comstock Publishing Associates and is available from Amazon. Visit, which is updated weekly.

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