Thursday, January 21, 2016

UN helps small farmers

The United Nations World Food Programme has signed a deal with big agriculture companies to help small and impoverished farmers in Third World countries.

The deal embraces a consortium of leading public and private sector organizations: they are using the Patient Procurement Platform (PPP) to make it possible for farmers to plant, harvest and sell enough high-quality crops to boost their income and increase food security. The platform will offer farmers access not only to quality seeds and other inputs but also insurance and financing as well as a predictable market.

Consortium members who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Davos, Switzerland, this week includes AGRA, Bayer, GrowAfrica, the International Finance Corporation, Rabobank, Syngenta, the World Food Program (WFP), and Yara International. The consortium will also include local members across the agricultural value chain, including commodity buyers, in each of the 25 countries where it will be active.

“Half of the 795 million hungry people in the world today are family farmers,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin in Davos. “The platform will enable some of the most marginalized farmers to access reliable markets for the first time. This will have a profound impact on food security and bring us closer to our Global Goal of zero hunger.”

With the support of the consortium, more than one million of the world’s poorest farmers in 25 countries will be able to shift from subsistence farming to market-oriented agriculture by facilitating their access to fair harvest contracts before planting begins, obtaining agricultural inputs to increase yields, and receiving other forms of support including trainings from consortium members or other providers.

The platform was introduced late last year and is now operating in three African markets. In Rwanda, 20,000 farmers have obtained contracts to sell a combined 8,000 metric tons (MT) of maize to a local buyer. In Tanzania, six local and regional buyers have joined WFP to contract 38,000 metric tons of maize and 5,000 metric tons of pigeon peas from 30,000 farmers who now have access to loans from local consortium member banks to expand production. In Zambia, three regional buyers have joined WFP to contract 17,000 metric tons of five different commodity crops from family farmers.

“Because of the platform, thousands of farmers in these three countries are already in a better position this planting season than the last one. They can now expand production to earn a more stable income knowing they have a trusted buyer committed to their long-term success,” added Cousin.

The platform builds on WFP’s previous work through Purchase for Progress (P4P) that supports small-scale farmers to include the private sector, which provides extra demand, financing and inputs needed to bring efforts to scale and make the largest impact. Committed and patient buyers are key to the platform’s success, because longer-term contracts secured before planting lowers risk and enables farmers to access necessary resources to expand production.

Increasing food production and income opportunities is vital to building resilience and food security, and the private sector has a major role to play in reaching the Global Goal of zero hunger by 2030.