Video calls. Smart refrigerators. Flying taxies. Not so long ago, these were things you’d only find in futuristic space cartoons. Today they’re a real part of our world.
Change and amazing technological advancements are occurring rapidly across our planet, yet some of our most basic human challenges persist, most notably in the areas of food security.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the United Nations estimates that more than 233 million people are hungry. Increasingly, all nations are finding themselves in need of greater access to food and water in the wake of natural disasters, like earthquakes and floods, that disrupt traditional supply chains.
At the World Food Bank, our mission is to combat world hunger and create easy access to food in areas where there is regular scarcity by bringing market-based efficiencies to the world’s most inefficient market, food trade. This is possible, but only through systemic change.
Up to now, the bulk of the work done to improve global food security has been programmatic, with governments, aid organizations, and some businesses investing in the implementation of market and supply-chain initiatives focused on specific challenges at the regional and community levels. Many of these programmatic initiatives have produced great success, whether to grow better crops with better seed, or with better irrigation, only to find that there was insufficient market linkage to sell the improved commodity volumes. These efforts have of helped us to better understand the challenges facing all the players in our global food system, but they have failed to create broad and lasting economic change.
Our solution at the World Food Bank allows for significant opportunities for stakeholders across the board to capture margins throughout the value chain, from farmers to traders to processors to investors. Our solution includes: maintaining a public-private partnership network for food commodities, amassing institutional quantities of shelf-stable commodities in strategic locations across the globe by guaranteeing farmers an offtaker at prices that insure a measure of profitability and pushing those commodities back into local markets at times of need when supply is limited.
We need to work together now to revolutionize all parts of the food market system. We know that supporting smallholder farmers by providing stable access to a fair food market is key to lifting more than 1 billion people out of poverty and ending hunger. The current systems are not in favor of the smallholder farmer and programmatic initiatives fail to address sustainability. By continuing to invest money and effort on one-off initiatives, we prolong the suffering that so many in our world face. Systemic change that includes our markets, our governments, and our family farmers is the only way forward.