World Food Day: Securing Access and Incomes for Farmers
Every October 16 the international community observes World Food Day. It’s a day intended to raise awareness of world hunger and poverty. First observed in 1981, World Food Day is one of the most celebrated days in the United Nations calendar.
This year, World Food Day is especially relevant given that global food insecurity has reached unprecedented levels. The World Food Program estimates that over 800 million people will go to bed hungry tonight. Some 50 million people in 45 countries are facing the threat of famine.
Multiple factors account for the heightened food crisis: hurricanes in some places and drought in others, lingering impacts of the pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine, and rising inflation. Combatting global food insecurity and improving farmer livelihoods requires collective action from governments, the private sector and civil society. FINCA is responding through strategic partnerships with social enterprises in the agricultural and food sectors.
In commemoration of World Food Day, we highlight a few of FINCA’s most impactful partnerships.
Securing Access and Incomes through Land Ownership
One of the major challenges smallholder farmers face in Africa is the lack of formalized land titles. In fact, less than 10 percent of land in Africa is formally registered in a way that provides legal protection to landowners.
Without clarity on land ownership and boundaries, smallholder farmers are insecure. They have little incentive to invest in improving their land productivity because they are vulnerable to eviction. FINCA’s partnership with Meridia is working to change that.
Meridia’s proprietary technology reduces the costs of land formalization for smallholder farmers. Their technology gathers information to produce land documentation more quickly and cheaply than existing services. And Meridia partners with large commodity buyers that are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of their supply chains. Meridia’s maps help these organizations more effectively provide technical assistance to farmers.
Returning Weather Certainty to Farmers
While Meridia is providing certainty to farmers about land ownership, farmers are increasingly uncertain about another element key to their productivity: the weather. Due to climate change, the timing of the seasons in sub-Saharan Africa has shifted. What was previously known to all farmers as the rainy season is no longer a given. Smallholders who rely on knowing the weather to make decisions on when to plant, weed, fertilize and harvest struggle to secure the information they need.
To bring back weather certainty to farmers, FINCA partnered with Ignitia. The company provides exceptionally accurate, location-specific weather forecasts for the tropics. In fact, Ignitia’s forecasting model is more than twice as reliable as traditional methods. Typical tropical weather forecasting is only accurate 39 percent of the time. Ignitia’s forecasts are up to 84 percent accurate.
Ignitia’s farmers receive a daily text message that includes a 48-hour rain forecast as well as monthly and seasonal predictions. Because subscriptions are SMS-based, any farmer with a basic feature phone can access the information. A study found that farmers using Ignitia’s service registered average yield increases of 65 percent per acre and improved incomes by $480 on average.
Linking Farmers to Markets and Consumers
Once farmers can produce optimally on their land, they require access to markets and consumers. That is why FINCA partnered with East Africa Fruits (EAF), a food distributor in Tanzania that is formalizing the informal farm-to-market value chain.
EAF links smallholder farmers to hundreds of informal market vendors and more formal hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets. The company has built the infrastructure to collect produce directly from farmers and deliver it straight to these customers. EAF’s collection and aggregation centers are close to smallholders. And their cold chain of refrigerated trucks and warehouses increases produce shelf life.
In effect, EAF replaces multiple middlemen, allowing them to reduce wastage, ensure quality, and pass more of the purchase price back to farmers. With market demand surging, EAF expects more than double the amount of produce they buy from farmers in the coming year.
The Challenge Posited by World Food Day
FINCA proudly joins with our partners in contemplating the purpose of World Food Day. It’s a day to take stock of what the world has accomplished and to recommit ourselves to the work that remains. The challenges to ending world hunger and food insecurity are large. The efforts to eradicate them must be equally expansive.