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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Call for examples and good practices on investments for healthy food systems

Taryn Barclay
Taryn BarclayCargillUnited States of America

Dear FSN Forum,

Please find enclosed two case study submissions from Cargill in response to the open call for examples and good practices on investments for healthy food systems.

Thank you!
Taryn

Director, Corporate Responsibility and Partnerships
Cargill
Helping the world thrive

Proponent

Cargill and CARE – Nourishing the Future in Central America

Date/Timeframe and location

In partnership with international humanitarian organization CARE, Cargill launched the Nutriendo el Futuro (Nourishing the Future) program in 2008. Nourishing the Future started in Honduras and expanded to reach 11 municipalities: three in Guatemala, three in Honduras and five in Nicaragua, over an eight year period until 2016. With the new phase until 2019 we will be working with 18 municipalities.

Main responsible entity

Cargill and CARE - Cargill has been partnering with CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty, for more than 50 years to improve food and nutrition security by strengthening rural communities.

Nutrition context

Cargill and CARE have worked to improve nutrition and the livelihoods of communities in eight countries globally – including Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, since 2008. Called The Nourishing the Future program, the collaboration in Central America has included a strong focus on improving nutrition education and providing access to more diverse diets.

In Central America, the partnership has reached more than 277,000 people, including assistance for 100,000 farmers and nutrition education for 130,000 children, parents and teachers.

Key characteristics of the food system(s) considered

Despite increased economic growth in the region, 13% of the population in Central America is malnourished and 48% of the population live below $1.25/day. Guatemala alone experiences 48% stunting and nearly 16% undernourishment.

The collaboration focused on improving nutrition in rural agricultural communities where poverty and malnutrition are often most acute. Within the communities; schools, households and farms were targeted for specific interventions, including social and behavior change communication in schools, cooking demonstrations, community and school gardens, and training in healthy nutrition practices for school children, teachers and community leaders. Cargill also addressed the lack of infrastructure in many of the schools by building kitchens. This provides a clean, secure space for preparing the meals. Cargill also supplements the meals with protein products. 

Cargill also worked with local farmers to improve agricultural production through training in good agronomic practices across seven value chains, including maize, red beans, sorghum, green beans, blackberries and peas.  The focus of these efforts was to increase productivity for farmers and provide access to markets to increase local food security and nutrition.

Key characteristics of the investment made

Cargill has invested more than $6 million in the Nourishing the Future program since it began in 2008. In 2016, Cargill renewed its global commitment to CARE for three years. The additional funding for Central America – more than $3 million – will continue the work in Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and also expand to Costa Rica.

Key actors and stakeholders involved (including through south-south/triangular exchanges, if any)

The Cargill-CARE Central America collaboration melds Cargill’s expertise in food and agriculture with CARE’s decades of success in community-led rural development, helping communities to take a leading role in identifying problems and developing sustainable solutions. This is public-private partnership that prioritizes community-led solutions. Local and central Government has taken the Nourishing the Future project to adapt actions into their own social development agendas. Cargill volunteers are strengthening the impact with school infrastructure such as Cargill Kitchens.

Key changes (intended and unintended) as a result of the investment/s

Early results of the project demonstrated a positive impact on local nutrition and stronger regional food system.  Households in Guatemala and Honduras more than doubled their incomes as a result of the project with incomes increasing by 22.5% in Nicaragua. Families in all three countries diversified their diets. The dietary diversity scores for all three countries went up 16 to 45 percent in the last three years. Analysis of the last years shows families in the program saw a decrease in the number of months they were food insecure. Guatemala families dropped from five months to two, a 60 percent improvement. Honduras and Nicaragua showed improvements of 19 percent and 13 percent, respectively. Larger companies that export products like green beans don’t work with small individual producers, and maneuvering the market to find a reliable middleman can be overwhelming. Nourishing the Future enabled 50 female producers to connect, form cooperatives and share the costs of connecting to larger buyers with their combined harvest. A recent CARE study, which looked at women’s empowerment among participants, saw big gains in all three countries. In Honduras, the empowerment index was up 21 percent. The index measures how empowered women feel to financially provide for their family and how much control they have at home to make purchasing decisions.

Challenges faced

While the partnership is seeing measurable success in raising incomes of families, improving nutrition and food security, challenges remain.  One of the most acute challenges is the impact of climate change on local farmers. Farmers are increasingly facing drought, flooding and other challenges due to short- and long-term climate impacts. Moving forward, Cargill aims to create a more focused connection with its businesses and to set strong benchmarks on improving climate resilience. This resilience will help families adapt and stabilize incomes.

Lessons/Key messages

Further information can be found here:

https://www.cargill.com/story/eight-years-of-progress

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Proponent

Cargill

Date/Timeframe and location

2004- present/Brazil

Main responsible entity

Fundação Cargill (The Cargill Brazil Foundation)

Nutrition context

Projeto de Grão em Grão (Grain by Grain project)

One of the key pillars of The Cargill Foundation’s work in Brazil is to help improve access to safe, healthy, sustainable and affordable food for communities where Cargill operates in the country. In 2004, the Grain by Grain project was established to improve nutrition education and ensure access to fresh produce for schools.

The Grain by Grain project provided education on concepts ranging from proper food hygiene, post-harvest handling of vegetables, and vegetable garden production techniques. Schools were provided with all the resources to establish vegetable gardens, including seeds, tools, compost. The harvested products were then used as part of the school lunch, making the meals more nutritious and tasty. Teachers and canteen staff also attended training courses on safe food practices and nutritional techniques. The project also incorporated food safety training for families. The project was initially developed in support of the National Zero Hunger Program in Brazil.

Since 2004, the gardens were developed on school premises, but the learning from program was that this created additional requirements for the schools in terms of maintenance, staff time, and management of the gardens. Also many of the schools were in rural communities where there was existing agricultural production taking place. So in 2015 a strategic decision was taken to transition the supply of fresh produce from the schools to local small-scale family farms. This was also a way to strengthen the relationship of Cargill and the communities and create new markets for the local farmers. The Grain by Grain project started two pilot initiatives engaging small-scale family farms, in the Brazilian cities of Santarém and São José do Rio Pardo.

The main idea was to train the farmers in more sustainable techniques and guide them to diversify their production. With a larger and better quality production they started to organize themselves in trading groups to sell to the community, including to public schools through the federal incentive programs and the national school food program.

Key characteristics of the food system(s) considered

The project aimed to address two issues in the food system: 1) The lack of sufficient nutritious fresh foods for school meals, a key vehicle for improving dietary diversity and nutrition for children and young people; and 2) The lack of market access for local produce farmers.

Key characteristics of the investment made

The Cargill Foundation has contributed BRL 13.255.000 (over US$4 million) since the beginning of the project as well as providing technical expertise, employee volunteers, and creating new connections for schools, farmers and the final consumers.

Key actors and stakeholders involved (including through south-south/triangular exchanges, if any)

This public-private partnership engages local and global experts including Cargill employees, schools, local government, teachers, canteen staff, parents, farmers and general consumers. It is however very locally owned and managed, with local producers and schools connecting to ensure the schools have a continuous supply of fresh produce for their feeding programs.

Key changes (intended and unintended) as a result of the investment/s

As a result of the project, farmer participants on average have tripled their incomes while cutting pesticide use by 90 percent. On a typical year, for instance 2014, the project was present in 10 cities and 95 schools and benefited 41,000 students and 1,800 teachers.

Listen to farmers talk about their success - https://www.cargill.com/story/empowering-vegetable-farmers-in-brazil-grain-by-grain

Challenges faced

While the program has seen measurable improvements in local nutrition and stronger food systems, there are still a number of challenges. The program has reduced the administrative burden for the schools but there is still a requirement to manage this initiative with the producers and school staff, which some schools are under-resourced to do. There are still schools that have their own gardens and have to invest in its maintenance and management.

Increasing the adoption of the healthy meals is a challenge and therefore continued education on the nutritional value is ongoing. Productivity and incomes have increased for the local producers, but there are still further improvements to be made to increasing farmers’ knowledge of good agricultural practices and participation in the market. There is also further opportunity to have more producers connected to the federal incentive programs PAA (Food acquisition program) and PNAE (National School Food Program).

The Cargill Foundation will continue to work through these challenges in collaboration with the farmers, schools and local authorities as the long term ambition is to expand the pilot to other communities where Grain by Grain is operating.

Lessons/Key messages

The project has resulted in several key insights that will help scale the impact and further strengthen the food system.  This includes continued education on nutrition and diverse diets in order to both stimulate the demand for fresh produce in the community and to build increased adoption of healthy meals at the schools.