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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Eradicating extreme poverty: what is the role of agriculture?

Olutosin Otekunrin
Olutosin OtekunrinFederal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, NigeriaNigeria

Dwelling on the discussion on #what set of policies are necessary to address issues concerning food security and extreme poverty eradication in rural areas?

Empowering the smallholder farming households and other key factors would not be out of place in achieving this goal.  About two-thirds of the developing world’s 3 billion rural people live in about 475 million small farm households, working on land plots smaller than 2 hectares. Many are poor and food insecure and have limited access to markets and services. I believe these smallholder farmers are critical stakeholders in ensuring food security in our economies owing to the fact that when they are given proper interventions and also considering other germane factors,  they have the potentials of reducing if not eradicating extreme poverty in our rural areas. These suggested policy interventions include the following;

1. Proper access to nutritious food through comprehensive approaches to food and nutrition security:

 Policies, programmes and investments geared towards  strengthening food and nutrition security on the part of the smallholder farmers should  aim at: (a) focusing on access as well as availability of foods, (b) recognizing the importance of diversified diets made up of nutritious foods, especially for pregnant smallholder farming households and young children, (c) preventing excessive food price volatility, (d) enabling poor smallholder farming households  access both social protection and social services, and  ensuring that the services contribute to adequate child care and feeding practices, and mother and child health care services, with sufficient access to clean water and sanitation. All forms of malnutrition – including nutrient deficiencies and obesity – should be addressed. This means dealing with the global transition to high energy and low nutrient diets and the shift away from unhealthy food consumption patterns.

2. Identifying the key role of agriculture and rural development in eliminating extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition:

 Smallholder farming households are essential and critical contributors to resolving these challenges which are most pronounced in rural areas. Adequate provision of necessary public goods and support to raise rural incomes and productive capacities,  giving them the opportunity  to participate actively (both in input and output markets)  and benefit from national and international markets  And also, in  pro-poor development through investing in rural economies, both farm and nonfarm.

3. Maintaining enduring investment in agriculture and food systems:

  Enduring  investment can be strengthened by (a) recognizing that the main investors in agriculture are the smallholder farmers  themselves, (b) engaging smallholder  producers and their organizations fully in the design and implementation of national strategies for agriculture and food security, (c) ensuring their secure tenure of land and improving their access to improved technology and innovation, (d) ensuring they benefit from key public goods - market infrastructure, price stabilization instruments (for both producers and consumers), affordable financial services, and functioning extension services. This calls for a combination of public and private investment involving farmer associations, agribusinesses, government, civil society groups and sources of financing.

4. Prioritizing on food security and post harvest losses along value chains:

 Virile functioning of interfaces between food and health systems will lead to reduced risks of disease, especially for food that are unsafe for human consumption. This is increasingly relevant as ecosystems change, due to climate change or human activity. Moreover, there is universal concern over post-harvest processing and handling losses and food consumption waste: they undermine the sustainability of food systems.

5. Building resilience to natural and man-made disasters: Poor rural and urban societies experience crises – such as those linked to volatile food prices or climatic shocks – with increasing frequency threatening their food and nutrition security. The sustainability and resilience of their livelihoods can be reinforced by developing a range of capacities and entrepreneurial skills, promoting non-farm rural employment and empowering smallholder farmers (producers) to diversify their on-farm and off-farm activities.

6. Ensuring agricultural food systems sustainability and climate sensitivity. As demand for food increases – as a result of population growth, urbanization, and changing dietary habits (dietary diversity), greater attention is given to the ecological footprint of agriculture and food systems. What are the options for enabling these systems to be socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, while becoming more productive and nutrition-sensitive? The dilemma is faced by all nations and issue of changes in climate, which is currently threatening agricultural production.  Climate-sensitive agriculture makes growth more sustainable, while improving the management of ecosystems, including soils, forests, water, fisheries, oceans, watersheds and biodiversity.

Empowering the women smallholder farmers:

 Smallholder farming households (Women) are very important in the food production and processing value chain. Equally, they are the drivers of change in ensuring nutrition and food security in the farming households. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, agricultural yields and output would increase and there would be a significant reduction in the number of impoverished people especially children. These women smallholder farmers may be empowered by enhancing their access to credit and control over land and other productive resources. Also, ensuring that women smallholder farmers are able to overcome institutional, social, and economic bottlenecks. Furthermore, Investing in the nutrition of women and their children and ensuring active participation of women in decision-making at all levels: from the household to public policy and development planning. By focusing on equity of access or opportunity, decision makers emphasize the interests of vulnerable people.