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An Inclusive Business for Achieving Zero Hunger

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As we reach the final week of the #SDG2countdown campaign, Dr. Scott Angle, President and CEO of IFDC tells Farming First why setting up inclusive businesses is our best bet for ending hunger (SDG2.1) by 2030.

Within the Farming First community, we advocate that farmers – and agriculture in general – are at the heart of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2): End Hunger. Without empowering them, achieving zero hunger by meeting a 50 percent increase in food demand by 2030 will be impossible.

As such, it is easy to focus our efforts on those farmers most suited to increasing production – those who, for example, may already be linked to accessible finance and profitable markets and have tenure over a large plot of land. Indeed, equipping these farmers for success should not be overlooked, as they too contribute to producing 80 percent of the food consumed in developing nations.

However, the key word (and the challenge) in Target 1 for SDG2 is all. Current trends project that many of the more than 790 million food-insecure individuals will still suffer from inadequate dietary energy in 2030. We can change this and ensure that no one – especially the poor and vulnerable – is left behind. To do so, governments, industry, NGOs and other stakeholders in food security must reach base-of-the-pyramid (BoP, i.e., low-income) producers and consumers.

If we want to reach these last-mile producers and consumers – and sustainably enable them to produce and access nutritious food, we may need to rethink our development approach. Inclusive business must be our theme. This means partnering with stakeholders that desire more than “business as usual” and that seek to intentionally engage BoP markets in their value chains for a viable, sustainable, and mutually beneficial relationship.

IFDC’s Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness and Entrepreneurship (2SCALE) project demonstrates that an inclusive business approach to development can yield great gains in food supply and access for the BoP. The core idea of inclusive business has shaped this unique project’s work, and the results show time and again that for-profit and development objectives can co-exist and be achieved together.

Active in nine sub-Saharan African countries, 2SCALE promotes inclusive growth by supporting private enterprises of African or foreign origins that want to make a difference. 2SCALE Chief of Party Arno Maatman calls these enterprises “inclusive business champions,” and they are truly the heroes of taking development to the last mile.

“These businesses are not new, starting companies,” notes Maatman. “They have a demonstrated capacity to drive, or at least effectively participate in, agricultural value chains in Africa.”

But in striving to achieve their inclusive intentions, these champions can often face challenges ranging from insufficient crop sourcing to competing (with limited resources) in an unfair playing field to confronting resistance within their own organizations. That is where 2SCALE steps in, connecting these private firms to farmer groups and then providing training, business linkages and other support to ensure that the partnership works. This is called the Competitive Agricultural Systems and Enterprises (CASE) approach.

Essentially, the CASE approach means creating networks that connect farmers (targeting last-mile producers) to each other, to the market, and to other stakeholders such as banks, input suppliers, insurance companies, and transporters. This network strengthens our inclusive business champions and assists them in succeeding; smallholder farmers can deliver consistent volumes of high-quality produce, while buyers can plan long-term, knowing their supply chain is secure. Finally, the project comes full circle by helping many private businesses market affordable, nutritious food products to BoP consumers.

One of my favorite 2SCALE success stories comes from Ethiopia. While the country is successfully improving food and nutrition security on a large scale, infant and child malnutrition is still a serious challenge for a majority of the population.

To assist in overcoming these obstacles, 2SCALE partnered with Ethiopian food processing company GUTS Agro to create a marketing strategy for Super Mom. Super Mom is GUTS Agro’s locally sourced, high-protein corn-soy food product for young children and pregnant and nursing mothers. With the idea to make this product affordable for low-income consumers and to take it directly to their doors, 2SCALE assisted in developing the “Likie” distribution model. The Likie model (which means “just the right size” in Amharic) engages women in micro-franchisees to deliver the product door-to-door on branded tricycles and provide education on nutrition and other topics. After an investment as low as $5, these women typically net $47 within the first few months, and some have reported sales as high as $500 per month. The model is now active in five cities, involving more than 50 micro-franchisees. In my eyes, this partnership is a win for all involved. Smallholders are selling their produce, women franchisees have new sources of income, GUTS Agro is moving product, and BoP consumers are receiving nutritious food options at affordable prices.

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I have no doubt we can achieve zero hunger by 2030. Let’s not forget that when we say, “zero,” we mean no hunger for anyone. As we continue working toward the goal of eradicating hunger, we must make sure to include even the smallest of the smallholders and those BoP consumers reached only by travelling the last mile. To this end, I am convinced inclusive business models will continue to be the most viable, sustainable and productive development approaches as we move toward and beyond achieving SDG2.