Partnerships between public and private sectors offer diverse ways to boost productivity and incomes, helping smallholders escape the trap of low yield, low investment, low income. Farm Africa is working with supermarket Aldi to help Kenyan farmers end hunger with better results.
Joseph Kaunda, a young father of two from Kitale in western Kenya, is no stranger to the challenges of trying to earn a decent living from farming. Faced with pests and diseases, yet unable to access pesticides, he used to struggle to bring in a good harvest. And even when he did, lack of links to markets meant the crops would sometimes rot before he found a buyer, and with them went his chances of making a profit.
“When the market is not available, sometimes things go rotten on the farm,” he said. “When things rot, I get very discouraged. You spend a lot of money buying seedlings and tilling the farm. When you do not do well, it takes a while to get the capital to start again.”
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recently held a seminar discussing the changes in politics of food and agriculture in the 21st Century. In the seminar, Robert Paarlberg discussed his new book, ‘Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know’, which explores the powers in the current food system. He claims that the way that agricultural production and food politics is governed by political powers, both in developed and developing countries, are not connected to dealing with the food crises that exist today.
Paarlberg argues that policy changes in rich countries are favouring the cultural values of a sophisticated elite that claim to speak for food safety, food quality and social justice in response to the modern obesity crisis. He explains that this group have adopted a pre-industrial food system that is ‘organic, local and slow’, which doesn’t represent the needs of those who actually suffer from obesity.
The message that Paarlberg explores in his book is that this line of thinking has spread to pre-industrial economies in developing countries, where food systems are organic and slow and consequently farmers have low yields, low incomes and suffer from malnourishment.
According to Paarlberg, this influence of the politics of OECD countries on those of non-OECD countries, puts rural farmers at a disadvantage and doesn’t lead to economic growth. Summarising his conclusions, he states that ‘the alignment of political power isn’t very well connected to the location of the most important social needs.’