There are over 570 million farms in the world, out of which more than 90% are managed by individuals and immediate families. While family farms produce about 80% of the world’s food, 82 million more mouths are in need to be fed every year. Securing access to food is as clearly vital, as securing those who grow it - the millions of smallholder farmers around the world.
The journey of our food – from field to fork is not a simple one and sustainability of the food value chain stands at a questionable juncture today.
Whether they are the owners of small plots in an emerging country providing food to a handful of villagers or larger acreages in North America and Europe, smallholder farmers across the globe face a few vital challenges:
The need of the hour is to scale up models and practices and turn the traditional farms into commercially sustainable businesses. One such model which evolved in recent years is the food value chain; an innovative agribusiness model in which all food chain stakeholders come together to work on tailored solutions for the benefit of everyone involved, with the goal of turning farms into commercially viable and sustainable farming businesses.
Nice definition isn’t it? But what does it really mean? And how can it be achieved, practically?
Some of the key elements and steps that need to be taken involve:
In recent years, food value chain projects have emerged around the world. In Nepal, a community irrigation project involving 12 districts helped local farmers achieve their productivity potential; crop yields increased by 20 to 25% and annual income of small and marginal farmers increased between 75% to 96%. In Vietnam, financial solutions, training for better agronomic practices, and fair market prices benefited 190 coffee growers on 300 hectares of land and contributed to a 69% yield increase. Alliances like Better Life Farming help farmers around the world to rethink agricultural practices for a better crop from introducing mechanized cotton farming in the parched areas of Akola in Maharashtra and implementing drip irrigation in Swaziland and Thailand, among many other initiatives.
The primary idea behind all these projects is not just to produce more, but to produce sustainably. In Netafim, that is exactly what we strive to achieve through our community-irrigation projects in Ramthal and Tarikere in India. By applying our smart irrigation products and solutions to fight scarcity of food, water and land, we’ve contributed to significant progresses in different parts of the world, in a collaborative and partnership-based approach.
In Ramthal, private and public sectors collaborated to improve the livelihood of 7,000 farmers, in the world’s largest community irrigation project. Under this project, every farmer received water through a cylinder installed in their respective farmlands. They were asked to use this cylinder to mix fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn, reduced costs, water and pesticide usage, and increased yields.
Let us all empower smallholder farmers and help them grow more with less. If we work together to help our farmers grow their own livelihoods, they will grow their community, and will successfully feed the world’s growing population as well.