Public-Private Cooperation Can Help Establish Sustainable Farming For Better Nutrition, Health

“Nothing could be more appropriate than the World Food Day focus on cooperatives this year,” because “[t]he collective power of cooperatives can enable better access to market, better returns, better access to inputs and services, and a better support network for smallholder farmers,” leading to “[h]igher returns” which allow farmers to “better provide for the nutrition, education and health of their families,” Mark Bowman, managing director of SABMiller, writes in an AllAfrica.com opinion piece. Africa is “at the center of the global challenge of food security,” “because one in three of the world’s hungry live on the continent” and “because Africa has the potential not only to feed its own people but also to become a more significant food exporter,” he says. Smallholder farmers are essential to meet this “challenge and potential,” Bowman notes, but he adds they are “cut off” by location or lack of funding from new products and technologies, efficient transport, and information.

“These are all challenges which cooperatives can, and are, helping overcome across Africa,” Bowman writes, adding that harnessing the know-how of smallholder farmers into cooperatives can “increase yields and harvests.” He continues, “And this, of course, is why co-ops are so important — and why SABMiller, among other major corporations, are keen to support them.” Bowman provides examples of how SABMiller is helping to encourage sustainable farming, including setting a challenge of “sourcing half of our raw materials from local markets by 2014.” While “[t]here is no single solution to the challenges of Africa’s agricultural revolution, … it is clear that it is partnership, between small-holder farmers themselves, the private sector, commercial farmers and, of course, the public sector which holds the key to accelerating the progress we all want to see,” he concludes (10/16).