2. Strengthen governance and promote responsibility to ensure food security.
A comprehensive approach to food security governance should include agriculture market and value-chain development, nutrition programs, safety nets, emergency preparedness and mitigation, and strategies for addressing the challenges of increasing urbanization.
Reduce the cost of financing in the farming and agribusiness sectors.
Reducing the cost of finance in low- and middle-income countries is an essential condition for economic development, especially in the farming and agribusiness sectors. While high-income countries currently face very low interest rates, farmers and agribusinesses in low- and middle-income countries are often asked to pay rates that exceed 25% per year or more. At these rates, investments are risky, incentives to launch new farming operations or agribusinesses that will take some time to mature are put to a severe test, and the potential for successful ventures is limited.
This issue could be addressed over time through the development of credit guarantee mechanisms by international institutions capable of assessing risks and benefits in the agricultural sector, facilities that provide local investors access to global capital and a stable investment environment for foreign direct investors, and approaches that promote the involvement of impact investors in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors. While the current rise of social impact investing and patient capital investment heralds a pivot in the right direction, there are a number of technical steps that could mitigate risk and increase the flow of agriculture capital, including: sovereign guarantees for high-risk investments, improved country ratings, and creative agriculture insurance products.
Create better linkages between urban and rural geographies.
Building bridges between urban and rural environments around food security is a critical component of a comprehensive approach to food security.
Urban growth in food-insecure sub-Saharan Africa is growing at unprecedented rates. In Asia, already-large cities are continuing to expand. There is no coherent strategy for ensuring that these large and growing urban populations will be food secure in this environment.
It is clear that the ability of economic growth to provide jobs and incomes for rising urban populations is critical, but the capacity of the food system to deliver healthy, safe, and affordable food into the towns and cities should not go overlooked.
This will require significant investment in improved urban planning, including building food-oriented infrastructure in growing cities (e.g. stores and markets, warehousing, refrigeration, and transport hubs), ensuring that production zones are well-knitted into this infrastructure, and establishing strong safety net programs that meet the food security needs of vulnerable populations in both rural and urban areas.
Invest in national-level agriculture research and extension services
To meet the nutritional needs of a growing population in the face of changing climate patterns in the coming decades, significant public investment must be made into agriculture development and farmer education.
With rising temperatures and increasingly frequent extreme weather events, sustainably growing yields, increasing the nutritional profile of crops, and reducing food waste should all be a priority areas for research going forward. Extension services should also be bolstered to ensure that modern practices and information reaches smallholder farmers.
Photo courtesy of flickr@Bioversity International.