Inefficiencies in moving the world’s food from farm to fork is often to blame for food shortages and low prices for growers, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute.
State of the World 2011: Nourishing the Planet states it is not just low yield and poor farming techniques that can leave shortages – links in the food chain including storage, transportation and marketing, are just as vital to ensure food actually reaches consumers.
The findings came from a two-year evaluation of environmentally sustainable agricultural innovations to alleviate hunger and poverty. Researchers from the Worldwatch Institute, an independent energy, resource and environmental research organisation based in Washington DC, travelled to 25 countries sub-Saharan Africa to meet with 350 farmers groups, NGOs, government agencies and scientists.
“Many of the farms and organisations we visited in Africa seemed to have the most success reducing hunger and poverty through efforts that had little to do with producing more crops,” said Danielle Nierenberg, Director of the Nourishing the Planet team.
And with the United Nations projecting a global population of more than nine billion by 2050, increasing food chain efficiency will become even more essential, said Robert Engelman, Executive Director of Worldwatch.
“When groups of small farmers better organise their means of production – whether ordering the right inputs at the right time or selling their crops directly to customers – they become more resilient to fluctuations in global food prices while also better serving local communities.”
Nourishing the Planet recommends three ways that agriculture is helping to address gaps in the current food supply chain – coordinating farmers, increasing market transparency and using low-cost technology to boost efficiency.