A fundamental human right, being food secure means that a person, at all times, has access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences. There are four elements that can help determine the level of food security in a country. These are the availability of quality and highly-diverse food sources, the people’s capability to physically and economically access food, the level of nutrition that the food supply provides to the population, and the consistency by which people experience food security.
Developing countries have plenty of existing issues that they need to address to ensure that they are food secure. These include the lack of fiscal and technical support for farmers as well as inadequate infrastructure. On top of these, the policymakers and residents of these countries also need to be concerned about the effects of climate change and other natural phenomena that can negatively impact food production and trade. In the face of these challenges, how can developing countries like the Philippines improve their level of food security? Here are a few possible solutions to these existing and looming issues.
Build Up Sustainable and Productive Farming Systems
The issue of food security can be approached from many angles, and one of these is by enhancing the sustainability and productivity of individual farms. This can be done by applying the concept of circular economy in agricultural facilities, which means ensuring that the waste produced from one aspect of the farm will be used to enrich another.
In the Philippines, there’s an initiative called Palayamanan that does just this. Aiming to reduce the operating costs for participating farmers, the program promotes crop diversification and the addition of fish, poultry, and livestock rearing in the activities of farms. Then, the waste that originates from these activities will be used as fertilizer, while rice straws and vegetable mulch can be fed to livestock. In some operations, livestock waste can also be converted to natural gas through the use of on-farm digesters. This system, in turn, offers a continuous supply of food, better economic stability, reduced risk in terms of production, enhanced diversity, and a balanced ecology. This enables farmers to work alongside nature and achieve short-term results while taking care of their lands and ensuring long-term profitability.
Provide Better Market Access to Smallholders
Small-scale farming is an activity that is often associated with low-value activities such as bartering and selling produce in local markets. Often, many smallholders are locked out of regional, national, or international markets that offer more lucrative economic opportunities. There’s no shortage of hurdles for smallholders who want to access better social mobility. After all, many of them lack the capability to scale up their production. At the same time, many of them also don’t have access to infrastructure and technologies that will bring down production costs or provide information that will help them get better prices for their produce.
It’s worth noting that the links that many smallholders share with value chains are inherently fragile, and this is despite the intervention of SME programs to connect them. One reason for this is that there are just too many factors, such as market and exogenous conditions, which affect their relationship. However, if government agencies are able to sustain long-term infrastructure projects such as the construction of farm-to-market roads, these can help smallholders have easier access to better markets moving forward.
Launch Campaigns to Promote Increasing Diversity in Diets
Food security is not just connected to food quantity, but also to the nutrition level offered by the food items that people consume. Dietary diversity is an important aspect of food security. Agricultural workers that support diversified farming systems are more likely to meet their food and nutritional needs through their own produce. Plus, maintaining different crops and animals generates reasonable net income for their households. On the other hand, the promotion of a diversified diet is generally seen as a means of ensuring that consumers are able to meet their nutritional needs.
Promoting diet diversity is one way of ensuring that people, from farmers to consumers, are eating well and leading healthier lives. Making diverse food products available in larger markets can also have an impact on the price of agricultural products and the revenue of farming families, thereby giving them the capability to also access food items of higher quantity and quality.
Food security is a complex issue that requires systematic solutions, and it’s an area that will benefit much from greater levels of technological innovation and development. Ensuring that developing countries are able to reach a consistently high level of food security will prove to become a more challenging prospect in the future, given the complexities presented by climate change and continuing population growth. But with the combined efforts of innovators, government agencies, agricultural workers, and the general public, there’s a better chance that everyone will be able to access nutritious food whenever they need it.