How the private sector is tackling the global food security challenge

 “Fighting Hunger Together” is a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment from Walmart, hunger relief organizations and food banks. Photo by: Walmart / CC BY

Food security is an urgent global issue. The reasons behind food insecurity are numerous, complex and multifaceted. Persistent poverty and undernourishment, combined with political and socio-economic challenges, are the major underpinnings of food insecurity globally. Other major contributing factors include production shortfalls, agricultural impact on the environment, global climate change, water scarcity, natural disasters, rapid population growth, changing consumption trends and price volatility. All these and other challenges only heighten the concern for the future of food access and security over the coming decades.

The good news is many leading companies are on the forefront of helping solve the global food security crisis. In 2008, for example, General Mills launched Partners in Food Solutions, a consortium of leading global food companies, including Royal DSM and Cargill, and in partnership with TechnoServe and the U.S. Agency for International Development. The consortium aims to help strengthen the capacity of hundreds of food companies in several African nations — including Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia — impacting 550,000 small-holder farmers. It encourages other companies with additional capabilities to join to broaden its reach to continue to improve the food value chain in Africa.

Additionally, six coffee industry leaders — Starbucks, Keurig Green Mountain, S&D Coffee, Farmer Brothers, Counter Culture Coffee and Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers — have launched the Coffee Lands Food Security Coalition, which aims to combat seasonal hunger among coffee-farming families in coffee-producing regions. A three-year program, “Empowering Food Secure Communities,” was established in partnership with the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps and Nicaraguan organization Asociación “Aldea Global” Jinotega. The program targets 150 women and their families to improve business and farming techniques to support food security and improve livelihoods in coffee-growing communities.

In 2010, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation launched “Fighting Hunger Together,” a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment through 2015 to combat hunger in the U.S., in partnership with hunger relief organizations and food banks. Goals include donating more than 1.1 billion pounds of food valued at $1.75 billion, award $250 million in grants to hunger relief organizations, mobilize Wal-Mart customers and employees to contribute their time and expertise to fight hunger, and partner with other companies, foundations, government and food manufacturers. In addition, Wal-Mart is collaborating with USAID through the government’s Feed the Future initiative, which aims to support rural small-holder farmers in Central America, connect them to Wal-Mart’s international and regional supply chains, and improve nutrition for customers through greater access to more diverse local produce.

Part of the Feed the Future initiative, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a broader collaborative effort that brings together the private sector, donors and the investment community to drive sustainable agriculture in Africa and lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022.

In 2012, Dupont set food security goals for 2020, including committing $10 billion to R&D and introducing 4,000 new products focused on producing more food, reducing waste, bolstering food availability and shelf life, and enhancing food and agriculture sustainability; educating 2 million youth; and improve the livelihoods of at least 3 million farmers and their communities. DuPont also launched the Global Food Security Index, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a comprehensive tool to measure the drivers of food security — affordability, availability, quality and safety — in more than 100 countries.

Clearly, there are numerous fantastic examples of initiatives that are helping to move the needle on critical food security issues. The focus now more than ever needs to be on accelerating collaborative approaches among business and with other key stakeholders, including governments and local communities, to scale the most viable solutions to get farther faster. With dwindling natural resources, land degradation, drought and a whole host of other challenges we are facing, there’s no time to lose.

Want to learn more? Check out Feeding Development's campaign site and tweet us using #FeedingDev.

Feeding Development is an online conversation hosted by Devex in partnership with ACDI/VOCA, Chemonics, Fintrac, GAIN, Nestlé and Tetra Tech to reimagine solutions for a food-secure future from seed and soil to a healthy meal.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Jennifer Gerholdt

    Jennifer Gerholdt serves as U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center Director of Environmental Initiatives. In this role she she works with businesses to maximize their positive impact addressing environmental issues including energy and water use, managing waste, and food security.