Blind spot in Agriculture: Nutrition security in cash crop production
A Call to Action: Increasing cash crop productivity through improved nutrition
It has been assumed that increased food production, reduced food prices and growth of household incomes would contribute to poverty reduction and improved nutrition. However, in 2007 the World Bank demonstrated that simply increasing agricultural production and household income does not sufficiently reduce under-nutrition. Despite estimates that under-nutrition causes losses in GDP of 2-3%, IFPRI reported that improvements to nutrition often lag behind economic development. FAO concluded in 2012 that agricultural growth will not necessarily result in better nutrition and calls for “nutrition-sensitive” agricultural growth to address under-nutrition and the related losses in GDP.
Today, critical social and economic issues that have an influence at smallholder producer level include food insecurity and low productivity. These issues in combination with increased production costs lead to a drastic reduction of the producer’s income, while the worldwide demand for cash crops grows steadily. Under-nutrition plagues the majority of coffee, cocoa and tea producing areas, such as Indonesia, India, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Kenya, Vietnam and Ethiopia. Unremitting under-nutrition leads to a vicious cycle of under-nourished farming families over generations. As a consequence, under-nutrition contributes to continuing productivity losses in the cash crops sector.
Looking at trends in the coffee, cocoa and tea sector sector, around 16% - 40% of the global production is currently certified. Ideally certification standards will integrate training tools on nutrition security as a mandatory element in their curriculum in areas of high malnutrition and coffee production for smallholders and plantation workers.
Addressing nutrition security can be achieved by combining Good Agricultural Practices with Good Nutritional Practices, developing nutrition sensitive value chains for local products, increasing household production of nutritious foods, strengthening the role of women and educating people about the importance nutrition.
Investments in better nutrition have an exceptionally high benefits to cost ratio. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) encourages the coffee/cocoa and tea industry to invest in nutrition sensitive coffee chains in areas experiencing high rates of malnutrition to prevent future generations of undernourished producers and plantation workers with decreased productivity.