COVID-19 impacts on small-scale farmers underline the need for building resilience
While global food supply chains may be starting to heal from the COVID-19 pandemic, food and agri-business Olam International underlines the importance of addressing the long-term wellness and operational resilience needs of those small-scale farmers in emerging markets who provide much of the world’s ingredients and raw materials.
A survey undertaken by Olam in July of 2,400 of smallholder farmers growing cocoa, coffee, sesame, cotton, and other crops in Africa and Indonesia, revealed that more than half were experiencing shortages in basic food and nutrition due to movement restrictions, food price increases and insufficient stocks at home*. Ability to afford food was impacted with 70% of those farmers surveyed saying they had less income than usual in the prior four months.
While spread of the virus in Africa seems to be gradual, according to the International Rescue Committee limitations in data collection and shortages in testing infrastructure mean that the numbers may be underreported. Indonesia continues to report new cases.
"In recent years, there has been some progress towards helping thousands of small-scale farmers become more resilient to shocks, including price drops, pests, and climate change impacts,” said Julie Greene, leading Olam’s social strategy. “But we must make sure this is not derailed. We need to redouble our public and private collaboration to encourage crop and income diversification, access to finance, promotion of health and human rights, and preservation of the environment.”
Ms Greene highlights Olam’s AtSource insights platform (AtSource.io) as a tool in the company’s approach to partnering with its customers and partners to tackle the issue. To drive change across supply chains, over 3,500 Olam enumerators collect impact data from farmers and communities in AtSource sustainability programmes which is made visible to customers via the online dashboard. This includes specific metrics on food security and access to clean water and sanitation. Together with multiple other metrics customers can then see the overall social and environmental footprint for every step of their product’s journey, from farm to factory. Such insights enable collaboration with Olam on improvement programmes. The Olam team is now mapping the recent COVID-19 survey findings with the AtSource programme data to identify hotspots where farmers may be most vulnerable.
“Some AtSource Plus programmes already include nutrition data but we are now ramping up focus on this critical area across the business,” adds Ms Greene.