I get to travel around the world – Africa, Australia, South America, Thailand, Turkey, India, China and North America - to meet the smallholder farmers who matter so much to their local communities. It’s part of my role in supporting Coca-Cola’s commitment to help enrich farmland and nourish communities around the world, including support of more than 40 sustainable agriculture projects.
Together with great partners such as TechnoServe, the World Wildlife Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, United Nations Development Programme, and others, Coca-Cola is answering the call for investment and innovation in sustainable agriculture. By 2050 the world population is expected to reach 9 billion and demand for food will double. My hope is that with good ideas, good people and increased training, smallholder farmers can significantly contribute to helping meet the growing need for food.
Our project in Kenya and Uganda is a great example of sustainable agriculture in practice.
In this initiative, called Project Nurture, approximately 42,000 mango and passion fruit farmers – 14,000 of them women – have received local training on business and governance, crop protocols, and agronomic practices. These smallholder farmers worked together, with technical guidance provided by TechnoServe – a nonprofit that focuses on alleviating poverty, to create Producer Business Groups (PBGs). By organizing PBGs, farmers have improved their positioning with local processors and increased their access to credit. They also received training on pruning, plant nutrition, post-harvest handling, and grading – designed to produce better fruit and increase their yields.
These growers have improved their productivity and competitiveness and as a result we’re purchasing the fruit for our Minute Maid juices. What’s more, they expect to double their fruit income by 2014. They now have stronger networks with access to new markets and supply chains which is helping them work together to improve farm productivity and enhance their livelihoods.
Sustainable agriculture is as much about how we farm today and tomorrow – as it is about understanding how the smallholder farmer links us all together – and how important they are to meeting food demand.
Denise Knight is Global Director of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at The Coca-Cola Company.