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How Olam contributes to food security – SDG2 Target 2.1

SDG2 Target 2.1

“By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.”

In addition to the activities mentioned under Livelihoods, we focus on 3 key areas:

1) Promoting crop diversification and other income opportunities among smallholders to increase and stagger income flow over the year

Just as a balanced diet is nutritionally diverse, a healthy livelihood shouldn’t be over-reliant on any one crop. Smallholder farmers, whether growing to sell or to eat, suffer the perennial cycle of glut and dearth that come with the agricultural seasons. Farmers can receive their entire annual income in just one post-harvest lump, from which all their family’s food, school fees, medicines, debt repayments and purchases for the farm for the year ahead must come.

A poor harvest or a decline in market prices can put food security at risk. Diversification into multiple cash crops that are harvested at different points of the year can help hedge that risk – for example many of our coffee farmers in Laos also sell cabbages for export into neighbouring Thailand.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia our coffee teams are working with smallholders to plant a variety of cash and food crops: fruit trees provide shade and frost protection for coffee plants, and can be grown among vegetables, such as cassava and carrots, which thrive at a similar altitude to high-quality Arabica coffee. Livestock, such as goats or cows, produce manure for improving soil fertility, while their milk delivers vital nutrients for the family and any offspring (typically 1 per year) can be sold for additional income. Estimates vary, but keeping bees in the plot can improve pollination by 12–50% on coffee farms and honey from the hives can be consumed or sold too.

We also encourage our farmers, where possible, to initiate processing of the product so we can procure a more semi-processed item adding more value to the farmer. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire we have been organising the farmers into groups where they, through our support, have set up satellite centres that now semi process the cashew kernel and then sell to Olam.

2) Inclusion of nutrition in farmer training modules

While previously many Olam product teams have been supporting the production of food crops alongside cash crops on an ad-hoc basis over the years, we are now starting to formalise education on diversification and nutrition with specific modules and pilot programmes.

While we saw positive results we also had 2 interesting learnings:

  1. Poor or uneven rainfall in many regions limits the yields of annual plants, which include most food crops. These tend to have relatively shallow root structures that stay within the top 4 inches (10 centimetres) of soil. Tree crops, on the other hand, typically have very deep resilient root structures. Many cash crops tend to be perennial tree-based crops, such as cocoa, cashew, and coffee (although other cash crops, such as cotton, rice, and sesame, are annual crops). We need to look, therefore, at how farmers can manage water for their food crops and other annual crops.
  2. Even though vegetables and protein-rich legumes grow well in most regions where Olam works, smallholders quite often prefer to eat carbohydrate-rich staple foods. This is due to eating habits as well as a lack of knowledge of the nutritional benefits of different foods and the importance of a balanced diet. We therefore have to make the benefits easy to understand through visual aids and education.

3) Ensuring our workforce in emerging markets is strong through good nutrition

With processing units all over the world, we set ourselves a goal of ensuring that by 2020 all of our workforce would have access to nutritionally balanced food within the workplace and surrounding communities. To do this we would need to sensitise Olam managers and supervisors to the nutritional needs of the workforce and ensure there are adequate accredited catering facilities or hygienic and accessible food vendors for each location.

To kick-start this process we had planned to develop a standard in 2015 that was aligned with the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact. While we didn’t achieve the development of the standard, we ensured that 15,000 of our workers across Africa had improved access to food at work through on-site canteens and meal subsidies, and we launched the Olam Healthy Living Campaign on 1 December 2015. Businesses in Côte d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Mozambique, and Tanzania are already promoting good nutrition and food hygiene through education, meal subsidies, fortified food distribution, and school gardens, expecting to reach 25,000 workers and community members in 2016.

Next section: How Olam contributes to Food Security – SDG2 Target 2.2