May 20, 2013

Commentary - Community Development Key to Sustainability Efforts

This post is part of a series produced by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, marking the occasion of its annual Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C., which will be held on May 21st. For more information on the symposium, click here. Follow @globalagdev and #globalag on twitter to join the conversation on May 21st.

By Pierre Ferrari
Pierre Ferrari is Heifer International’s President and CEO.

Now, more than ever, solutions to serious issues facing the world—hunger, poverty and environmental degradation—must be sustainable.  We will always need short-term, rapid response solutions to disasters, but now everything we do—in business, government, science and at my own organization, Heifer International—has to be for the long term, with those caught in the vortex helping provide their own solutions.

For too long, we looked development through a single lens: economic. Then through the Green Revolution, we added an ecologic component with the vow to do no harm. Today, though, we must add a third leg to the development stool to ensure viability and stability—social capital.

We need to be clear on one thing, something we learned at Heifer International a long time ago: Economic growth for its own sake is not a solution. For economic growth to make sense and to make lasting change there has to be community development—it must contribute to a better life for the least of us just as much as it improves life for those of us with the most.

For Heifer, our expertise is agricultural development, but we also apply a community development tool, our Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development, in every project we do. These values, such as gender equity, full participation, sharing and caring, accountability and training and education, are the backbone of our work.

Embedded into a family’s life and culture, these values create significant social change—women gain their voice and become leaders in their communities. Husbands learn respect and help their wives. Co-ops form, savings accounts are created and, in time, entire communities, entire countries change for the better.

Today, community development is the foundation for market development, and building social capital is the highest form of helping underserved people and families help themselves.

In too many cases, market development works against the poor, so in Heifer’s case, we balance the odds, providing the structure and tools families need to compete fairly, resources such as animals and training to help them achieve resilience. We also help connect them to value chains—critical needs, not nice to haves for these smallholder farm families.

So as the families use the livestock to increase food production and diversity, the knowledge gained from the Cornerstones fosters change that spans generations and sparks improvements in infrastructure to help build local commerce—roads, electricity, commodity storage and transportation, as well as market associations and structures.

These are the hallmarks of sustainable development. It starts with putting more and better food on the table, but it leads to empowerment, opportunity and, eventually, independence.

We understand that there is no silver bullet cure for the problems we dwellers of the planet face. But as we tackle and eliminate hunger and poverty and repair the planet, we must acknowledge that successful poverty elimination utilizes market-driven development and at the same time depends strongly on deeply embedded social engagement. 

Pierre Ferrari, who was born in Africa in 1950 in what was then the Belgian Congo (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from 1971 to 1997 Zaire), is Heifer International’s President AND CEO. Ferrari has more than 40 years of business experience, from large consumer goods organizations such as Coca-Cola USA to socially oriented organizations like CARE and the Small Enterprise Assistance Fund. Ferrari holds a master’s degree in Economics from The University of Cambridge and a MBA from Harvard Business School. 

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive

| By Colin Christensen , Eva Koehler

Guest Commentary - The Plague You’ve Never Heard About Could be as Destructive as Covid-19: How the Threat from Desert Locusts Shows the Need for Innovations in how Organizations Scale

The international community needs to mobilize to combat the plague of locusts devouring East Africa. At the same time however, we should also consider the long-term investments we must make to build lasting resilience to climate change among smallholder populations.




| By Sarah Bingaman Schwartz, Maria Jones

Guest Commentary - Reducing Food Loss and Waste by Improving Smallholder Storage

Reducing postharvest losses by half would result in enough food to feed a billion people, increase smallholder income levels and minimize pressure on natural resources. The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss works with smallholders in Bihar to improve storage and reduce loss. 








| By Mark Titterington

Guest Commentary - A European perspective on the journey to a regenerative agriculture system…

Regenerative farming practices can lead to improved soil health and farm productivity and profitability, boosting crop quality and yields, improving the resilience of farms to extreme weather events and reducing the propensity for soil degradation and run-off, but most excitingly, creates the opportunity to actually draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere in agriculture soils.


| By Peter Carberry

Field Notes - Brokering Research Crucial for Climate-Proofing Drylands

9 out of 12 interventions identified for agriculture by the Global Commission on Adaptation involve research and development. For smallholder farmers in drylands, some of the most vulnerable to climate change, the role of innovation brokers may prove just as important as doing the science itself. 




| By Julius A. Nukpezah, Joseph T. Steensma, Nhuong Tran, Kelvin M. Shikuku

Field Notes - Reducing Post-Harvest Losses in Nigeria's Aquaculture Sector Contributes to Sustainable Development

While increasing fish production and productivity in the long term are practical strategies for addressing malnutrition in Nigeria, reducing post-harvest losses of fish is an economic and a rational strategy of increasing value of aquaculture businesses that lead to sustainable economic development.