August 27, 2015

Food Systems in International Development

Next Generation Delegation 2015 Commentary Series

By Ronald Sullivan, BS candidate in international agribusiness at Kansas State University and 2015 Next Generation Delegate.
In a world where about 1 billion people live on under $1.25 a day, it is incredible to imagine the effects of an enhanced global food system for improved health. Ending poverty is a very complex issue with many components. However, creating food systems for improved health reaches into major areas of development such as education, employment and even self-sufficiency.
Enhancing the techniques in which food is produced, processed, transported, stored and distributed will increase the amount and the quality of education in developing countries substantially. Even in the US, we have seen that kids who are hungry during school don’t pay attention as long and learn less during class. We can imagine the effects on education in a food-insecure community would be even greater. Facilitating families’ access to cheaper, safer food would not only enable kids to attend school instead of working to earn food, but also allow them to gain knowledge to help them escape the cycle of poverty.
Food systems that aim to improve health also influence employment in developing countries. Kids who are given the opportunity to learn specialized skills can contribute to the work force in ways that otherwise would not be possible. This increase in the supply of skilled labor will be coupled with an increase in demand for jobs that result from an enhanced food system such as: distribution, farming, sales and processing. As a result, additional people will be employed and be able to better feed themselves and their families. As the population continues to grow healthier, they will be able to expend more of their energy on innovation and personal fulfillment. This concept is demonstrated by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which shows that we first spend all our energy on fulfilling our physiological needs before we can move on to our need for safety and later our desires for belonging, self-esteem and eventually self-actualization. Healthy people who are capable of moving beyond their physiological needs will potentially start new businesses and better contribute to society.
An increase in education and employment both lead to self-sufficiency and sustainable growth. Sustainability should be a principal objective in any international development project. Development efforts are meant to be long-term; without a food system for improved health, such sustainable growth may likely be unattainable. An effective food system will provide the population with the resources necessary to be healthy and therefore self-sufficient—the main difference between relief and development. Simply giving nations food makes them reliant upon foreign aid and actually hurts domestic agriculturalists. On the other hand, creating a system that allows a nation to feed itself puts control of the future in the hands of its citizens. This sustainable, self-sufficiency resulting from food systems for improved health is the key to successful international development.   
Olinto, Pedro, and Hiroki Uematsu. “The State of the Poor:  Where Are the Poor and Where Are They Poorest?” The World Bank. Accessed August 13, 2015.  
Read previous posts in the Next Generation Delegation 2015 Commentary Series:


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.


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| By Janet Fierro

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When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.