A joint programme by GAIN, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), and Unilever to improve the diets and hygiene practices of farm workers and their families was showcased at the Dutch Food Summit hosted in The Hague on 26 January.
Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, mentioned the Seeds of Prosperity programme which uses supply chains to improve the health and nutrition of farmers, workers and their families. A video about the programme was also broadcast at the summit hosted by the Dutch government.
Some 500 million people are small-scale farmers globally; meaning they rely on small family plots of land for their food production. Although small-scale farmers manage 80% of farmland in Asia and Africa, they often sell their most nutritious foods, and eat starchy foods such as rice, bread and wheat – inexpensive and filling, but lacking in essential nutrients such as iron and zinc, which are essential for good health.
An estimated two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies globally. But the impacts of a homogenous diet go beyond this, affecting people’s socio-economic status, and their ability to earn money. Adults who were malnourished as children earn at least 20% less on average than those who weren’t, and national economies lose on average 10% of GDP annually due to malnutrition, as a result of early deaths and decreased productivity.
A diverse diet – one incorporating many food groups – can be the difference between poor and good health, and high and low income. Poor hygiene is also a major challenge: diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of diarrhoea cases by up to 47%6, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.
GAIN, Unilever, and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) saw an opportunity to improve the nutrition and health of farmers, workers and their families in the supply chains, while working to increase supplier and worker satisfaction, productivity and brand loyalty.
A successful pilot has reached 2,600 farmers in Tamil Nadu, India and the programme will now be replicated in tea farming communities in Assam as well as Kenya and Malawi, benefiting a further 300,000 people.The programme partners now want to bring other business on board to extend the programme, reaching 2.5m people and strengthening their most important crop: family.
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Published 26 January 2017