Why CSR should focus on smallholders

One third of chronically malnourished people worldwide live in South Asia and the largest number of them are from India. Half the total population of developing regions and a majority of the hungry and the poor – are farmers and their families. 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas – Most of the rural poor depend, directly or indirectly, on agriculture for their livelihoods. Out of the 2.5 billion people in poor countries living directly from the food and agriculture sector, 1.5 billion people live in smallholder households. Smallholders provide up to 80% of the food supply in Asian and Sub-Saharan Africa. Smallholder farmers, not only face negligence form the mainstream agriculture, they are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Caritas India was the Agriculture and Nutrition Partner of the India CSR summit 2017 held in Gurgaon on September 18-19, 2017 which was attended by 2165 delegates from 1307 organisations and 346 CEOs, CSR Heads, Managers, CSOs, HR Heads and Communication leads from corporate houses, foundations and other organisations. The focus was given on the compelling issues of food and nutritional security in the country and argued how focusing on smallholder farmers can help the Business houses under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to effectively address the issue.

The summit provides the platform for companies, foundations, NGOs, service providers and civil society organisations to enhance and exchange learnings and possibilities for collaboration. It also provides opportunity to the organisations to showcase their innovations and commitment.

Caritas India had setup a stall at the exhibition to highlight its major intervention with special focus on its new programme of SAFBIN. The programme aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture in South Asia. Under the new programme, partnership is invited for the funding, research, technical support, advocacy, knowledge exchange and dissemination and upscaling.

Representatives from CSR and civil society organisations visited the stall to know more about the thematic interventions of Caritas India and expressed their willingness for partnership in the field of skill building, technical support, digital marketing and other partnerships.

In a special session on corporate engagement to address malnutrition challenge, Mr. Sunil Simon from Caritas India shared the experiences and achievements of European Union supported SAFBIN programme (2011-2016) and invited business houses to partner in the new programme. He further explained why CSR should focus and increase funding on smallholders to address malnutrition and poverty in totality.

Presenting a case for support of smallholder farmers, he said, “it is advantageous constituency to address multiple development-concerns viz. poverty, malnutrition, trafficking and sustainable development, with higher investment efficiency”.

Such engagement with small farmers can be an ethically apt, environmentally justified, politically correct, culturally sensitive and economically effective strategy to address poverty and malnutrition in Global South.

Considering the situation of malnutrition in the country, there is an urgent need to engage with smallholder farmers, more strategically and sensitively to trigger their development through ecologically, socially, economically, politically and culturally inclusive process.

The new SAFBIN programme implemented in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan with focus on smallholder farmers will be programmatic in nature where all the stakeholders will have the opportunity to progressively interact and collaborate on supporting smallholder farmers to improve their situation.