Nutritious Food Systems

Extreme poverty is a challenge that largely originates in the agricultural sectors of low- and middle-income countries. Worldwide, 80% of people in extreme poverty live in rural areas, and most of them are smallholder farmers who (according to a standard definition) work plots of land that are less than five acres in size.1,2 Because of market failures and other barriers that limit adoption of advanced agricultural practices, these farmers’ yields fall well below the average yields in more-developed parts of the world.3 Women farmers face especially high barriers to accessing resources that will allow them to farm more productively.4,5 As a result, smallholder families experience periods of food insecurity and hunger.6 Breaking the cycle of rural poverty starts with ensuring that farmers have access to essential resources, including key inputs like high-quality seeds and fertilizer, training in efficient agricultural practices, farm financing services, and markets in which to sell their products. According to multiple studies, interventions that address these needs increase crop yields and raise smallholder incomes.7,8,9 The potential for impact in this area is significant. In low- and middle-income countries, growth in the agriculture sector can be two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors.4 Progress on this front, moreover, makes it possible to reverse the cycle of hunger: Evidence shows that increases in agricultural yields and smallholder incomes can improve food security and nutritional outcomes.10