Insufficient food production and access, climate change, disasters, conflict, displacement, and a growing global population are among the many challenges facing families and communities who struggle to put nutritious food on the table. In the past decade, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of individuals forced to leave their homes due to conflict, which has become a major cause of food insecurity. Many families facing food insecurity rely on their own food production and income from farming, which is stressed by an escalation of weather-related disasters due to climate change. These repeated shocks have severe implications on the food security and livelihood of vulnerable populations. The impact of COVID-19 on food supply chains, livelihoods and food security in nearly every country of the world has made innovative solutions more urgent than ever before.
Global Communities’ programs help farmers produce more reliable sources of food, increase their incomes, accumulate productive assets, and attain increased household stability and financial security. We work with farmers to provide access to knowledge, skills, inputs, and markets, as well as ongoing support for climate-adapted and productivity-enhancing sustainable agricultural practices. Through our programs, farmers build assets through smallholder livestock production and non-farm income generation so they can better sustain their families and remain resilient when shocks arise. Program participants often emerge as community change leaders who encourage others to practice sustainable production approaches that conserve soil, capture water, increase biodiversity, and improve production. These practices have helped increase incomes, decrease malnutrition, and improve food security within communities.
Our agricultural food security strategies are designed to improve production approaches—protecting farmers from stressors while supporting improved production growth and sustainable approaches tailored to their unique, individual needs and household contexts.
Adapting to a Changing Climate
With climate change impacting food supplies, Global Communities believes climate change adaptation in the agricultural sector works hand-in-hand with improving food security and nutrition. In turn, we utilize the principles of climate-resilient and nutritionally targeted agriculture practices in our programs, which are designed to strengthen the resilience of smallholder farmers and help them cope with the ongoing threats of climate change and crop loss. These practices include promoting conservation agriculture, sustainable intensification, improved varieties of crops (vegetables and staples), integrated pest management, rainwater harvesting and small-scale irrigation, agroforestry systems, enhanced poultry and livestock production, improved grazing systems, and improved post-harvest crop storage. Household asset building through activities such as selling livestock and livestock products while developing non-farm income is also a key to helping vulnerable families adapt to climate change, as a more diversified income helps families manage shocks when they occur. Learn more about our climate action work here.
Women at the Center of Household Food Security
Global Communities recognizes the fundamental roles women have and the contributions they make to both food and nutritional security, especially for children. Our work takes a gender-transformative approach to food security and climate adaptation that addresses the additional burdens and negative consequences of climate change on women, often due to gender inequity. In many developing countries, women make significant contributions to agricultural production and food security, yet mainstream development approaches often take a gender inclusive rather than gender-transformative approach. Our work addresses the intersection of climate adaptation and food security by starting with women-centered design that is inclusive of men and youth. With a focus on mainstreaming climate adaptation through socially inclusive and gender-transformative strategies, programs center around women’s needs, aspirations, and agency in improving household food security, nutrition, and climate resilience. Our approach focuses on understanding the socio-cultural contexts underlying food insecurity and identifying the main drivers of vulnerabilities to climate change with gender transformation as an intrinsic part of project design and implementation. Global Communities incorporates household- and community-level dialogues, as well as women-centered capacity building in these fields, in order to shift the traditional norms, behaviors, and attitudes that present challenges to achieving gender equity and sustainable positive change.
Increasing Productivity and Diversifying Production
A cornerstone of working with smallholder farmers is increasing and diversifying production to include a variety of foods that enhance nutritional outcomes and increase resilience to climate shocks. We help farmers find the right balance between food and cash crops and utilize climate-resilient agriculture practices to enhance resilience to natural and man-made disasters, as well as to access productivity-enhancing technologies, input and extension support. At the same time, we directly address the gender gap by ensuring that support is provided inclusive of women so they have access to productive resources and can reach their potential as producers and entrepreneurs.
Growing and Consuming Nutritious Foods
To demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and nutrition, Global Communities disseminates knowledge of improved nutrition to smallholder households, supporting their efforts to cultivate and consume locally grown, nutritious foods. Nutrition training includes topics such as exclusive breastfeeding, supplemental feeding beyond the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, importance of micronutrients, peer nutrition counseling, and animal-source food production and consumption. With a particular focus on vulnerable women and children, our “Kitchen Garden” model promotes dietary diversification using improved agricultural techniques that conserve limited resources. We consider cultural and societal norms, particularly as they impact women, and employ a locally-owned and driven cascade training strategy to drive sustainability.
Strengthening Market Access
Global Communities strengthens market access for small rural farmers to support sustainable, lasting local economic development, improve livelihoods and help ensure the availability of nutritious foods. We work with local agribusinesses to forge permanent ties with small farmers and help them access improved inputs like seed for drought tolerant crops and the animal care necessary for flocks and herds to thrive. Taking a market-based approach means we support farmers to produce what the market demands and find local solutions to connect farmers to improved markets for the crops and livestock they sell. Increasing income through these linkages not only helps the producers we work with, but also builds a strong regional and national food supply.
Expanding Financial Products and Services
Improving access to financial products and services is extremely important for economic success in agriculture. We focus on both the supply and demand sides in providing appropriate financial services. Working directly with smallholders – especially women – we facilitate the organization of community-based savings groups, facilitating the acquisition of literacy, numeracy and financial management skills. We also work with a range of financial institutions to reduce agriculture lending risk through Loan Guarantee Facilities and other mechanisms.
Nourishing Bodies and Minds with School Meal Programs
Global Communities delivers essential nutrition, education, health, and development services to children attending schools in poor and underserved communities in countries around the world. Currently, more than 255,000 children receive a healthy meal every school day through Global Communities’ U.S. Department of Agriculture-supported school feeding programs. This daily dose of nutrition ensures vulnerable students, especially girls, have the energy they need to learn and focus in the classroom while boosting attendance rates and learning outcomes. Learn more about our school feeding programs here.
Supporting the Recovery of Disaster Affected Communities
To help communities recover from climatic or man-made disasters, our emergency and transitional programs reduce food aid dependency, improve household food security nutrition, provide additional income, and promote self-reliance. Utilizing approaches such as cash transfers, food assistance, or innovative electronic vouchers for food or livelihoods inputs, our programs support struggling and fragmented local markets and help re-establish agricultural production through the provision of essential inputs. Learn more about our emergency response to food security needs here.
Using Technology to Support Farmers
Global Communities is revolutionizing the way small farmers and pastoralists in Africa utilize technology to improve production and their livelihoods. Through AfriScout, pastoralists find pasture and water for their animals using the power of satellite and mobile technology. The AfriScout mobile application, developed by Global Communities (then operating as PCI), provides pastoralists with current information on water and vegetation conditions through localized community grazing maps on their phones. This information helps them make more accurate and cost-effective migration decisions, improve pasture management, and reduce the risk of herd loss.
Through AfriFARM (Africa Fall Armyworm Response Mechanism), an award-winning smartphone application developed by Global Communities (then operating as PCI) in partnership with software solution company Dimagi, small farmers are equipped to fight the growing spread and serious crop losses the growing global fall armyworm infestation. AfriFARM is designed to improve fall armyworm education and help identify, track, scout, and manage outbreaks by providing information on safe pest management to smallholder farmers and agricultural extension agents working to combat the pest.
These new methods of farming give us enough food to make sure we don’t go to bed hungry.
Program participant, Malawi
Global Communities’ goal is to help vulnerable individuals and communities become more food secure while improving their nutrition and incomes. By merging climate change adaptation, livelihood diversification, nutritionally-sensitive production, household asset building, and shock mitigation into our sustainable agriculture development strategies, we can address the closely linked challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition and livelihood loss.
Global Communities understands that effective solutions are based on:
- Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes
- Embedding nutritional planning in agricultural production
- Ensuring households build the assets needed to absorb inevitable shocks
- Adapting and building resilience to changing weather patterns while reducing greenhouse gas emissions whenever possible
- Focusing on women’s inclusion and full participation in program interventions
- Integration of local knowledge and other science-based innovations
The continuous application of these approaches leads to enhanced food security, improved nutrition, increased incomes for small-scale producers, and stronger household resilience to shocks.
students from 2,051 schools who received a daily nutritious school meal in 2022
farmers (64% of whom are women) provided with improved agricultural production practices and technologies in 2019