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Helping Africa’s Smallholders Feed the World

Sustainable Development Goal 2 – which aims to end hunger by 2030 – is achievable. But it will require a commitment from both governments and the private sector to help rural farmers shift to sustainable – and profitable – agricultural practices.

KEFFI, NIGERIA – In the rural village of Kura in Kano State, Nigeria, where I grew up, my grandfather would lose more than half of his tomatoes after each harvest. He was not a bad farmer. But bad roads made it difficult for him to get his tomatoes to market, and he had never learned modern methods of preserving them. In an effort to salvage some of his produce, he often dried his tomatoes on the sand.

This is still true of about 80 million rural farmers in Nigeria. Across Sub-Saharan Africa, as much as 50% of fruits and vegetables, 40% of roots and tubers, and 20% of cereals, legumes, and pulses harvested are lost before they reach a market. Less than a half-mile away from a major tomato-paste factory in Kadawa, Kano, Nigeria, some 200 rural farmers dry over 40 trailer-loads of fresh tomatoes in the sand every week.

This lack of knowledge and resources among rural farmers contributes substantially to global food insecurity. After all, in the developing world, rural smallholders – most of whom own less than four hectares of farmland – comprise the majority of all farmers. In fact, rural people produce three-quarters of the world’s food, yet they constitute 80% of the world’s poor.

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