Support farmers in growing a range of crops urges CABI
News item, 20 October 2010
In the fight against malnutrition, supporting smallholder farmers in growing a range of crops is key, says Dr Joan Kelley, CABI’s Executive Director, Global Operations.
Responding to a post by Andrew Mitchell, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, on the Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog, Joan reinforces his point that malnutrition is as much about ensuring access to a variety of nutrients as it is about ensuring tonnages of staple food production.
“Traditional extension work often focuses on the main staple crops,” she says. “While this very valuable and provides enough of the basic calories the local population may require, a variety of foods are needed to ensure a balanced diet. By listening to the needs of farmers and supporting them in growing a wide variety of crops we can help to ensure the local population has a high-quality nutritional diet.”
Joan highlights a recent study of the benefits of the plant clinics approach in Bangladesh, which focused on 350 farmers who grew more than 72 different crops between them. The clinics advise on plant health management of all crops. By adopting the clinics’ recommendations, not only did the farmers increase their incomes by an average of $1 per day but they also ensured the continuing availability of a range of foods in the area.
She concludes: “In countries where the costs of importing food are prohibitively high, if crops are not grown locally they are not eaten locally. So if we want to ensure that those in the developing world have access to a broad range of nutritional foods we must support them in growing them... To this end more investment is desperately needed at this micro level to support individual subsistence farmers and the rural communities that depend upon them.”
Read the full debate on the Guardian Poverty Matters blog