Who has a share in achieving a better food supply?

In order to provide the world with more food sustainably, farms will have to produce more using fewer raw materials. Which farmers will achieve these improvements and who will they need to help them make this transformation? Rabobank Executive Board Member Berry Marttin shares his vision.

'Sustainably feeding a world population of nine billion in 2050, which is two billion more people than today, starts with ensuring that farms can produce food in a more effective, sustainable and smart way. So in concrete terms this means more kilos of rice per hectare, more kilos of grain per litre of water and more litres of milk per kilo of feed, but with less waste and lower greenhouse gas emissions. In which regions are farms part of this development? The modern professional farms in Western countries in any case. They already account for a large part of the food production. They possess the possibilities and ambition to improve their business operations. There is also scope for small-scale agriculture in Africa, Asia and parts of South America to make strides forward. Many of the farmers in these areas are currently scarcely able to meet their own food needs. But if they had access to just a few simple tools and resources, they could improve production on their small piece of land so that they could even produce food for others. This would have a very positive impact on the global food situation!'

Commitment of all the players in the food chain

'Farmers will need the commitment of all the players in the food chain in order to implement the improvements in production. After all, sustainable progress isn’t the result of one measure, but rather the sum total of a number of well- aligned initiatives relating to better livestock breeds and plant seeds, better fertilisation and crop protection, better machinery, more knowledge, greater financial resources and increased sales opportunities.'

Regional farming networks

'Rabobank also has a responsibility in this respect and we are embracing it through our Banking for Food programme. We bring farmers, suppliers, customers and policymakers together in regions across the world, from Australia to the Netherlands and the United States. These regional farming networks provide fertile ground for creating ideas and joining forces to find solutions. I think the most compelling example of this is the Global Farmers Masterclass that we’ve already organised several times. It gives leading entrepreneurs from different countries the opportunity to meet and inspire each other. We’ll be presenting new Global Farmers Masterclasses in the near future and are creating an online adaptation through the 'Enabling Farmers' platform. This will make it accessible to more farmers.'

International policymaker networks

’We also shouldn’t underestimate the importance of international networks. These networks of policymakers, political leaders and major agribusiness players might seem far removed from the farm. But in reality they provide a forum for discussing what should be given priority in terms of improving world food security and how these developments can be given impetus. Rabobank receives numerous invitations to participate in these networks and roundtables, such as the roundtables on soy and palm oil.'

Partnership with FAO

'How does an international initiative taken by policymakers contribute to our customers' success? This question, which we always ask ourselves when considering every request, also came up several years ago when we started speaking with the FAO – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Don't get me wrong: It's a huge honour for Rabobank to work with the United Nations in the field of food and agri, but how will it help farmers? We worked out a solution together with the FAO. From day one of the partnership, which is now more than two years ago, farming families in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya have been given the opportunity to invest in better seeds and increased sales opportunities for their products. Rabobank contributes its knowledge and experience relating to setting up cooperatives and providing financing, while the FAO is the expert in agricultural training programmes and relationships with local government agencies. The concrete result of our partnership will be that farmers in Tanzania will harvest 6,500 kilos of rice per hectare, which is eight times as much as originally.'

'New questions and ideas come about in practice relating to how we can support farmers even more effectively. While they come from small-scale everyday practice in Africa, they are also extremely relevant for large and professional farms in Australia and the Netherlands.'

Berry Marttin, Executive Board Rabobank

New ideas from practice

'New questions and ideas come about in practice relating to how we can support farmers even more effectively through the FAO-Rabo partnership. While they come from small-scale everyday practice in Africa, they are also extremely relevant for large and professional farms in Australia and the Netherlands:

  • How can we ensure more young people stay and take over the family farm?
  • Researchers from the FAO and Rabobank have a wealth of knowledge. How can we together provide practical answers to the questions that arise in daily practice?
  • And once we have those practical answers, how can we use mobile telephony to get it to the farmers faster and more effectively?

I see these questions as the concrete challenges for 2016 that we will have to meet with the partners in our network. This will entail putting Banking for Food into practice for our customers by making our knowledge and networks available to them. So it's an outstanding example of what it fundamentally means to be invested in each other.'