However, along with nutrition, there is a particular focus in emerging markets among our employees and farming supplier communities.
Around 500 million smallholders produce 80% of all the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, as a sector, agriculture has the highest incidence of families living below the poverty line. Given that many of our products (aside from rice, dairy and wheat) could be termed as niche ingredients, or raw materials such as rubber, our role in driving food security might not seem obvious. But our close working relationships with farmer suppliers, and our expertise across the value chain, enable us to equip farmers and their communities with the knowledge and tools for sustainable and profitable agriculture, including staple food crops.
In this way, we will play our role in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutition, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Just as a balanced diet is nutritionally diverse, so a healthy livelihood shouldn’t be overly reliant on one crop. Through the Olam Livelihood Charter we have been starting to focus on improving access to nutritious food for farming families and reducing malnutrition. Encouraging farmers to diversify crops helps to stagger income and spread risk. It is also good for the soil. Farmers can grow other crops for cash or for family needs. In Côte d’Ivoire, a cocoa programme, with various customer partners, is supporting women to grow cassava, a food staple. More than 15 women’s groups are running nurseries with vitamin A fortified high-yielding cassava plants. These nurseries can now each produce 50,000 cassava plants every year.
Life expectancy in developing countries remains low, perhaps just 59 years for a man. This is compounded by poor nutrition, disease and an inability to treat minor ailments. This in turn impacts farm productivity – a study in Côte d’Ivoire found that during a single cabbage production cycle, farmers infected with malaria had 47% lower yields and 53% lower revenues. So, it is in everyone’s interests to invest in the health of rural communities.
In Africa we run the Olam Healthy Living Campaign which reached 250,000 people in 2017. Health caravans offered vaccinations, testing and other support for HIV, malaria, malnutrition and other needs.
In our rural emerging market operations, particularly where there is no piped water infrastructure such as around our plantations, we focus on improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) access for employees. As part of the Olam Livelihood Charter we dig bore holes and build wells. Not only does this provide water locally, but it frees up women and children to participate in training and education instead of walking many miles to collect water.
Our Packaged Foods Business which produces consumer products in Africa is fortifying foods to counter malnutrition and stunting in children. In 2017 this included 98 million servings of Milky Magic biscuits and 821.5 million servings of Tasty Tom tomato paste in Ghana and 16.8 million servings of FreshYo yogurt in Nigeria. Coupled with mandatory fortification for our Africa Grains and Edible Oils, we produced a total of 68 billion servings of fortified foods.