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Our food system depends on the right information—how can we deliver?

Posted by SUBMITTED BY DIEGO ARIAS ON TUE, 08/15/2017
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For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.

The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.

Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.

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Three misconceptions about women in agribusiness that hold companies back

Posted by SUBMITTED BY NATHALIE HOFFMANN ON THU, 02/09/2017
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Debunking common misconceptions about women in agribusiness can unlock business opportunities for the private sector

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, global leaders from across the world came together to deliberate on some of the most pressing issues of our time, such as agriculture and food security and greater social inclusion. With the global population projected to rise more than 9 billion by 2050 and the demand for food expected to jump sharply, the need for addressing the challenges of food security assumes greater urgency than before. There is also a growing need to adopt stronger measures to reduce the gender gap—women shouldn’t have to wait 170 years to bridge the divide.

Ahead of the Davos meeting, IFC released a report on agribusiness, Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains, highlighting how companies can increase productivity and efficiency in the agriculture sector by closing economic and social gaps between women and men throughout the value chain, from farm to retail and beyond. The solution to address two of the most pressing challenges—food security and gender parity—isn’t difficult to find, as my research for the report suggests.

Women comprise over 40 percent of the agricultural labor force worldwide and play a major role in agriculture; yet they face a variety of constraints, such as limited access to agricultural inputs, technologies, finance, and networks. As the report shows, an increasing number of companies now recognize that investing in women can help increase companies’ bottom lines—while helping improve the lives of people in rural areas.

Yet, despite the clear business rationale, one wonders why more companies aren’t replicating the efforts of successful companies. The answer probably lies in the prevailing misconceptions about women in agribusiness—despite promising business case testimonials for gender-smart investments from multinational companies such as Mondelēz International and Primark.

Agribusiness companies need support in identifying where and how they can close gender gaps in their value chain. A good start would be to debunk those common misconceptions about women in the sector:

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