Price swings represent a major threat to food security in developing countries. Hardest-hit are the poor. According to the World Bank, in 2010-2011 rising food costs pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.
This years World Food Day theme Food prices from crisis to stability has been chosen to shed some light on this trend and what can be done to mitigate its impact on the most vulnerable.
The following three examples show how online volunteers contributed to the activities of development organizations working in the area of food and agriculture.
In Guatemala, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) just concluded a two-year project to reduce the impact of rising food prices on the diet of thousands of vulnerable families in the poorest areas of the country. FAO helped smallholder farmers organizations to boost the quality and productivity of their maize crops, improve their traditional agricultural systems and strengthen their marketing capacity.
A set of manuals for farmers that promote good agricultural practices such as greywater filters, living fences and bokashi composting were developed. The manuals along with a 46-page summary of the lessons learned in the area of seed capital for farmers were designed and edited by online volunteer Beatriz García, a Mexican graphic designer. Used to working in commercial projects, Beatriz appreciated the opportunity to use her skills to contribute to improving the situation of deprived communities in Guatemala.
The project positively impacted the nutritional status of 22,000 smallholder farmers and their families by raising their income, improving food supply for the market as well as increasing small livestock production.
4 C Association
Within the 4C Association (4 C stands for Common Code for the Coffee Community), producers, trade, industry and civil society from around the world work together for more sustainability in the entire coffee sector. This global community has joined forces to continuously improve the social, environmental and economic conditions for the people making their living with coffee.
The 4C Association supports coffee farmers to apply better agricultural, processing and management practices. This results in increased yields, improved quality and reduced production costs for farmers, helping them to improve their incomes.
By working in the 4C system, producers have free access to information and training tools to help them change from conventional towards sustainable coffee production. Selling their coffee as 4C compliant also opens new marketing opportunities for producers and enhances their opportunities in the marketplace.
To help coffee producers join the 4C system, the 4C Association has developed a simple step-by-step guide that explains how the system works as well as its benefits. Two online volunteers translated the guide into Spanish and Portuguese, making it available to farmers in hispanophone and lusophone countries.
Engineers Without Borders Cameroon
The Cameroonian branch of Engineers Without Borders pooled the expertise of around xx agricultural specialists from across the world to support the creation of their agricultural manuals for smallholders.
Volunteers are contributing by writing, reviewing and editing the manuals that present complex techniques and technologies in an easy to understand manner. Their specific expertise is as diverse as the topics: a Cameroonian Agricultural Engineer and experienced in farmer training, reviewed a manual on manioc, sharing his experience in manioc cultivation and control of manioc pests and diseases.
Mélanie Rousseau Nuñez, a French volunteer living in Colombia with a multidisciplinary education in agronomy, anthropology, economy and environment with focus on tropical agriculture, used her time between jobs to review and improve a manual on family farming. Having worked in Senegal, analyzing family farmers practices and proposing innovative approaches adapted to their socio-economic context, her expertise and experiences were the perfect match for the task.
The around 30 manuals will be published in the virtual library on the organizations website in English and French as well as printed for distribution to local farmer groups. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is looking for online volunteers to illustrate the guides.