what is food security and how is it impacting people in 2021? Blog header

Food Security


Food security — having the adequate availability, access, and means to consume enough safe, nutritious food — is critical for a healthy, productive life. For billions of people living in poverty worldwide, hunger and malnutrition pose serious threats to their health, wellbeing, and livelihoods every day.

By improving resilience for the smallholder farmers, food processors, and small business owners at each key level, TechnoServe is transforming food systems. Our approach, which includes agriculture and food production, provides a holistic solution to the ever-greater challenge of sustainable global food security.

Championing Food Security Reduces Global Hunger & Its Related Health Risks 

More than 2.5 billion people worldwide live in moderate or severe food insecurity, and roughly 800 million people are undernourished. These food security challenges can result in serious health and economic harm, putting new obstacles in the way of people trying to build pathways out of poverty.

Chronic malnutrition can cause anemia, blindness, and even brain damage. Simultaneously, the resulting suppressed immune response often makes the body more susceptible to other illnesses. The problem is especially acute for children. Worldwide, malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths in children under five years old. 

Beyond its devastating impact on families, malnutrition limits a country’s economic potential, as it decreases the productivity of its people while increasing healthcare costs.

TechnoServe offers a powerful approach to improving food security in developing countries by applying systems-based thinkingOur programs provide a range of strategically targeted training to meet the specific needs of each type of entity involved in a food system. 

Listed below are just a few examples: 

  • Facilitating programs designed to help smallholder farmers profitably produce more food 
  • Providing trainings on food fortification to teach food processors new methods for increasing a given food’s nutritional value
  • Working with micro-retailers to support last-mile distribution of safe and nutritious food
  • Generating fortification data that is being used to inform policy

TechnoServe Harnesses Decades of Experience to Transform Food Systems Threatened by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges to food systems and deepened the threat of food insecurity in developing countries. Shutdowns, travel restrictions, and economic downturns have challenged businesses at every level of food systems, threatening crucial supply chains worldwide.

This year, 130 million more people worldwide could suffer from chronic hunger as a result of the pandemic’s threats to livelihoods and food supply chains. Drawing from decades of experience in strengthening food systems, TechnoServe is working harder than ever during COVID-19 to improve the resilience of small-scale farmers and small businesses at a time when they need it most. 

Equipped with in-depth knowledge of the current problems affecting the entire food system, TechnoServe is uniquely positioned to hit the ground running and help solve them.

Help struggling farmers and small business owners lift themselves out of poverty.

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food security

TechnoServe’s Solution: Supporting & Connecting Each Link in Food Systems that Feed the World

As the threat of hunger grows and becomes more urgent during the global pandemic, food security is an essential goal that extends throughout our work across every sector. 

TechnoServe is a leader in strengthening each key link in the food supply chain that keeps the world fed. So that underserved communities can access the food they need, our programs support each aspect of the food supply chain:

By improving resilience at key levels of the food chain, TechnoServe provides a holistic solution to the ever-greater impact of food insecurity worldwide. 

Fighting Malnutrition By Supporting Food Processors in Adopting Fortification Best Practices

Particularly when food is scarce, increasing the nutritive value it provides is essential to keep people healthy and nourished. Food fortification — the process of adding micronutrients to food — is one of the most effective ways of  improving health, wellbeing, and quality of life.Positive outcomes like these uplift every member of vulnerable communities grappling with malnutrition around the globe.

 Food processors play a critical role in the food supply chain. Many of these food processors are small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Many SMEs are the local businesses at the heart of communities. Think of mills who turn wheat and maize into fortified flour; bakers making  bread; pressors of soybeans and sunflower seeds into vegetable oil; and dairies that turn raw milk into pasteurized milk,  yogurt, and cheese. 

TechnoServe programs like Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods (SAPFF) are addressing chronic malnutrition through food fortification of staples. At an average cost of just $0.15 per person annually in developing countries,  you can make a huge difference in the fight to reduce hunger and increase food security worldwide.

Supporting Intermediaries in the Food Supply Chain Reduces Critical Risks

In particular, our work is focused on supporting  “intermediaries” in the food supply chain, including the following:

A collapse of the supply chain, powered by these intermediaries, is the most serious threat to food security in most of the places we work in developing countries. 

Food processors, in particular, play a key role in supporting food security. The food processing market is vital for farmers, and it produces safe and nutritious food like fortified staples for consumers.

Who Benefits From Food Security?

1. Smallholder Farmers 

Smallholder farmers are facing enormous challenges from the threats COVID-19 poses to their livelihoods and hampers their ability to continue supporting local food systems.  

The 500 million small, family-owned farms worldwide play a vital role in feeding the world. In many communities, as much as 80% of food comes from these small farms. TechnoServe helps smallholder farmers adopt new agricultural skills, learn best practices, and access valuable market connections. 

In the high-value agriculture sector, our programs provide best-in-class training to help smallholder farmers increase crop yields and reduce food waste. TechnoServe empowers smallholder farmers to improve crop yields and earned income, reduce food loss, and meet a constantly fluctuating demand to keep hunger at bay.

In a survey of nearly 800 cash-crop farmers in 11 countries, carried out by TechnoServe in July, 54% of respondents stated that they had lost income over the past month due to COVID-19. 

TechnoServe is working with smallholder farmers across the globe to overcome the unique challenges of COVID-19, such as the following:

  • Difficulty accessing tools and labor needed
  • Lack of access to training
  • Obstacles to reaching markets  

In response to COVID-19, TechnoServe has adapted our programs to continue providing participants with the information they need, even when traditional group training is impossible. Our teams in the field have adopted a multi-channel approach that can incorporate many of the following: 

  • SMS
  • WhatsApp
  • Videos
  • Audio messages
  • Phone calls 
  • Radio
  • Printed materials

During the pandemic, TechnoServe is adapting our approach to increase smallholder farmers’ access to competitive markets where they can sell their crops. Our teams in the field have also been teaching farmers how to navigate the rising costs of agriculture inputs, household goods, and even food.

2. Food Processors

Food processors play a critical role in the food supply chain reducing food waste, increasing the safety and transportability of food, and making nutritious products, like fortified staples. They are also major offtakers of farmed products, generating employment for skilled and unskilled labor, and providing an added value service for further trade and retail, thereby stimulating economies. 

TechnoServe supports food processors by providing training and support programs to help them navigate the business and technical challenges that hamper growth and sustained profitability.

Program participants leave TechnoServe training newly equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to improve their business operations.

 In addition, our programs work with key stakeholders and elements of the enabling environment to create strong local policies and support capabilities that help industries flourish and remain competitive. 

In light of the challenges of COVID-19, TechnoServe is helping food processors access an adequate supply of the materials, equipment, and crops they need to keep production lines running, identify new markets, and facilitate new ways to enter these markets amid rapidly changing conditions, including access to the financing they need to continue operating.   

3. Micro-Retailers

Micro-retailers play an important role in food systems everywhere. Small mom-and-pop shops like bodegas, dukas, and corner stores are often the only source for food and basic goods in vulnerable communities. In Nairobi, Kenya, for example, 80% of all basic goods are sold in dukas.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has made people reluctant to go to markets and supermarkets, micro-retailers are more important than ever. Small business owners have had to adapt their operations to overcome disruptions to their supply chains, declining foot traffic in stores, and the pandemic’s impact on purchasing power in the marginalized community they serve. 

TechnoServe is helping small-scale entrepreneurs like micro-retailers adapt their businesses to increasingly difficult circumstances.

TechnoServe programs teach small business owners how to sell products online through e-commerce and social media. Using WhatsApp groups and other digital platforms helps micro-retailers identify dependable suppliers and find goods at the best prices.

Working with TechnoServe business advisors, micro-retailers are fighting hard to stay in business and serve their communities. As a result, many have expanded their offerings to include products that consumers need in a crisis, found remote ways of reaching their customers, and acquired the financial education they need to balance their earnings and expenses. 

A World Bank study carried out in May 2020 found that while 40% of Kenyan small businesses were closed, just 9% of Kenyan entrepreneurs in TechnoServe’s PAYED program had shut their doors. 

4. Consumers

Every day, the health and wellbeing of countless people worldwide hinges on their ability to purchase essential food products close to home. Usually, these products come from the following sources:

  • Small local farms
  • Food processors
  • Micro-retailers and small businesses

Keeping the specter of hunger at bay is a universal public health concern, one that’s becoming increasingly acute during the global pandemic.

TechnoServe also works with governments and other key stakeholders to ensure that access to vital markets, transportation services, and tools is kept open so that farmers can safely access them during the crisis.