INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN COUNCIL’ agriculture and food security programs aim to improve rural livelihoods through sustainably increasing agricultural production and sales and enhancing food security for the poor. Our programs target farmers and farmer groups, small and medium agricultural enterprises (SMEs), rural and urban poor, youth, women, and other vulnerable populations enabling them to effectively pursue profitable agricultural activities and escape the cycle of poverty.
Increase Productivity and Diversify Production
A cornerstone of working with smallholders is increasing and diversifying production to produce a wide variety of foods that enhance nutritional outcomes and help them become more resilient to shocks. A surplus allows farmers to process or transform their products, adding value and increasing and smoothing their income. We help farmers find the right balance between food and cash crops and utilize climate-smart agriculture practices to enhance resilience to natural and man-made disasters, and access input and extension support. We directly address the gender gap ensuring women have access to productive resources and can reach their potential as producers and entrepreneurs in their own right.
Improve Access to Markets
To improve access to markets, we focus on processing, improving quality, adding value and developing market relationships. Taking a market systems approach means we help producers make what the market demands. We assess value chains in a participatory way to identify needed upgrades, which builds local knowledge and capacity and improves market relationships. Some common interventions include: scaling-up agriculture operations; strengthening farmer cooperatives; linking farmers to buyers and traders; improving access to market information; meeting quality, food safety, and third party certifications; and facilitating horizontal partnerships with business development services; accessing appropriate financial services; among others.
Expand Financial Products and Services
Improving access to financial products and services is extremely important for economic success in agriculture. We focus on both supply and demand sides of providing appropriate financial services. Working directly with smallholders, especially women; we facilitate the organization of community-based savings groups, facilitating the acquisition of literacy, numeracy and financial management skills. We also work with a range of financial institutions to reduce agriculture lending risk through loan guarantee facilities and other mechanisms.
Food Security and Nutrition
In order to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between agriculture and nutrition we utilize a number of approaches to disseminate nutrition knowledge and empower smallholder households to cultivate and consume locally grown nutritious foods. With a particular focus on vulnerable women and children, our “Kitchen Garden” model promotes dietary diversification using improved agricultural techniques that conserve limited resources. Nutrition training includes topics such as exclusive breastfeeding, supplemental feeding over the “first 1000 days”, peer nutrition counseling, and protein production and consumption. We often employ a locally-owned and driven cascade training strategy which drives sustainability. Our methods consider cultural and societal norms, particularly as they impact women.
Transitional, Conflict and Post-Conflict Communities
To help communities recover from natural or manmade disasters, our emergency and transitional programs reduce food aid dependency, improve household nutrition, provide additional income, and promote self-reliance. We utilize approaches such as cash transfers, food assistance, or innovative electronic vouchers for food or agricultural inputs. We take care to deliver services in such a way that supports struggling and/or fragmented local markets. Program activities help re-establish agricultural production through provision of essential inputs such as seeds and tools; and offer technical assistance on appropriate technologies such as urban gardens and rainwater harvesting.