For several of the 27 years he spent incarcerated on South Africa’s Robben Island, Nelson Mandela carefully tended a plot of land on which he grew flowers, fruits and vegetables that he would later distribute among his fellow inmates. “The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a taste of freedom,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.”
Today, small farms are more important than ever in helping to alleviate the pressing problem of global food insecurity. Extreme and unpredictable climate changes over the past years have become a huge threat to natural food supplies, said Mike Underhill, portfolio manager at investment firm Capital Innovations, and this has led to sharp swings in food price levels. In the developing world, malnourishment is still a huge problem, Underhill said, exacerbated by the fact that there’s an increased penchant toward the distribution and consumption of food that’s poor in nutritional value.
As such, “family farms are integral to producing high quality food that is exceptional in nutritional value,” Underhill said, and there’s little question that private sector investment can help a great deal in making sure this happens.
Through its global agribusiness strategy, Capital Innovations invests in all parts of the food production-to-consumption value chain via stakes in public companies worldwide, including those involved in land and plantations, seeds and fertilizers, equipment manufacturing for planting and harvesting, crop protection, water and irrigation, aquaculture and biofuels.
Underhill said that it’s only through the development of the agribusiness sector that emerging-market nations will be able to cope with the food security issues that threaten them, and it’s only if larger segments of the global population are properly fed that these economies will be able to achieve greater growth.