A View from the Outside | British American Tobacco

Independent stakeholder viewpoint from Professor Dr Heiko Hosomi Spitzeck in BAT's Sustainable Agriculture & Farmer Livelihoods Focus Report
Dec 8, 2017 7:45 AM ET

BAT’s Sustainable Agriculture & Farmer Livelihoods Focus Report

"The world depends on family farming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, there are more than 500 million family farms globally, which produce 80% of our food and are custodians of 70–80% of farm land.

The methods of family farming that nurture us today, however, are insufficient to address the challenges of the future. If we want to reduce hunger and provide food security for 9–10 billion people by 2050, the productivity of family farms needs to increase. At the same time, farmers also need to deal with the costs associated with managing social and environmental issues, such as water scarcity, forced and child labour, preserving biodiversity, women’s rights, reduction of chemicals used in production, adaptation and mitigation to climate change, and providing essential ecosystem services.

If we want family farmers around the world to succeed by improving productivity, while at the same time successfully managing these current and emerging sustainability challenges, we need to support them.

Particularly, they need education about crop management, as well as how to run their farms as successful businesses. Additionally, they need secure access to land, markets, technology and finance. Only by providing this support, can we expect them to adhere to higher standards along the value chain.

These are challenges that are far bigger than one single organisation, which is why we need collaboration between private companies, the government and civil society. A good example of this is the Brazilian Government’s national programme in support of family farming called PRONAF, which supports the creation of farmer cooperatives and provides attractive financing options.

Agricultural supply chains for major businesses are likely to face even more scrutiny in the future; particularly regarding competition between non-food and food production on globally limited farmland, as well as the risk of deforestation if farmland is expanded further. To alleviate this tension and improve farmers’ resilience, companies need to continue to encourage crop diversification, the application of new technologies and the development of agroforestry models as a priority for all their farmers.

As issues such as water scarcity, child labour, biodiversity and rural development are not specific to a particular company, there is a huge potential to collaborate and align strategies to support the Sustainable Development Goals. The more competitors work together to address these challenges, the more can be achieved at larger scale, for the mutual benefit of the companies and family farmers around the world."

Learn more in BAT’s Sustainable Agriculture & Farmer Livelihoods Focus Report which can be downloaded here.