Keynote: Harvesting Opportunity from Consumers to Farm


Bonnie McClafferty, Director of Food Systems for the USAID Advancing Nutrition project, gave the morning keynote speech, "Harvesting Opportunity from Consumers to Farm," on March 27, 2019, at "Colorful Harvest: From Feeding to Nourishing a Growing World," the Horticulture Innovation Lab's Horticulture Research for Development Conference held in Washington, D.C.

McClafferty started off her presentation by flipping the usual "farm to market" perspective to focus on a market-first perspective, beginning with consumers and tracing back to the farm. She identified the initial problem with a focus on nutrition, showing 1 in 3 people worldwide are malnourished, including chronic hunger, stunting, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and overweight or obese people. Poor diets — inadequate food consumption — is the common denominator in all form of malnutrition, including anemia, stunting, wasting, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity.

She identified the challenge as to provide available, safe, affordable fruits and vegetables year-round. With a supply chain that is increasing in length — from production to storage, crating and packaging, transport, processing, markets, and then the consumer — McClafferty suggested the audience try thinking about "demand chain management," starting with the consumer.

Demand chain management for horticultural crops

Her slides and talk walk through the demand chain for tomatoes, starting with a mother named Abbey as the consumer, then moving to the informal retail seller who is the first step in the private sector, then to the wholesale market. Private investment covers improvements made to the next stages back, including processing, then back to crating and packaging, then back to transportation. A mixture of public and private investments account for improvements in storage and improving posthavest handling on the farm, with public investment most likely to focus on improving production. With those stages in mind, she points out that the private sector makes up a majority of the actors that bring tomatoes closer to people who are nutritionally vulnerable and is an area that needs to be better understood to link production to consumption at scale.

McClafferty identified a number of scaling opportunities along the horticultural value chain, including:

  • Start with building demand from consumers. Consider demand chain management.
  • See horticulture in a system, where production is one element.
  • Support private sector innovation, to de-risk private investment along the supply chain.
  • If we are to measure opportunities from farm to fork, what do we measure as success? Consumption, production, profit? What is the common goal to bring all actors — nutrtionists, agriculturalists, banks, and businesses — to the table?
  • Over time, return to the consumer Abbey: Is she finding tomatoes are more safe, affordable and available year round?