Agricultural activities are essential for our economies and well-being. Yet farmers are amongst the most vulnerable groups in our societies, with limited income opportunities and activity volatile to economic and climate shocks.
A regional forum in New Delhi today drew attention to a possible solution - inclusive business models, which are fast enabling low-income farmers to have stable and decent incomes as well as fostering more inclusive and sustainable development in the region. The forum was co-hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Invest India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Innovative business models such as inclusive businesses are emerging, and demonstrating that it is possible to provide goods, services, and livelihoods - on a commercially viable basis - to people often overlooked by pure profit-orientated businesses,” said Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP in his opening remarks. He added that governments and the private sector are now taking action by backing the development and expansion of such business models as the region strives towards more resilient economies.
Several successful examples from across the region were showcased at the forum. In India, Thailand and Viet Nam, businesses are bringing organic produce to the doorstep of the consumer while enhancing the income of farmers. Other firms are equipping farmers with relevant technologies and solutions that enable them to do some primary processing at their doorstep, introduce more sustainable and climate-resilient farming practices, reduce post-harvest losses and earn a higher income.
“Invest India has been working proactively with all the stakeholders on initiatives that impact investment and growth of the agriculture and allied sectors that employ more than 54 per cent of India’s population. As India takes over the G20 presidency for 2023, I am confident that initiatives like these will ensure an inclusive and sustainable narrative to India's chronicle of industrial growth,” said Deepak Bagla, Managing Director & CEO, Invest India.
Key public and private stakeholders attending the forum shared their experiences in topics such as how governments can promote inclusive business, inclusive business accreditation, measuring and managing impact, financing inclusive business and market opportunities for inclusive business, amongst others.
On the sidelines of the forum, ESCAP and Invest India also signed a Memorandum of Agreement to explore opportunities to promote inclusive business models in agriculture and food systems. For agri-businesses to be inclusive and remain commercially viable, an innovative mindset and partnerships at the local and regional level, and along the value chain, is critical.
The forum was held as part of the Regional Inclusive Business Models in Agriculture and Food Systems initiative to address the needs of thousands of farmers in Asia. The initiative by ESCAP and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation further seeks to share, promote and replicate elements that government and business leaders have used to develop commercially viable businesses thus reducing the risks for low-income farmers and expanding their earnings.