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Global ‘Polycrisis’ Disproportionately Hurts Smallholder Farmers: Report

WASHINGTON, D.C. (JULY 26, 2023) – Global shocks over the past few years have created an unprecedented “polycrisis” that has disproportionately hurt small-scale farmers and people living in food-deficit countries, according to a new report commissioned by Farm Journal Foundation.

The COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts including the Russia-Ukraine war, and climate change have created far-reaching impacts across global food systems, affecting food, fertilizer, feed, fuel, and financing available to producers, according to the report by Dr. Jessica Fanzo, Professor of Climate and the Director of the Food for Humanity Initiative at Columbia University’s Climate School. The resulting polycrisis has left humanity vulnerable to future “black swan” moments that could have even more severe and far-reaching consequences for global food supplies.

“Recent global shocks have affected everyone on the planet, but small-scale producers and people living in low-income countries have arguably suffered the most,” Dr. Fanzo said. “The polycrisis has had huge and continuing implications for global food and nutrition security. Already, millions of smallholder farmers and their families were teetering on the edge of survival due to long-term structural challenges, and this polycrisis has pushed countless into disaster.”

About 258 million people around the world were experiencing acute, crisis-level food insecurity by mid-2022, significantly higher than before the pandemic, according to data cited in the report. The Russia-Ukraine war has had a significant impact on global food security because the two countries are major crop producers and suppliers of fertilizer. Trade bottlenecks, compounded by the war and the pandemic, have added to the crisis, along with extreme weather events around the world.

The U.S., through its whole-of-government Feed the Future initiative, has an important role to play in enabling farmers and food systems in developing countries to better withstand shocks. Supporting global food and nutrition security is in America’s best interest both from an economic and national security standpoint. Studies show that U.S. investment in international agricultural development, research, and innovation benefits both developing countries and U.S. producers and consumers, far exceeding its costs.

To alleviate global food insecurity and malnutrition, the U.S. should invest more in international agricultural research and innovation, which can help developing countries address their own unique challenges and shore up local food systems to better withstand shocks. In particular, more research is needed across six areas: climate change adaptation and mitigation, soil health and nutrient management, crop diversity and nutrition, access to markets and finance, supply chain infrastructure, and local capacity building.

“The series of crises over the past few years should serve as a wake-up call that more investment is needed in agricultural R&D, to ensure that farmers and our global food system are equipped to better withstand shocks,” said Katie Lee, Vice President for Government Affairs at Farm Journal Foundation. “Investments in agricultural innovation benefit smallholder farmers in developing countries, as well as farmers and producers right here at home, helping ensure safe and affordable food supplies for all.”

To read the full report, click the link below.


Media Contact

Whitney McFerron, Vice President of Communications

Farm Journal Foundation


About Farm Journal Foundation

Farm Journal Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to achieving global food security by sustaining modern agriculture’s leadership role and ability to meet the vital needs of a growing population. The organization works to advance this mission through key issue areas, including global food and nutrition security, agricultural research and innovation, rural development, and conservation and sustainability. To learn more, visit


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