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Cordaid NL
Food & income Food and Income

Strengthening sustainable livelihoods

Manager Programmes

Kees de Ruiter

Improving food systems and supporting smallholder farmers

Two billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. Of these people, 1 in 3 experiences severe food insecurity. Smallholder farmers and workers, pivotal in addressing this food crisis, often live below the poverty line. Climate change and a growing world population are likely to worsen this situation.

Cordaid furthers food security and sustainable livelihoods by improving food systems and supporting smallholder farmers. In fragile contexts we invest in inclusive economic growth, by supporting small and medium enterprises to grow and create employment opportunities. This helps to integrate communities, build social cohesion and reintegrate those suffering from trauma and displacement.

What we do

We have a three-track approach to increase food security and strengthen agricultural livelihoods:

  • We increase the technical and business capacities of smallholder farmers to produce sufficient and nutritious food for household consumption, while also earning an income from farming.
  • We support low-income farmers and their organisations in accessing finance and markets, and, thus, increasing their income.
  • We pressure governments to implement policies that are favourable to farmers and producer organisations.

By supporting entrepreneurs in fragile settings, our aim is to provide access to economic opportunities for marginalised communities. The entrepreneurial ecosystems we contribute to provide more access to finance, markets and business support for youth, women and refugees.

-> Read more about our approach to responsible business conduct and value chain development.

We are improving sustainable food systems in the following countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

Our work contributes to SDG 2 (zero hunger) and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth).


Ugandan youngsters receive training in poultry. Photo: Cordaid

Climate-resilient food systems

Extreme weather events – droughts and floods – increasingly impact the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and their communities. They urgently need to adapt to these climate change effects – caused mostly by the big fossil fuel industries and agribusinesses of which they are no part. We support them in switching to more sustainable and climate-resilient forms of agriculture and food production.

This video shows how the COASTS project supports farmers in Bangladesh in dealing with growing levels of salinity. In coastal areas of Southern Bangladesh, the land is affected by salt and is no longer suitable for agriculture activity. COASTS focuses on commercialising saline-tolerant seed and vegetable varieties. Our goal is to support 10,000 farmers, women and men, by transforming 5,000 hectares of fallow land into productive agricultural land by introducing saline farming by 2024.

-> Read this brochure about our approach to empower people with climate-resilient agri-food systems

Youth employment and entrepreneurship

Cordaid boosts youth employment, by offering young people opportunities to increase their technical, professional, social, and entrepreneurial skills. Our training and mentoring schemes improve their access to employment, markets, finance, land, and new technologies.

This video shows how we improve agri-business skills for young refugees in Uganda. In Afghanistan, we work to increase employment opportunities for young Afghans.

  • 750,000 people benefited from our food security programmes in 2019
  • 110,000 smallholder farmers with improved access to finance in 2019
  • 10,000 farmers trained in 2019

Food and Income Services

Public-private partnerships (PPPs)

In our food and income initiatives, we collaborate closely with farmers and their producer organisations, companies, government bodies, knowledge institutions and civil society organizations. By pooling knowledge, experience, we can increase our impact and outreach. The needs of farmers and their organizations always form the starting point for compiling successful PPPs.

Our Birds, Bees and Business  programme is an example of our PPPs.

Inclusive finance

Smallholder farmers and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) often have no or little access to financial services, which severely hampers them in their business. To offer them opportunities to improve and grow as entrepreneurs, Cordaid provides a combination of grants, microfinance, loans, equity and guarantees. In doing so, we work with microfinance institutions.

The  STARS programme was implemented in four African countries.

New technologies

We increasingly use mobile technologies and remote-sensing services to increase productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers. Together with them and SMEs we create tailor-made digital services, and we enable service providers to develop digital solutions that address farmers’ needs.

An example of our work in this field is the Angkor Salad project in Cambodia. 

International responsible business conduct (IRBC)

Cordaid wants the businesses we work with to consider and manage the human rights impacts of their operations and supply chains. Human rights due diligence is something we ask them to pursue, and we support them in doing this.  Just as we support them in respecting international agreements on human rights, labour rights, and the environment. We are a member of the Dutch IRBC covenant for the food products sector.

SME Acceleration 

Since 2015, Cordaid has supported over 750 SMEs across Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Iraq to scale and create employment opportunities. Our approach combines business development support, coaching and mentoring, access to finance, technical knowledge transfer, market linkage development, and entrepreneurial ecosystem strengthening. 

Learn about our work in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone

Kees de Ruiter

Manager Programmes