Covid has presented unprecedented times for social entrepreneurs. We have had to respond to major operational disruptions and extreme market volatility, while, most importantly, keeping our teams safe and engaged. Although most things remain uncertain, the one thing we know is that things will not be the same.
With vaccines being rolled out, it is easy to feel optimistic about a post-Covid future. However, while the rest of the world will eventually slowly regain some semblance of stability, the most vulnerable communities in developing countries will continue to face a barrage of threats over the coming years. In 2020, El Salvador endured two major hurricanes, the Venezuelan refugee crisis saw a sharp rise in the number of displaced persons in Colombia and other countries with no solution in sight, and social unrest in Haiti continues. Unfortunately, these catastrophic events garnered little visibility in mainstream media.
Throughout Covid, Acceso’s social businesses have become an even more critical source of food for urban populations, whilst continuing to provide resilient incomes for the most vulnerable rural communities. In addition, our businesses have impressively responded to some of the most urgent humanitarian needs of the pandemic by pivoting some of their supply. Some examples include providing food kits in Haiti to vulnerable communities and children who were no longer in school, and providing fresh produce to feeding kitchens in Colombia and Venezuela that support hundreds of thousands of refugees who returned to the border once Covid wiped out their economic opportunities.
My fundamental hope is that we will finally see a critical elevation of the importance of food systems in developing countries. Developing robust supply chains for smallholder farmers is essential: when we lift farmers out of extreme poverty, they are empowered to sustainably provide food supply while also driving the local economy. Now, more than ever, we need to be investing in models that allow farmers to become full participants in their countries’ formal markets so that they not only survive, but thrive the next time a disaster hits.
When I launched Acceso nearly 14 years ago, I pledged that it would be my life’s work. Today, I believe that more than ever. Our model is new, innovative, and, most importantly, it works. We invite you to be part of our journey.
My fundamental hope is that we will finally see a critical elevation of the importance of food systems in developing countries.– Frank Giustra