The success of endogenous food enterprises (EFEs) in developing countries (DCs) is related to the health and well-being of inhabitants of these countries, to environmental stewardship, and to world peace. Most national leaders consider sustainable industrialization desirable, and food enterprises are an important component of this process. Thus, this matter should receive much greater attention than it has in the past.
Success of new EFEs depends on numerous factors:
• Government. Government must be independent, stable, not rendered ineffective by corruption, and dedicated to serving the needs of the country. Ideally, it must provide educational opportunities for the populace; promote science and technology; assure that adequate financial services exist; provide an adequate infrastructure; establish and enforce reasonable policies, laws, and regulations, including the right to own property; provide an environment of fair competition; and maintain a reasonable social safety net. Unfortunately, governments of DCs that have the greatest need to develop these enterprises often fail—often badly—in several of these aspects.
• Environmental Conditions. Favorable conditions include ample natural resources; favorable climate, topography, and soil quality; and ample potable water. DCs often lack one or more of these desirable attributes.
• Economic Conditions. Essential raw materials must be available consistently and at a reasonable cost, and financial organizations must be able and willing to provide the financing needed for economic development. Government must establish laws, regulations, and policies that are reasonable and administer them fairly and with appropriate persistence. Intranational markets must be adequate to support the enterprises, and international markets must be freely and fairly accessible. Many of these requirements are not met in DCs.
• Human Factors. Excessive rates of population growth will stifle economic development and well-being. A common language, cultural homogeneity, and a sense of national identity facilitate development of EFEs. An educated population, including development of entrepreneurial skills, utilization of women in the workforce, and encouragement of business endeavors and technological change by government and the population are necessary prerequisites. EFEs often lack many of the human attributes that favor development of EFEs, and rectification, even with good intentions, is slow and difficult.
• Advances in Science and Technology. Countries that discourage—through government policies, cultural traditions, or religious beliefs—acquisition and utilization of these advances will find economic development and associated improvements in well-being difficult to achieve. Many DCs do not willingly embrace the advances necessary for economic development.
• Education. Educational opportunities should be available so that all members of society can develop their intellectual and/or manual skills to a maximum degree. Desirable goals are to provide a sound education for all who can benefit; provide services that directly benefit the public, including continuing education programs; conduct appropriate research; facilitate technology transfer; and foster cooperation among government, industry, and academia with respect to adoption of useful technologies and building a strong society.
Educational opportunities in virtually all DCs are severely restricted, especially for women, compared to those existing in developed countries. This has a profoundly negative impact on the ability of many DCs to develop economically.
For many of the above areas, external assistance has been and will continue to be of little or no help. However, there are several areas where food technologists and their professional societies can and should provide assistance:
• Information Transfer. Provide financial assistance so DC food technologists can attend appropriate conferences and short courses and access relevant publications.
• Surveys. Identify successful and unsuccessful EFEs, determine the controllable conditions that cause success or failure, and disseminate this information.
• Technical Assistance. Provide technical assistance to EFEs and DC governments, with funding provided by foundations, the United Nations, and/or developed countries.
• Education. Help upgrade educational programs in DCs by developing appropriate curricula and educational standards, providing consulting services, and awarding scholarships for tertiary education.
• International Cooperation. Increase collaboration with FAO, WHO, and UNESCO.
Because aspiring entrepreneurs in DCs face far more serious impediments than their counterparts in developed countries, economic development is least likely to occur in countries where the need is greatest. This is unfortunate, since successful development of EFEs has an important bearing on the economic development of a country and its ability to improve the health and well-being of its inhabitants.
To help is not only morally correct, it is also in our best interest. Because to allow nations to exist in poverty is to allow root causes of war to fester and eventually disrupt world peace.
by Owen Fennema is Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Food Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Editor-in-Chief of IFT Scientific Journals. Based on a synopsis, published in IUFoST’s Newsline, July 2001, of the Founder’s Lecture at IUFoST’s World Congress XI, Seoul, Korea, April 2001.