Recent commitments of financial resources to boost agriculture and food security made by the international community in various forums indicate that there is scope for optimism in feeding the future population. Yet how to implement these programmes successfully is still up for debate.
Such were the discussions at a high-level panel discussion, ‘From summit resolutions to farmers’ fields: Climate change, food security and smallholder agriculture’, held in conjunction with the Governing Council of the International Fund of Agricultural Development (IFAD).
A group of expert panellists, including Farming First spokesperson Ajay Vashee from IFAP, discussed how to form recent summit declarations into reality, by addressing various challenges, as follows. The proceedings of the panel session are summarised in the report.
How can better market conditions be created to promote private investment in smallholder agriculture?
Lack of access to reliable and stable markets, inputs, credits and agricultural tools and services, along with price volatilities, market uncertainties and unpredictable weather patterns were identified are the main challenges faced by smallholder farmers. Yet in several countries smallholders have benefitted from increased prices but only when policy and connectivity to markets have allowed farmers to sell at higher prices.
What specific role can governments play in creating better conditions for investment in smallholder agriculture and rural development, in particular through the provision of public goods and the implementation of supportive policies?
Investments in agricultural research and extension, rural roads, education, health care, irrigation, power supply facilities and other public goods are fundamental for agricultural development and must be supported by effective support to develop value chains that benefit farmers.
Public policies can make a difference by creating the necessary conditions for the development of smallholder farming, for example in Malawi, where the “smart” subsidy investment of about US$258 million in around 2 million farm households during 2005 to 2008 contributed to a incremental maize production and subsequently reduced the proportion of people living in poverty from 50% to 40%, in just two years.
Policies must be put into place to support smallholder farmers’ ability to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, whilst using the knowledge and practices of indigenous and local communities.
What can be done to ensure that smallholder farmers are fairly positioned in a process where competition for scarce agricultural resources – particularly land and water – is on the increase? What role could farmers’ organizations play and how can they be effectively supported?
The establishment of independent farmer- and producer-managed cooperatives and associations is enabling millions of smallholder farmers not only to acquire better skills and technology and access to credit, but also to improve water management, quality control, storage, trading and marketing. These associations also facilitate the exchange of market information and increase the participation of smallholder farmers at different levels of the food and agricultural value chain.