Agricultural Development Economics
 

Smallholder family farms

Understanding small family farms 
About 90 percent of the world’s 570 million farms are small. Most are found in the rural areas of the developing world, and are owned and operated by families. Many of these smallholder family farmers are poor and food insecure and have limited access to markets and services. Their choices are constrained, but they farm their land and produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population. Besides farming they take on multiple (often informal) economic activities, to contribute towards their small incomes.  

Today, in order to tackle the triple challenge of producing more food, creating more jobs and enhancing the natural resource base, there is a need for competitive and sustainably productive farms… and small family farmers lie at the heart of the solution. 

FAO’s role in small family farms

Helping small family farms to tackle today’s challenges 
FAO supports small family farmers overcome the many constraints they face and tackle today’s challenges. FAO helps agricultural and rural development policy thinking through analysis and advocacy. Analysis provides evidence on the strengths and weaknesses of small family farms and advocacy forms policies that tackle crucial long run growth challenges both in agriculture, but also in the wider economy. 

On the costs of being small: Case evidence from Kenyan family farms
This report analyses allocative efficiency of major input factors for farmers in Kenya. Marginal value products are estimated for land, labor, inorganic fertilizer and seeds, at the farm household level and compared with marginal costs as approximated by their prevailing market prices. Price efficient and inefficient farmers are identified and equivalent value losses are computed as shares of household income, per hectare and for the society.

The economic lives of smallholder farmers
An analysis based on household data from nine countries
Based on an innovative smallholder-specific dataset, this report illustrates the lives of smallholder farmers in nine developing and emerging countries, using economics to analyze data from rural household surveys. It examines different dimensions of smallholders’ lives: their farm and families; their production and the inputs they use for it; their work both on- and off-farm; their income and how it is made up; their consumption; and their participation in markets.

» Download the report
» Explore the data

Understanding smallholder farmer attitudes to commercialization –
The case of maize in Kenya

Using the case of maize production in Kenya, this study reframes the challenge of smallholder commercialization in the context of staple food crop production and individual farm-level decision-making by a heterogeneous population of smallholder farmers. While many smallholder growers of staple crops find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty, they differ greatly in their abilities to break this cycle and in their attitudes towards using commercial farming as the pathway for doing so.