Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security

Agriculture has suffered and continues to suffer from long-term underinvestment at both the macro and micro levels (World Bank, 2007). The report on The State of Food and Agriculture (FAO, 2012a) confirms the low levels of capital in the hands of smallholders in low- and middle-income countries and its depreciation in sub-Saharan Africa during the period 1980–2007. At the same time, a vast majority of the hungry people in the world are, paradoxically, small farmers (FAO, 2012a). Therefore, the issue of investments in agriculture, and especially in smallholder agriculture, and related policies and institutions to support smallholder agriculture (FAO, 2010a), is at the top of the agenda of the international community. It is of critical importance today, as agriculture is undergoing massive changes in a period when both public and private investors are trying to secure their access to land and water (HLPE, 2011a), and confidence in the ability of the market to ensure food security has been undermined by the food price rises in 2008 (HLPE, 2011b). In line with these developments, the CFS requested the HLPE to conduct: “a comparative study of constraints to smallholder investment in agriculture in different contexts with policy options for addressing these constraints, taking into consideration the work done on this topic by IFAD, and by FAO in the context of COAG, and the work of other key partners. This should include a comparative assessment of strategies for linking smallholders to food value chains in national and regional markets and what can be learned from different experiences, as well as an assessment of the impacts on smallholders of public-private as well as farmer cooperative-private and private-private partnerships” (CFS 37, Final Report, October 20113). The present report contributes to the lively debate on investments in agriculture by focusing on the crucial role of smallholder agriculture for food security and by tackling the complexity of smallholder production systems, as well as the constraints they face, in the broader perspective of the structural transformations of agriculture worldwide.

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