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Family Farming Knowledge Platform

Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Africa

A Framework for an enabling environment

After years of under-investment agriculture is back in the spotlight, with much of the focus on increasing output from smallholder farmers. There are around 500 million smallholder farmers in the world, and they produce up to 80% of the food consumed in Africa and Asia. They are net buyers of food and very vulnerable to food price increases and spikes. As a group, they are among the poorest and most marginalized in the world. They are also stewards of increasingly scarce natural resources and on the frontline of dealing with the impacts of climate change. Smallholders therefore play a critical role in addressing the challenges of food security, poverty and climate change. Africa’s smallholder farmers face many challenges preventing them from scaling up their participation in markets, including insecure rights to land and natural resources, lack of access to quality inputs and financial services, inadequate support from research and extension services, and high transaction costs caused by poor rural infrastructure. Smallholders have little say in policy decisions that impact on their lives, or in the design of research agendas. In addition, domestic and international markets for agricultural produce are changing rapidly and dramatically, with smaller producers finding it increasingly hard to participate in these markets. Challenges are even greater for women farmers, who constitute the majority of farmers in Africa. International efforts to support smallholder farmers tend to follow a conventional approach to boosting agricultural productivity, with much of the emphasis on commercialising agriculture using modern inputs and encouraging integration of smallholders into agricultural value chains, particularly those producing for export markets. However, evidence suggests that only a small group of wealthier and better-connected smallholders are currently likely to be able to benefit from opportunities created in this way. For the majority of small-scale farmers, and particularly those that are more marginalised, including women farmers, different forms of support are needed to facilitate their greater participation in markets as a means of increasing food security at the national and household level.

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Organization: African Smallholder Farmers Group (ASFG)
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Year: 2013
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Geographical coverage: Africa
Type: Policy brief/paper
Content language: English
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