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Re: HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the Report: Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security

Dr. Philip McMichael Cornell University, Estados Unidos de América

Here are some comments in the form of notes corresponding first to points in the Summary and Recommendations, and then page numbers. I hope they are useful



       Comments on smallholder investment report



Pt 5: very important to note SH involvement in markets, but not always equally.

12: Political dimension could also include democratic control over agricultures in accordance with national food security, & SH viability, objectives

14. Neglect and ignorance of SH existence and potential should be brought forward as a framing issue. Instead of starting with a definition as in #1, why not begin with the observation that the condition of the SH is first and foremost a condition of neglect and misunderstanding. A social, cultural and ecological blindspot to be blunt!

15. Suggest adding: and concern with overcrowding slums, and an opportunity also for economic and social ‘multipliers’ in rural regions/territories.

20. and markets at local levels? (less susceptible to export strategies)

28. Introduce the idea of investment in the smallholder commons rather than simply distinguishing vulnerable and ‘well off’ – especially given advocacy of collective action in 29 and Fig 1.


Specific Recommendations

Pt 32. managing technical risks also requires particular farming practices over and above policies and tools.

33. involvement of banks and financial systems needs close regulation to avoid indebtedness.

35. important to emphasize new markets as new growth areas (especially in global North, attracting new SHs)

38. strengthening democratic SH organizations good – but why number 38?  This issue of voice/representations needs to frame many of the other dimensions/recommendations.




16 – Future visioning of agriculture could be brought forward to organize/shape the introduction of SH as vital to food security, employment, energy efficiency, rural vitality and environmental stewardship

17 Multifunctionality a critical part of revisioning agriculture

26 Why not emphasize the ecological importance of mixed farming?

28, 2.2 – important point about SH potential to contribute to domestic food security and employment,

29 and about adequate conditions for market participation.

Also critical point regarding differentiating types of markets, to ‘de-naturalize’ the globalized agrifood markets often considered the only (viable) market, and underline the significance of differentiating necessary investments for SH to participate in different agr markets

34 Why wouldn’t an agr-led development strategy consider reducing the export of family members and strengthen farming communities, rather than take for granted the 65% SH in LAmerica who increasingly depend on off-farm income?

3. Framework for SH Agr and Investments

36 An important point to argue that for SH capital formation is labor-driven, as it sets up the argument for paying attention to gender equity, health & social protections: this theme is critical and it speaks to the issue of recognition of the potential and rights of SHs.

39 emphasis on collective investment important – landscape management and SH organizations, eg. What about supporting seed exchanges, commons?

40 Important to emphasize social safety nets etc as a right for SH often neglected in urban-centered programs, and assumed to be failing (cf p 44)

41 emphasis on laws/regulations in corporate/SH relationship important – may be important to mention that private standards represent one way in which corporate processors or retailers create their own market ‘laws’ [just as, on p 43, land deals are confidential]


46- 4.2: Persistent poverty section is good, but reinforces a sense of stasis or decline of SH conditions – important to continually connect to lack of recognition in expectations of SH farming and SAPolicies that have set SH farming back


49 SH uniqueness (linkages between economic and socio-cultural risks, eg) means that there needs to be stronger voice concerning the specificity of SH practices that cannot be reduced to or understood purely from a market logic (as outlined on p 50 regarding the ‘white revolution’ in India).


54 the typology depicts types of smallholders according to assets, markets and institutional context. It is not clear that these dimensions can be so easily isolated. Markets are institutions. It means, for example, that (neoliberal) policies liberalizing markets resulting in ‘food dependency’ are separated from the impact on smallholders – the so-called ‘cheap food regime’ (hinted at on p 60).

55 identification of examples of positive interventions is useful



58 good to invest in human capital vs land and productivity focus only


63 important to emphasize research to improve knowledge base for producers

66 Importance of public financial institutions and partnerships with private, cooperative and community institutions

67 reorient value chain agriculture to local and national markets – not just a matter of saying ‘despite the preference of development agencies and even national governments to prioritize modern for-export value chains…’ the issue is surely epistemic – that is, it is more than a matter of preference – there is a WTO regime and a history of structural adjustment and exporting to pay debt: all ingredients of a global vision of corporate markets ruled by “comparative advantage”

70 National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework indispensible – to address and overcome constraints SH. Why not signal this right at the beginning of the report?