Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important document
1 Although the body of the text (page 33 etc.) raises the issue of heterogeneity of the small-farm "sector" - this is not adequately highlighted in the summary. Understanding this heterogeneity and responding to it will be central to meeting the objectives of food security, nutrition and economic development
2 The report would benefit from more discussion on the need for and sequencing of differentiated policies and interventions to meet the needs of the different types (size, location, assets, farming system, hh profile, etc.) of small-scale farmers within a given country context. It would be useful to recognise that there will be winners and losers as the small-farm sector moves forward. Who benefits (i.e. which type of small-farm hhs) and why from specific interventions to support economic aspects of the small-farm sector, how to deal with trade-offs and how to manage effectively the interface between economic service and social protection interventions needs to be understood, monitored and managed. Given this heterogeneity, a ‘one size fits all’ for the smallholder farm sector in a given country (or even a subnational regional/territorial) context is not appropriate
May I suggest that the following may provide some additional insights on heterogeneity in the case of Africa?
Jayne, T. S., Mather, D., and E. Mghenyi (2010) Principal challenges confronting smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. World Development 38 (10) pp1384–1398 Jayne, T. S., Yamano, T., Weber, M., Tschirley, D., Benfica, R., Chapoto, A., and B. Zulu (2003) Smallholder income and land distribution in Africa: Implications for poverty reduction strategies. Food Policy 28 (3) pp253–275
3 The smallholder debate needs to be set within a longer term framework which takes into account the population demographics in rural areas including the rural-urban dynamic and the current and anticipated rural and urban employment profiles. Smallholders matter not least because in some regions (e.g. SSA, parts of South Asia) there are simply not [enough] other livelihood/ employment opportunities that can absorb the expected population growth - inter-generationally. This is a case to revisit the smallholder debate in its own right - your section p23 only speaks to this in the context of changing farm size. The issue of population trends (as well as wider economic and social transformation) is too important to leave out of this debate and calls for the small-farm discussion of what next and why - at country level to be set within a longer term framework i.e. 30 plus years. The authors may like to look through Proctor, F.J. and V. Lucchesi (2012) Small-scale farming and youth in an era of rapid rural change http://pubs.iied.org/14617IIED.html
4 On smallholder livelihoods - yes all smallholder hh are engaged with 'the market' one way or another but not all market their produce from the farm - this needs to be noted. Whilst the paper talks of remittances (page 9... and savings) it does not talk [enough] about the balance of farm and non-farm incomes (note- employment in this context is both formal and informal) within the hh and the role that rural non-farm economy (RNFE) plays in enabling investment in agriculture and in managing hh income and risk. Arguably any strategy to support the small-farm sector needs not only to address the social sectors of health and education (you refer to this in the body of the report) but also how the RNFE (formal and informal) sector is supported i.e. the policy and institutional context in which the different categories of smallholders and their "agriculture plus" livelihoods are enabled. As an aside - see Fox and Pimhidzai 2011 for a recent commentary on the informal sector in the case of Uganda
5 Whilst there is quite a lot in the report on contract farming (as an option to support the small-farm sector) - there is very little on 'new business models' at the first stage procurement level including the importance of the role of intermediaries and how they should/could be better supported - for both the traditional and modern markets. Bienabe et al., 2011 – already referenced in the paper has some ideas but this reference was not used to illustrate some examples of different models
6 The role of PROs needs better disaggregation by function - advocacy, services, marketing - each call for different structures and capacities. In most of SSA and Asia these structures are weak (in particular for the latter function) and largely driven by development intervention - raising questions of both suitability and sustainability
7 Page 9 - "smallholder agriculture is the largest provider of food and raw material" - do we have the evidence of the production levels by farm size /commodity/ country/region/global. Given the theme of the paper - I think more information is need here and if we don’t know we should say what exactly we do and don’t know
8 Land access and land security debate in the context of smallholders could be given more focus
9 The paper whilst making reference to basic education is silent on vocational and technical education – not only for the small-scale farmer and their structures RPOs, cooperatives etc. but also for skills enhancement of the actors who service the smallholder’s input and outputs market chains
10 There is nothing on the next generation of small scale farmers –the specific barriers to entry – their aspirations – how to make small-scale farming more attractive and at what scale and in which context
11 Country level debate on smallholder sector - this was also one of our key recommendations - Proctor, F.J. and V. Lucchesi (2012). I can understand where the authors are coming from but in some ways each country needs an 'agriculture transformation debate' (i.e. 30-50 years foreword) and then the smallholder role within the wider agricultural [and arguably also structural] transformation framework ... not a smallholder debate first then contextualising it. This report could usefully elaborate how such debate at country level could be taken forward - what are the key elements etc. As noted by another contributor such debates could usefully be set within the framework of other related national processes.
Related links and resources:
Constraints to Smallholder Investments - A consultation by the HLPE to set the track of its study
Committe on World Food Security (CFS)
High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE)
The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) Key Elements
The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.