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

J. Voegele World Bank , United States of America
FSN Forum

Dear High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition,

 Thanks very much for the opportunity to comment on the zero draft version of “Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security.”  This paper is an important step in addressing the constraints to  food and nutrition insecurity for the increasing population. The paper is well structured with very relevant policy implications.

Please find below some comments from our team that could add more value to the already excellent report.

1) There is a need to include a section on the threats posed by climate change and the urgent need to build smallholders’ resilience for lasting poverty reduction. Our recent “4 degree report” ( highlights the impacts of climate change on agriculture and other sectors, and the need to build adaptive capacity and design agricultural production systems that are more resilient to climate change.

2) The report needs a stronger emphasis on scaling up of climate-smart technologies, practices and policies. The 3 principal climate-smart agriculture investment areas include 1) Sustainable land and water management practices, 2) Climate risk management, and 3) Transformation of production systems.  Global warming requires that adaptation strategies should cover a broad spectrum of change beginning with incremental adaptation (e.g. Varieties, change planting time, improved water management, etc) and extending through system adaptation (e.g. Climate-ready crops, climate-sensitive precision agriculture, adoption of no-tillage farming, agridiversification, etc) to more radical changes in land use and ecosystem services management (e.g. agroforestry for increased productivity and carbon sequestration).

3) There is a need to sharpen the discussions on land degradation for the following reasons: 1) Most smallholder agricultural practices are inherently based on traditional practices. 2) Traditional agricultural systems mostly rely on the carrying capacity of ecosystems, and are highly vulnerable to increased pressures such as population growth, economic cycles and climate change. 3) Poor land management under traditional farming systems (e.g. cultivating steep slopes, repetitive cropping leading to nutrient mining, overgrazing etc) accentuates land degradation and/or suboptimal yields. 4) It is estimated that 24% of world’s total land area and 20% of its croplands are losing productivity (Bai et al. 2008).

4) Furthermore, the report needs to draw on the important findings of a recent UNEP report ( launched at Rio 20+ There is a need to discuss the following drivers of change (backed with empirical data if available) that are crucial to success of smallholder farming: 1) Pressure on water needed for agriculture, 2) Pressure on land available for agriculture, and 3) Pressure on key ecosystem services to agriculture (e.g. deforestation, habitat loss/reduction, etc).

5) The study team may also find it necessary to include specifically the role of science and innovations. New knowledge, technologies and practices are required to increase nutritional security, boost agricultural productivity, and conserve ecosystems. There are a number of areas that science can contribute to sustainable agricultural intensification and climate smart agriculture. These include the development of 1) improved breeds for higher nutritional quality that are also adapted to climate change, 2) Technologies that increase nutrient and water use efficiency in agricultural production systems, 3) Improved soil management techniques that preserve ecosystem functions and sequester carbon, 4) Agro-ecological approaches that complement the biological and ecosystem services that inherently support agriculture and that better manage risks; and 5) Better nutrition for livestock and aquaculture that increase productivity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions .

6) For science and innovation to better serve smallholder farmers, it is critical to 1) Better link public and private Research and Development (R & D) systems to ensure that high-priority science and technology gaps are filled 2) Develop governance mechanisms for effective public–private partnerships in R & D characterized by shared risk and return on investment, and clarity on open access, and 3)Ensure researchers work directly with smallholder farmers for effective transfer of technology adapted to local conditions.

7) Lastly, policy recommendations need to realize the role of demand and supply side interventions. An example of demand and supply policies to stimulate increased agricultural input use (World Bank, 2007) is presented in the Table below

Demand-Side Interventions

Supply-Side Interventions

Strengthen soil-crop research and extension

 Support to public agencies

 Public-private partnership

 On-farm trials and demonstrations

Reduce input sourcing costs

 Lowering trade barriers to increase national and regional market size

Improve farmers’ ability to purchase inputs

 Improve access to credits

 Phased and incremental use (e.g., small bags for fertilizers)

 Implement laws that enables farmers to use risk-free collaterals for loans


Reduce distribution costs

 Improve road and rail infrastructure to lower transport costs

Provide farmers with risk management tools

 Improved weather forecasting, weather-indexed crop insurance

Strengthen business finance and risk management

 Use credit guarantee and innovative insurance schemes

Improved quality and dissemination of market information

 Public and private sector information systems easily accessible to farmers

Improve supply chain coordination mechanisms

 Product grades and standards

 Market information systems to reduce information costs

Protecting farmers against low and volatile output prices

 Investment in measures to reduce production variability such as drought-tolerant crops, deep-rooted crops, irrigation, and storage systems


Empowering farmers by supporting producer organizations

 Investment in rural education

 Training farmers in organizational management


Improving the resource base so that input use is more profitable

 Investment in soil and water management and irrigation infrastructure


 Thanks very much for the opportunity to comment on this report. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact our Senior Natural Resources Management Specialist at Ademola Braimoh at