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

UNSCN Secretariat Team , Switzerland
31.01.2013
FSN Forum

INVESTMENT IN LOCAL AGRICULTURE: Small-scale farmers have proven to be key players in meeting global food demand. Many of the development success stories of the past 20-40 years were based on smallholder production (smallholders were also typically more efficient than large-scale farmers) (FAO, 2012 SOFI). Yet, about 80% of the 868 million undernourished are farmers (http://canwefeedtheworld.wordpress.com/tag/fao/). Investing in agriculture is one of the most effective strategies for reducing poverty and hunger and promoting sustainability (http://www.fao.org/publications/sofa/en/); farmers themselves are by far the largest source of investment in agriculture and must be central to any strategy for increasing investment in the sector. Local knowledge and cultivation of local varieties must be rediscovered and food value chains must be shortened and made nutrition-sensitive.

Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force. (FAO). We encourage more emphasis on a gender differentiated approach and this should be addressed in various parts of the report. The resources and income flows that women control have repeatedly been shown to wield a positive influence on the household food and nutrition situation (World Bank/IFPRI, 2007). Closing the gender gap in smallholder farming could bring many rewards: increased crop productivity, improved food security and far-reaching social benefits as a result of an increase in women's income.  Investments in smallholder agriculture need to address this.

Role of smallholders in food and nutrition security: changes in investments, such as investments in technology, infrastructure etc should also address the potential values and impacts for good nutrition, leading to better and positive nutrition outcomes. Investments should contribute to the creation of environments and conditions in which better nutrition is achieved, for all family members. Creating and strengthening the linkages between the smallholders and their own nutrition security should be more addressed in the paper.

Regarding Definition and significance of smallholder agriculture: We miss the social and cultural aspects in the outlined definition of smallholder agriculture. The proposed criteria put emphasis on only one characteristic (small compared to medium- or big holder), we encourage a broader definition.

It would be important to compare smallholder activities within areas/regions with comparable agro-ecological and socio-cultural conditions including natural resources, social, economic and political conditions (for example a farmer in Namibia who owns 20.000 ha of land in a dry desert area can hardly be compared to a farmer in Europe who has just 50 hectares of land, and elaborate respectively differentiated recommendations. The regions where these ways of livelihood have developed, and the conditions under which they are put into practice, differ considerably so that the comparative study of constraints could be more relevant when looking into agro-ecological zones’ rather than talking on a worldwide scale. In this sense the case studies and examples could be more systematic.

Concerning the question: “Are all the main constraints presented in the draft?” the element of ‘stability’ should be included in the report. Political instability is one of the most common and persistent challenges to food security. Conflict disrupts or prevents agricultural production, transportation and market access, and creates large populations of refugees and internally displaced persons who make heavy demands on local and national food supplies (UNSCN, 2010, 6th report on the world nutrition situation).