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

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) , Italy
FSN Forum

Dear HLPE Secretariat

Please find below comments from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the HLPE Consultation Document on Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security.

Ref:  National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework is to be elaborated that is country specific, comprehensive, and broadly owned

The report indicates that “the National Vision and Strategic Framework has to consider the different ways agriculture is structured and the different types of holdings”-  it emphasizes a vision and an implementation framework only smallholder agriculture. By doing so, there is a significant risk of dissociating smallholder agriculture from the rest of the agricultural sector. In other words, having different visions and strategic frameworks (e.g. one for smallholders and another one for commercial farming) would limit the opportunities for smallholders to be considered part of many agricultural value chains. As the linkages between the different types of agricultural systems or types of holdings in a given territory are crucial for the agricultural transformation, we would suggest to consider integrated agricultural strategies, where each type of holding (e.g. small/commercial/etc.) plays a particular role, their specific challenges / constrains are addressed, but also where the dynamics among them are considered and promoted / strengthened.


  • The need for political support (and commitment) from national / regional / local governments could be reinforced. The report makes most of the emphasis on strengthening the political role of smallholder stakeholders themselves but not so much on the role of governments in creating the enabling environments for investing in smallholder agriculture and ways to do so.
  • The document does not mention the existing tension between investments in food security, energy security and environmental sustainability.
  • Regarding the typology, it is not clear how the political, governance and socio-economic conditions are considered (in other words, the “enabling environment”).
  • In general terms, we find that the graphs add confusion to the already dense narrative. There are many, many issues addressed and the link among each other and the conclusions and recommendations could be further strengthened.

Ref: Recommendation 35 (pg 14): New Markets

The report rightly places smallholder farmers at the centre of future global discussion on food security and economic development. However more can be said about the process in which smallholder farmers will play a lead role in the future. Over and beyond the opportunities and constraints at the national level, which are well articulated in the report, are the pathways with which small farmers will gain access to ‘bigger and better markets’, both at the regional and global levels: For example;

  • New global trade structure: Beyond the nationally focused ‘new markets’ mentioned in the report is another dimension related to the external markets i.e regional and global. Globalization is transforming prospects for development in developing countries, especially in the Africa region, which is projected to become the hub of economic activity in the future.  In the face of a new and changing structure of global trade, the likely result is an increased openness in trade and the progressive re-distribution of world agricultural production according to countries’ comparative advantage. This may also result in certain industries in some countries declining as a result of cheaper imports, with potential heavy negative impact for rural agricultural labourers and on smallholder farmers in Africa.[1]
  • Interconnectedness and linkages at the national, global and regional levels: A framework for smallholder farmers should pay attention to both the national, regional and global dimensions of trade and how they will likely affect smallholder farmers. Attention should be focused on an enabling environment at all levels (regional and global), to complement the national efforts (as articulated in the National Frameworks)  in broadening prospects for smallholder farmers. This will also enable countries to take advantage of diversity and complementarities. Encouraging national to link up with the regional will result in a harmonized approach.  

Ref: Thematic – Youth and Gender dimensions of smallholder investments (See further elaboration in the annex)

  • Smallholder agriculture: the way ahead (pp.10) - It may be useful to recognise the inter-relatedness of the different outlined dimensions (economic, social, environmental, political) of smallholder contributions to food security, in particular with explicit mention of the gender issue. For example: addressing gender inequality would increase global agricultural production by an estimated 4 per cent in developing countries, equivalent to sufficient additional food to reduce the number of hungry people by 100 – 150 million
  • When discussing the way ahead, it may be appropriate on to make mention of the youth agenda in agriculture, particularly in the context of the potential demographic dividend implied by an estimated 60 per cent of the population of developing countries being under 25 years of age, most of these living and working in rural areas.
  • 3.3.4 Collective level: socially oriented investments (pp. 40): The acknowledgement of the potential benefits to the smallholder sector of socially oriented investments in the areas of health, education and social safety nets is welcome. However, rather than treating social investments as stand-alone interventions, the focus might be on mainstreaming social issues into all investment ie. promoting investments which are socially sensitive.
  • 4.2 Persistent poverty and lack of access to resources (pp. 46): The argument that lack of access to resources is a key impediment to food security for smallholders is an important one. It could be deepened here by mentioning other mitigating factors influencing which groups of people have access to resources in a rural context, and therefore patterns of deprivation which influence food production and poverty levels. Gender and age patterns in land ownership which constrain women and youth farmers would be particularly relevant to mention here.
  • 5.2.3 Strengthening the institutional capacity of smallholders (pp. 61): The importance of supporting smallholders’ organizations is certainly an important recommendation. It might be explicitly mentioned that, in complement with building the capacity and collective voice of these organisations, specific initiatives are made to ensure that these organisations represent the interests of groups who are especially marginal to debates and decision-making processes (eg. women, youth, indigenous people).

Ref: Thematic - Climate Change and Natural Resources Management

The paper provides a very good overview of constraints to smallholder investment in agriculture in different contexts and puts forward solid recommendations. While we appreciate that the focus is on market linkages, as requested by CFS, we found that the analysis of constraints overlooks important issues related to climate change and natural resources management. These aspects could be strengthened both in the sections dedicated to resilience and risk identification - in particular by separating natural /climate change risks from technical risks in section 4.3 - (i.e. climate change as a risk multiplier, adding pressure to the already stressed ecosystems for smallholder farming, and making the development of smallholder agriculture more expensive; agriculture is also a source of GHG emissions; etc.) and in the analysis of smallholders’ role in food security and as a social, cultural and economic sector (highlighting the role smallholders play on sustainable natural resources management, ecosystem services; importance of local knowledge in adaptation to climate change; etc.).

Some specific suggestions include:

  • p.26: animal production should not only be considered in terms of “efficiency” but also in terms of sustainability and impacts on the environment (i.e. extensive grazing systems/pastoralism may represent a successful  mechanisms of adaptation to maintain an ecological balance among pastures, livestock and people).
  • 2.3.2: the growing integration of local and international value chains may represent a driver for scaling up environmentally sound practices and promoting inclusive green growth (an example is the IFAD Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme in Sao Tome and Principe, where public-private partnerships have been set up with overseas buyers of organic, fair trade cocoa of high quality).
  • 2.4: the energy efficiency section should integrate climate change consideration as well as refer to technological innovations suitable for smallholders, such as biogas,  that provide social, environmental and economic benefits.
  • 3.3.6: Rewards for Environmental Services is an approach that may be associated to provision of public goods.
  • p.55: related to first dimension, among interventions that might help to enlarge and improve the available resource base, include multiple-benefit approaches that have impact on natural resource base, yields, GHG emissions, biodiversity.  In addition, there are approaches to natural resources management such as Rewards for Environmental Services or organic/fair trade production, that have an impact also on the market dimension.
  • p.57: The importance of a  coordinated strategy across sectors, time, and space should be further strengthened.
  • p.58-59: diversification of the production system should also be highlighted as a strategy for adapting to climate change and increasing resilience.


  • Recommendations: while all valid- the recommendations are probably too many and too general. It might be useful to have a set of very pointed specific priority recommendations with clarity on their implementation (who and how).

[1] Proctor Felicity, 2005, The New Agenda for Agriculture