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

In October 2011 the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) requested its High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) to conduct a study on smallholder investments, and in particular, to assess: “a comparative study of constraints to smallholder investment in agriculture in different contexts with policy options for addressing these constraints, taking into consideration the work done on this topic by IFAD, and by FAO in the context of COAG, and the work of other key partners. This should include a comparative assessment of strategies for linking smallholders to food value chains in national and regional markets and what can be learned from different experiences, as well as an assessment of the impacts on smallholders of public-private as well as farmer cooperative-private and private-private partnerships.”
Final findings are to be presented at the CFS Plenary session in October 2013.
The High Level Panel of Experts for Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) now seeks input on the following V0 draft of its report to address this mandate. The current draft has been elaborated by the Project Team, under guidance and oversight of the Steering Committee, based also on the feedback received through the scoping e-consultation.

The present e-consultation will be used by the HLPE Project Team to further elaborate the report, which will then be submitted to external expert review, before finalization by the Project Team under Steering Committee guidance and oversight.

The current draft is work-in-progress towards a comprehensive yet accessible and succinct presentation, highlighting priority topics and areas that are useful for action to the diverse range of stakeholders which form the CFS.

To be useful in the next steps of the report write-up, the HLPE proposes to open a dialogue on the following topics and seeks feedback and input according to the following lines:

1) Definition and significance of Smallholder agriculture: is the approach in the report adequate?
2) Framework for Smallholder agriculture and related investments: is the typology useful, adequate and accessible for the problem at hand?
3) Constraints to smallholder investment: are all main constraints presented in the draft? Have important constraints been omitted?

The current V0 draft contains a short summary and, intentionally, very first tentative recommendations : these are to be seen NOT as the final recommendations of the HLPE, but as a work-in-progress, part of the process of their elaboration: it is therefore to be seen as a scientific and evidence-based invitation for their enrichment, for being screened against evidence, as well as for further suggestions on their operationalization and targeting.

Are the main areas for recommendations and the priority domains for action adequate? Does the draft include sufficient information at the adequate level to support the policy messages?

The current V0 draft, at this stage of the writing, could be further enriched by more concrete examples to support the reasoning. As the HLPE seeks to formulate practical, actionable recommendations for implementation, we would therefore seek, through this consultation, concrete examples and references [cases, facts and figures] to feed into the report, in particular into a section on Implementation and to sustain the vision that is presented.  
The issues that this report needs to cover may comprise some controversial points. Do you think these are well highlighted in the report in order to feed the debate? Are those presented with sufficient facts and figures to elicit their rationale? Did the current draft miss any of those?
We thank in advance all the contributors for being kind enough to spend time in reading and commenting on this early version of our report. Supplementary information, references and evidence-based examples would be very much welcomed in such a format that could be quickly manageable by the team (for instance, if you suggest a reference, a book etc, please highlight a/the key point(s) in 5 to 10 lines).

Contributions are welcomed in English, French and Spanish. The V0 draft is available in English. We look forward to a rich and fruitful consultation.
The HLPE Project Team and Steering Committee

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Delegation of the European Union to the Holy See, to the Order of Malta and to the UN Organisations in Rome ...
FSN Forum

The EU Delegation is pleased to transmit below the comments from the European Commission on the draft HLPE report (V0) on Constraints to smallholder investment in agriculture.

We welcome the HLPE report on this important topic and the opportunity to comment on the zero draft. The report covers a broad range of issues including agricultural policy, resilience, social safety nets, nutrition, and food security. It is clearly an attempt at moderation and compromise, with some messages clearer than others. There are nevertheless some issues absent or which merit more prominence:

(1) The report states that agriculture is to be understood as comprising forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production. This may not be possible for fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture: some issues are common but some others, major ones, are very different. These other sectors require a specific analysis.

(2) The report does not define "Sustainable farming" leaving the reader free to interpret its meaning. Providing a definition would enhance the understanding of the report.

(3) The report provides some very interesting figures on energy efficiency (para. 2.4) but does not then develop further on possible responses.

(4) Women smallholders are mentioned throughout the text but one could expect the report to recommend specific attention from governments and others alike.

(5) The authors have openly avoided mentioning the role of the state. Nonetheless, it may still be useful to mention explicitly the importance of having a smallholder agriculture-friendly fiscal policy including a transparent subsidy policy. Fiscal policy is linked with trade policy and the need to have a proper and coherent regional policy (as in cross border, subregional, regional integration) in general (this would also include joint water management, environmental issues) and trade facilitation issues in particular (trade in inputs, trade in crops, regional reserves, regional commodity markets)

(6) Public and private research are recommended but it may be useful to emphasise that part of the research needs to be anchored in usable applications and that there should be a conduit to link Researchers and smallholders

(7) CAADP is not mentioned and should be since it is a driver at the African level for the strengthening of smallholders. The CAADP has been translated into national strategies in many countries and in some cases the recommendations of the study are already being implemented.

(8) A missing policy element in the recommendations is stressing the importance of giving/facilitating access by SH/associations to communication and information tools and networks, market information systems

(9) In the recommendations, capacity building, leadership and ownership could be emphasised more. 

Thank you.

Kind regards,

Delegation of the European Union to the Holy See,

to the Order of Malta and to the UN Organisations in Rome

Gilles Allaire INRA, France
FSN Forum

1) Definition and significance of Smallholder agriculture: is the approach in the report adequate?

As it is said in the report the reality, the importance and social inclusion of SH is very diverse for historical reasons. This led to a complete definition, but which covers a large diversity of situations. Proposing typology is tricky issue for a typology makes sense according to a question.

Although the future of SH ag is depending on individual and local collective capacities, the social and economic dynamics which transform the situation in one or other direction (to strengthen or the reverse food security) are depending of the whole economic context at national and international level and of the macroeconomics trends. To cover this issue different criterions can be considered to distinguish different types of SH populations facing different economic structural issues:

  • The degree of the livelihood dependency on monetary exchanges both considering earnings of member of the family (in large and including migrants) and the sale of food, wood or other products of the family activity
  • The type of labor market the SH population is depending on (local, industrial more or less protected, international if migrants)
  • The degree of commoditization of the agricultural activity (versus self-consumption)
  • The type of market opportunities: local, regional, export
  • The degree of inclusion/exclusion regarding local or regional society.


The report considers two political (development) issues: poverty and the development of a market integrated and efficient “small” agriculture. Providing and securing the conditions to invest to the SH is engaging processes of market integration of the small agriculture, in the extent of the rising of market opportunities. We know for sure that these processes are selective and that only a more or less small part of all the population which can be considered as SH will enter in the dance. Thus from this process can result more or less poverty, notably depending on the non ag opportunities.

Even if the growth ratio is high like in Brazil, the policies should address differently but in a complementary manner the two issues, because in general it cannot be expected that market development will rapidly suppress poverty. They both concern national food security; that in two ways: the family agriculture producing for regional or national market and the poorest population getting means of subsistence. In both case it is the issue of “investment”, but not of the same type.

From these considerations, it results that the relations between local/regional economies and the whole economy, and the respective dynamics of export and domestic markets are major determinants of the economic opportunities for SH agriculture development and economic integration (productive investments).

Necessary in the report the analysis of the constraints the SH face is decomposed. But some considerations on the systemic economic aspects allowing or limiting development strategies could be added.

Even though macroeconomic modeling is generally not able to represent complex multi-scaled economies, there are institutionnalist pieces of economic research which address the issue of the agriculture development in a macroeconomic perspective as, for example, the (old) induced innovation theory or the (French) regulation theory, with the notion of “model of development”…

2) Framework for Smallholder agriculture and related investments: is the typology useful, adequate and accessible for the problem at hand?

The typology proposed in the report (point 4.5, pp 51sp) is certainly useful. The idea of simplifying in considering two polar situations in three dimensions is exciting: assets; markets (I would say market structures) and institutions (including market institutions, as property rights, governance structures and various kind of rules applying to monetary exchanges).

I have two comments.

1. The 8 ideal-types cover contrasted situations. When there are two + the situations allow small ag development with more or less dynamism and insecurity. The other cases are illustrated with different situations: involution, self-consumption (isolation), extreme poverty or illegal production. All the illustrations seem relevant. The issue is to which strategic level this typology help for analysis?

Certainly it is at the local/regional level (more than at the national level). At this level, the criterion to qualify positively or negatively the three dimensions (assets, markets, and institutions) could be different according to the context. The six criterions proposed upper can be used to document the context and identify dynamics.

In addition, in a region it is possible that different communities of SH face different types of situations, with some linkages.

2. Finally there are several described situations in which development dynamics of family productive ag. But in most of them the issue of poverty in link with development processes has also to be addressed. For example, even if markets are offering opportunities, the issue of self-consumption and the necessary collective (public) investments in this regard as generally to be considered as well.

3) Constraints to smallholder investment: are all main constraints presented in the draft? Have important constraints been omitted?

As I said before, macroeconomics or political economy matter in agriculture dynamics. If the report analyses extensively the different types of constraints to smallholder investment including social and institutional dimension it is not totally clear which are the governance or geo-political levels where strategies can emerge and obtain political support.

If we can say that in any case the political and professional organization of SH communities play a key role in the emergence or the construction of development policies but there also and importantly coordination of class interest to allow development. According to the large diversity of situations it is not the same conflict and the coordination of interest which determinate the social dynamic.

For this reason I was asking myself on the proposition of elaboration of a “National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework.” Certainly calling the governments to elaborate such framework is way to promote the issue. But it cannot be a general set of dedicated policies or development tools. Indeed it is a class alliance.

I add an extract on a 2009 paper (presented at IAAE congress) on Induced innovation theory

The theory of “induced innovation” developed by Yujiko Hayami and Vernon Ruttan explains the orientation of innovation in agriculture and corresponding market creation as a global process for a region or a country by relative scarcity of the two factors of production: land (and water) and labour. Innovation here includes individual strategies to adapt productive frameworks to upstream and downstream market opportunities as public policies and institutional changes. Factor scarcity leads to reallocation of collective and public resources (including agronomics) for capacities and market building. The inductive effect is both systemic (convergence of knowledge, assets and action models) and institutional. The systemic effect result from the application of the principle of efficiency in economic action, while the institutional induction result of the selection of meta-rules or “reasonable values”. Scarcity reflected in the factors’ costs correspond with structural constraints to which responds innovation. The analysis corresponds with the dynamics of modernization of agriculture and industrialization. The first ideal-type formulated in the thesis (Hayami, Ruttan, 1971) corresponds with settlement agriculture in North America in which labor is rare and land structurally in extension (according to the historical conditions); factors structural disposition which as oriented innovation to mechanization and the rise of labor relative productivity. The second ideal-type formulated corresponds with Japan agriculture, with small holdings and high population density ratio and even increasing in rural areas, implying structural trend of reduction of available land by worker; factors structural disposition which as oriented innovation to resources rising the land relative productivity by provision, e.g., of water installation or selected seeds. From the principle of efficiency, confronted to different structural trends, economic actors follow different strategies and if convergent strategies solve the structural issues, efficient market arrangements can result. Market strategies can be unable to solve structural constraints. If in the second ideal-typical model the rising of the land productivity does not compensate the reduction of the quantity of land by workers in regions or periods where demographic pressure is high, due to family strategies keeping on land resources or to lack of wage labour opportunities or barriers to migration, the solution to the structural problem is still inefficient and markets are not likely to develop rapidly. On the same manner structural constraints limit the efficiency of the first ideal-typical model if the rising of the labour productivity does not compensate the reduction of available workers in certain regions or periods, the total production being falling. A point which made debates which the induced innovation thesis has to be stressed. It is not rare that a region or a national economy combines the two models; the persistent duality of the agricultural sector when coexist large and small farms which can historically be found in several countries is not a contradiction to the thesis of induced innovation by factors allocation, while the fact was opposed to it by critics: due to organizational forms labour costs can be higher on large than small farm, and the reverse for land. Different classes corresponding with different historically inherited productive factors distribution can be constituted in different groups of interest and that can be considered as a general case. The conflict of interests leads to more or less sustainable differentiation of agricultural systems of production at the sub-regional and sub-sectoral levels which is persistently reflected in institutional layers. The induced innovation thesis helps to understand the complex geography of agriculture and food resulting from a long period of market economy development.

The historical development of the industrialization of agriculture (which diffuses since the middle of the XIX° century) exhibits a paradox stressed by Chandler (1977): while in general the vector of the industrialisation is the building of large firms and cartels, in agriculture it comes with the “triumph” of family agriculture and the regression of the latifundium mode of production inherited from the colonial past (but today new forms of agrarian capitalism can be observed). This issue has generated a huge literature It was notably argued that the cost of monitoring subordinated work is higher than in a manufacture due to the spatial dispersion of agriculture activity (e.g., Hayami, 1996); it has to be added that, due to nature of the activity which rests on life processes, ordinary tasks include facing continuous repairable lapses in the functioning of a farm, which give unpredictability to the tasks organization. Beyond this structural dimension of agricultural work, there are institutional preconditions for agriculture modernization. Major market control stakes for modern agriculture (when markets are the main way for exchanges) are: access to land, to bank credit, to knowledge and intangible resources, and to public resources (subsides and rights, laws regulating professional activities, public standards). In modernisation crisis, there is struggle within the rural social classes to access to these resources; but for stable markets to emerge agreed sharing of resources have to be made and maintained under governance structures such as a profession or a local productive institutional arrangement or a functioning type of value chain integration allowing variety of components. For example, a dominant conception of control in agriculture can limit either competition for land or either for the access to market at the level of the primary production when generic agricultural products are concerned, competition being therefore placed on the control of techniques of production; and in this example the actors concerned by land control are not necessary the same than for product control. This observation stresses the complex architecture and geography of markets, in which develop control projects for productive arrangements.

Ms. Amy Padilla IBON International, Philippines

IBON International Submission to the Zero Draft Consultation Paper on “Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security”

                                                          30 January 2013

IBON International welcomes this opportunity to provide initial inputs to the zero draft on smallholder investments in agriculture. The report opens opportunities for greater policy and advocacy work discourse in support of smallholders. As a southern INGO providing capacity development for southern social movements, grassroots groups,  and advocates for democracy and human rights, IBON stands for a development framework centered on human rights, including promotion of policies that support genuinely sustainable production systems that uphold the rights and welfare of marginalised sectors. IBON International  is likewise a member and provides secretariat hosting to the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS), a global coalition of small-scale food producers including peasants, women, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples and their advocates working for food sovereignty as a campaign and advocacy platform in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

1. Food sovereignty as an overarching framework. Even as 500 smallholder farmers support over two billion people, they remain among the most poor and vulnerable at the global level. The zero draft recognises poverty as among the constraints faced by smallholders but does not cite structural causes engendering poverty especially in the south. Poverty is not caused by material scarcity, but by limited and unequal access to productive resources. The lack of control over basic resources such as land remain a fundamental concern especially in developing countries. Control and ownership of sustainable food production systems  primarily benefitting communities and domestic populations is the essence of food sovereignty.

2. Enabling environment. Discussion on enabling environment should foremost include the inalienable right of small farmers to land and seeds, and not just the right to farm as cited in the report.

3. Role of  Women. Greater attention should be given on the rights and welfare of small holder women who comprise a majority of the world’s smallholder farmers. Rural women in particular take on burden of raising families and providing food on their table, as the report notes, but lacks clear discussions on how exactly smallholder women’s issues including unpaid farm work can be addressed.

4. Participation in policy and other decision-making processes. Mechanisms starting from the community to national levels for genuine and meaningful representation especially in national processes of smallholders must be in place. Indeed smallholder organisations must be strengthened and they must own the policies that impact on their lives.

5.  Private investments. The report cites contract agriculture as an opportunity for smallholders in developing countries but actual experiences have shown that these have served the interest of private corporations and not the smallholders themselves.  Private investments in agricultural land and natural resources must be strictly regulated to ensure that they do not further increase monoculture-based and export-oriented agriculture. Private funding can only work for the benefit of poor farming communities if investors fit under “genuinely country-led food security plans that target the most marginal farmers”. (UNSR on Right to Food Olivier de Schutter, 2011). In relation to this, promotion of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) need a closer examination in terms of who exactly benefits from these.

6. Protection against land  and other resource grabbing. There is no reference to the phenomenon of  large-scale land acquisitions or land grabs which are made possible through investment  and other policies in agriculture. Investments in agriculture should not be used to justify land acquisitions that further deprive smallholder farmers of their right to land and seeds.

7.  Development cooperation.  Development cooperation and aid should promote equitable and mutually beneficial exchange of food and agriculture technologies and resources among communities and nations. It should not be used to facilitate corporate interests in agriculture which are destructive to local food systems, health and environment.

8. Public expenditures and investments. These must supplement rural self-financing, especially for  major public works and industrial projects that primarily benefit local food production systems.

9. Evidence-based studies on smallholder agriculture. Research in agriculture and in relevant investment policies must be based on evidence-based studies that are hinged on how to strengthen domestic food production systems.

10. Agrarian reform and comprehensive rural development. National strategies for food security and food sovereignty must include genuine agrarian reform programs that provide support to masses of smallholder farmers. These should be mobilized through producers’ cooperatives, growers’ associations, local savings and credit associations, etc. to ensure financial needs of sustainable food systems. Smallholder investment policies  should promote these.#

Robynne Anderson International Agri Food Network, Canada

Comments on the High Level Panel of Experts Report

on Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security

By the Private Sector Mechanism

January 30, 2013

The private sector mechanism welcomes the report on investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security.  An important pathway to achieving food security is to enable smallholder farmers to break the subsistence cycle and become small scale entrepreneurs.  The report has many strengths and we encourage the inclusion of some further points to close gaps in the recommendations.  As well, we encourage the next draft be editted to encourage a more readable, accessible format.

In defining smallholders, it is not about size of the farm or the family structure, which can be highly variable by country, culture and landscape. It is about a farmer or a group of farmers (in a family relationship or not) not being able to provide for their own basic food needs and thus are not able to participate in the primary economic activity which is agriculture. This incapability blocks further improvement in wellbeing and welfare. We encourage the report to consider this fundamental definition.

To further strengthen the report we offer the following suggestions for additional recommendations:

  1. A farmer-centered approach is needed, ensuring they have access to the things they need to produce a crop – such as the best-adapted seed technologies, land, water, knowledge, inputs and credit. Rural infrastructure needs to be in place to allow for market access and farmers to sell their products.
  1. Farmer organisations and cooperatives have a vital contribution to make to the development of agriculture and rural communities. Unless small-scale farmers are organized, they will remain politically powerless and economically disadvantaged.
  1. Education is needed to improve market-oriented education and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth originating from smallholder families that prepares the next generation of workers, farmers, and entrepreneurs across the food and agricultural industry.  In the absence of a more developed set of recommendations in this area within the report and the primacy of their importance, the network offers additional details to further the creation of this section:

In many developing countries, especially in Africa, the higher agricultural education system is experiencing serious problems of low quality, irrelevancy, lack of funding, poor infrastructure, low faculty morale, and high graduate unemployment (Maguire and Atchoarena 2003, other related studies on the agricultural education question:M. Maredia May 2011, Michigan State Staff Paper and Wallace, Mulhall and Taylor 1996 cited by Taylor 1998).

Rivera (2006) contends that agricultural higher education institutions do not have a good understanding of the labor market for agriculturally oriented professions. The system has not kept pace with the labor market realities, have not tracked the changing human resource needs in the agricultural sector, to align the profile of human resource outputs with the agricultural development strategy, and to ensure that students are not prepared for jobs that do not exist. (This disconnect between agricultural education system and the changing human resource needs is illustrated by the example of Indian agricultural universities that produce less than 100 graduates in food processing when the country has projected a need for about 200,000 professionals by the end of 2010 (Katyal 2006).

The “global drivers of curriculum change” identified from literature review (Mywish Maredia 2011) must be accommodated and include: 1) The changing profiles of students pursuing agricultural higher education; 2) Rapid scientific progress and technical change in an information-driven global economy, and challenges posed by global issues; 3) The changing labor market; 4) Emergence of information and communication technologies (ICTs); 5) Increased awareness of environmental issues; and 6) Increased awareness of gender issues.

  1. Knowledge sharing and extension allows the agriculture to continually adapt to multiple demands. Whether it is better meeting nutritional needs, improving water use efficiency, reducing land use, or any of the other competing demands on smallholders services, they are best met through improved practices based on knowledge.

Knowledge helps farmers adopt practices that maximise the efficiency of the inputs they use and help protect the natural resources they depend on. Training programmes should specifically involve women farmers in developing countries as essential ‘gatekeepers’ for household nutrition and welfare.

Providing this education to rural communities in a systematic, participatory manner is essential to improving their production, income and quality of life, particularly for smallholders. Extension services disseminate practical information related to agriculture, including correct use of improved seeds, fertilisers, tools, tillage practices, water management, livestock management and welfare, marketing techniques, and basic business skills to address poverty such as literacy and numeracy. Extension is also an essential pillar for rural community progress including support for the organisational capacity of farmers’ groups and the formation of co-operatives.

Five areas to mobilise the potential of rural advisory services are (1) focusing on best-fit approaches, (2) embracing pluralism, (3) using participatory approaches, (4) developing capacity, and (5) ensuring long-term institutional support.  (GFRAS,2012)

  1. Improve smallholder farmers’ access to markets through investments in transport and storage infrastructure, refrigerated storage as well as information access.
  1. Recognize the diversity of private sector actors in the report.  Replace a tone of anxiety about corporations with an acknowledgement of the range of actors in scale, origin, and place in the value chain.  Part of that diversity includes that farmers themselves are small enterprises that need to be fostered.
  1. The clear need for investment in the value chain of agriculture needs to be stated. That investment should foster productivity and diversity of options.
  1. Any recommendations for regulation should clarify by whom, for what purpose.
  2. Throughout the discussion of smallholders, the unique needs of women smallholders should be considered, with specific programming to address that fact that rural women remain the most disadvantaged group in the realisation of the MDGs.

Tone and Structure

The draft requires a fresh editor.  There are numerous grammatical and spelling mistakes, sentence construction is often laborious and many words are used for their French meaning instead of their English one. In general, it should be made more readable and less filled with jargon. Many authors are cited but not explained, with the assumption that the reader is familiar with their views or ideas. Sources are totally lacking in several places, and some date back to the 1920s.  More modern work is essential. Data is referenced rather than cited. This topic is important and warrants a good investment is its “readability”.

Overall the language used is often vague, uses 'cliche' or broad words with no definitions, tends to assume de facto common understanding or agreement on what terms mean or imply. The use of the word 'corporate' or 'corporation' is inconsistent; the meaning assigned to this word is not clearly stated or explained and it seems to clearly derive from the traditional socialist/marxist understanding of private firms but is also at times mixed with other meanings. There are several mentions of 'corporate farming' and of agro-industry farming which do not make sense and are ill-defined.  Farming has and will involve a range of farm sizes.  The report cannot suggest one size over another but needs to focus on the unique assistance needed to improve the lives of smallholders.

In the framework, it is good to read the recognition that the National Vision and Strategic Frameworks have and will adapt to the targeted area and situation e.g. in Brazil recognition of a bimodal structure. Some of our members question the need of a split between "Institutions and Markets" at national level and "Assets" at territorial level. In general, they note the need to identify roles of the different actors/institutions/market forces, all along the supply chain from farm to market.  When these interactions are suboptimal they should be addressed.

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



Concern Worldwide , United Kingdom
FSN Forum


This submission was prepared by Concern Worldwide (Concern) to inform the report on smallholder investments in agriculture, prepared for the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Below is our response to the questions raised by the HLPE. Given our focus on the extreme poor and smallholders in low income countries, particularly sub Saharan Africa, this submission relates to the opportunities and challenges for investing in smallholder agriculture in low income countries.

About Concern:

Concern is leading the search for innovative solutions to break the cycle of poverty and hunger, by addressing their root causes. Our work helps create the conditions that are needed to build resilient communities and lift the poorest and most vulnerable out of hunger. Since our foundation in 1968, Concern has been widely regarded as one of the world’s leading humanitarian organisations. Today, our work focuses on four sectors that are key to tackling extreme poverty: improving livelihoods, education, and health and HIV and AIDS.

Concern’s Approach:

Concern’s mission is to help people living in extreme poverty achieve major improvements in their lives which last and spread without on-going support from Concern. Because extreme poverty is defined by the lack of basic assets and/or the low return to these assets, our work primarily focuses on the build-up, protection, and promotion of assets through targeted investments, livelihood strategies and mechanisms. From the perspective of the extreme poor, it is often only once deficiencies in the basic assets are remedied that there is opportunity to acknowledge that social and political assets need to be secured and strengthened in order to address the root causes of poverty.

For more information on this submission, please contact Policy Officers Ana Ramirez and Jennifer Thompson



  1. Definition and significance of smallholder agriculture: is the approach in the report adequate?

Poor and vulnerable farmers

Many of the countries Concern works in are experiencing or recovering from conflict; have weak, under-resourced systems of governance; and suffer from inappropriate and unsustainable policies. In addition, most of our target groups live in areas that are prone to recurrent floods, droughts, tropical storms, earthquakes, landslides and crop pests; are exposed to abusive behaviour and practices and are very vulnerable to diseases such as malaria. Smallholder agriculture holds great potential for reducing food and nutrition insecurity, as well as poverty, particularly when it comes to the poorest and most vulnerable.

However, the report is missing evidence on the poorest and most vulnerable smallholders around the world. The majority of the evidence cited in the report is from developed countries and Latin America. Smallholders in low income countries face greater challenges and are confronted with higher levels of food insecurity and hunger, than those living in middle income countries. The report would benefit from bringing together examples from emerging economies, high level income countries, and low income countries in order to draw out commonalities and differences between them. Across these different types of countries, it would be useful to highlight the links between productivity and consumption trends. This would better illustrate the links between investments in agriculture and food security. Although the author’s definition includes pastoralism, aquaculture, fishing and gathering, there is no mention of such examples in the report. Finally, the report does not provide any insights into the opportunities and challenges faced by women smallholders. In summary, Concern recommends that the report should include:

  • An analysis of the role of female smallholders, particularly the central role they play in food production;
  • A consistent definition and treatment of smallholders that is either inclusive of all types of smallholders, or more precise and exclusive to people who cultivate;
  • Examples from emerging economies, high level income countries, and low income countries in order to draw out commonalities and differences.



  1. Framework for smallholder agriculture and related investments: is the typology useful, adequate and accessible for the problem at hand?

Based on Concern’s approach to extreme poverty, smallholder agriculture investments goes beyond asset creation and protection – and focuses on targeting the root causes of poverty, which are linked to inequality, vulnerability and risk. Although investments are key, targeted policies that are adapted to different types of smallholders are needed in order to bring to scale investments that have had positive impacts on smallholders’ food security, incomes and environment. Agriculture is central to the challenges of food and nutrition security and poverty, but it cannot solve all of the deeply rooted challenges that perpetuate poverty on its own. A wide-range of interventions from the nutrition, health, micro-finance and social protection sectors can help achieve agriculture’s full potential to reduce hunger.

a. Targeting the poorest and most vulnerable

In terms of the report’s approach, the dimensions of inequality, vulnerability and risk constitute considerable barriers to smallholder agriculture and productive communities. Therefore, the report should include inequality, vulnerability and risk as key dimensions of smallholder agriculture.

Inequality needs to be considered as a dimension of extreme poverty which can both cause a lack of assets and poor return to assets, and which can prevent people accessing services and taking up opportunities for their own development. Without attempting to address the effects of inequality on the lives of the extreme poor, development interventions may only contribute to short term change. It is important to acknowledge the different support and resources that each person requires in order to achieve the same outcomes as someone who does not face the same degree of inequality. Amongst smallholders themselves it is important to consider the inequalities that exist on the basis of gender and ethnicity. Vulnerability describes people’s level of susceptibility and exposure to the negative effects of hazards and their impacts. The level of vulnerability of an individual or group is determined by their ability to anticipate, cope with, respond to, and recover from hazards and their impacts. Risk is defined as the probability of a hazard happening in a given timeframe and the magnitude of its impact(s) when it does occur.

b. Leveraging community-level interventions

Levels of intervention or entry points for smallholder investments in agriculture should be addressed in a more systematic way in the report. From Concern’s experience, the community level is the most effective entry point when targeting the poorest and most vulnerable food producers. In this sense, contextual analysing of the inequalities and risks faced by poor and vulnerable farmers can contribute to a better understanding of the different community-level entry points and obstacles to agricultural interventions.

Conservation agriculture

In the context of climate change and scarce natural resources, over-exploitation of land through intensive agriculture techniques has the potential to worsen the trend of land degradation and loss of bio-diversity – which represent high costs for smallholder farmers in terms of food, income and environmental security. However, there is considerable evidence that sustainable intensification of small farming systems, using low external inputs, agro-ecological methods and crop diversification can reduce risks and improve food security for smallholder farmers. It is particularly suited to smallholder farmers in ecologically fragile, risk prone areas. In Zimbabwe, poor small farmers who started practising Conservation Agriculture (CA) are achieving yields that are so much higher than farmers who use traditional cultivation techniques that they have gone from food deficits to surpluses. A study carried out by Concern on the impact of CA on food security and livelihoods of smallholder farmers in low potential areas of Zimbabwe in 2008[1] found a dramatic improvement in food security amongst farmers who have successfully adopted CA techniques.[2],[3]

The farmers who adopted CA achieved much higher maize yields than traditional farmers. The extra maize yields contributed to over 60% of the food needs of the very poor and almost 70% of the food needs of the poor in the targeted area. The success of this programme largely hinged on intensive investment in extension services, and careful use of inputs, based on specific guidelines developed by the CA task force. A year on, these farmers went from being production-deficit households to production-surplus households. Each participating village produced on average a surplus equivalent to 179% of the village’s annual food energy needs. This enabled farmers to provide food to surrounding food insecure villages by selling or offering grain as payment for work. Today, these farmers are selling their maize surpluses to aid agencies that distribute food aid, which is incredible evidence of the successes CA can achieve.

Strengthening women’s voices

Despite their central role in agricultural labour, women continue to be marginalised as farmers, land owners and production managers. Women’s marginalisation limits their ability to access to land, credit, financial services and agricultural support – and therefore to increase their asset base. This has wider consequences in limiting women’s rights and power to shape community decisions and policy outcomes. Concern’s work in Liberia and Rwanda has shown that women’s groups can help promote savings and credit groups, access to finance and micro-credit services, and provide extra technical support to women farmers.[4] The benefits of this approach are that women are more likely to receive agricultural support services, they can also sell output collectively, and most importantly there is also a social improvement with facilitating feelings of confidence and solidarity.

Despite the fact that many women can improve their productivity and food security with support, not all women will be able to. The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) and the Ford Foundation have been exploring how a “graduation model” can create pathways out of extreme poverty, by gradually expanding poor people’s access to financing, entrepreneurial and social protection services. The term “graduation” refers to participants moving out of safety net programs and “graduating” into income-earning activities that let them sustain themselves without external subsidies.[5] The graduation model is a successful approach to integrating both safety nets and agricultural support. Concern has been piloting the graduation model exclusively targeting women in Haiti, offering support services such as housing renovation, and agricultural inputs and training and links to business development training. A total of 95% of women graduated and should reach 5,000 women by 2015.

c. Multi-sector interventions

Agriculture is central to achieving food and nutrition security but it cannot solve all of the deeply rooted challenges that perpetuate inequality and vulnerability on its own. Interventions ranging from pre-cooperatives, to training packages, nutrition and social protection can help agriculture achieve its full potential to reduce hunger.

In Rwanda, Concern developed different sets of approaches to improve the productivity of resource-poor farmers including integrated intervention packages, one-to-one field demonstrations, participatory cattle distribution scheme, and pre-cooperative system set up. Findings illustrate that with targeted support; the poorest smallholder farmers can increase food security and productivity. Yet, research results indicates that poor coverage in some agricultural interventions such as extension, irrigation and access to inputs can limit the impact of national level strategies to invest in agriculture. Lack of capacity at the local and district level, a challenge in which development partners can play a role in addressing through capacity building.

In its latest work with farmers, Concern is combining agriculture, micro-finance, cash transfers and business development services together to support a five step pathway out of poverty towards economic development. Although this is still in its early stages in Burundi, research from leading development experts suggests that the graduation model increased standard of living, business income and food security.[6] In this model cash transfers will provide a safety net during the adoption of new production techniques, microfinance will be used to encourage financial discipline and life planning and traditional livelihoods style interventions aimed at improving agricultural production, which have been proved to work, such as conservation agriculture.

Making agriculture work for nutrition

The report should emphasize the role smallholder agriculture can play in preventing undernutrition. The limitations of production-focused agriculture interventions to deliver improved nutrition have been well documented.[7] The evidence is clear that while increased agricultural production and income are probably necessary, they are clearly not sufficient to reduce child under-nutrition.  Far more substantial impacts were achieved when agricultural interventions incorporated non-agricultural components that addressed other determinants of child nutrition.[8] Agricultural interventions aimed at improving nutrition have been undertaken for decades by governments. However, the studies that evaluated these actions presented multiple limitations, making it difficult to fully capture the linkages between nutrition and agriculture, including links with other interventions and activities that may have influenced nutrition outcomes.[9] Uncovering agriculture’s true potential to reach poor communities where malnutrition is chronic, to increase family incomes and to diversify their diets, requires investment in broad-ranging rigorous research.

Concern’s Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project in Zambia is addressing this by integrating agriculture and nutrition/health interventions at all project levels to improve the nutritional status of children during the critical 1,000 days window of opportunity for preventing stunting (from conception until a child reaches its second birthday). The project goes beyond the traditional objectives of food security programmes by empowering women and fostering measureable improvements in nutrition security.

Develop resilient livelihoods

Concern’s work in Haiti aims to move members up through a pathway by which they can continue a slow and steady ascent out of poverty. The first milestone on this pathway is Chemin Lavi Miyo (CLM), which is intended to help members develop resilient livelihoods, social networks, and the life skills necessary to have greater control of their destinies. The second milestone is to graduate to TiKredi, where they are introduced to the disciplines of microfinance, and encouraged to focus on commerce so they continue building a sustainable enterprise that can provide a reliable and regular source of income.

Whilst many development programmes succeed in creating short term physical or social gains, many fail to achieve changes that can be sustained. CLM has certainly succeeded in delivering the inputs that it identified as important in promoting and protecting extremely poor women‘s livelihoods in Haiti. It has also achieved significant positive outcomes over a 24-month period.[10] The key question, however, is whether these improvements can be sustained and whether CLM members will continue on their pathway out of poverty.

  1. Constraints to smallholder investment: are all main constraints presented in the draft? Have important constraints been omitted?

Smallholders’ ability to manage the market, income, climatic and human risks they are exposed to needs to be improved in order to overcome barriers to smallholder investments in agriculture. Disaster risk reduction (prevention, planning and managing) initiatives at the community level can help increase smallholders’ resilience to shocks as well as their ability to plan for, and manage risks better.

a. Vulnerability and risks

The World Development Report 2011 highlights that external shocks, including from volatile commodity markets, migration, illicit transfers of drugs, arms and money and transnational ideological threats can all increase the likelihood of violent conflict breaking out.[11] Fragile and conflict affected countries are at greater risk of both scenarios because they have less capacity to respond to unexpected events, or to prepare for slow onset changes. The populations of both are also, therefore, likely to suffer most from both eventualities. However, little has been done to integrate risk and resilience into agricultural investment planning and development.

In 2011, East Africa faced two consecutive seasons with below-average rainfall, resulting in one of the worst droughts in 60 years. Although the 2011 drought affected the whole region of the Horn of Africa, central and southern Somalia were most affected by the crisis[12]. This was due to a multiple set of factors including drought, conflict, high and volatile global food prices, the region’s reliance on food imports, and the long-term deterioration of coping strategies in local communities.[13]

The majority of the people affected by the food crisis face obstacles to escaping the cycle of poverty and hunger they are trapped in. For most, economic, social and political inequality and marginalisation are at the heart of this challenge. This means the little assets they have are insufficient to create and accumulate income, afford food, health care and education. This increases their vulnerability, but also dissuades them from taking risks that could actually help them escape this cycle.

Smallholder farmers face direct constraints at the farm level – that include rainfall, soil quality, land holdings, remoteness and ill-health. Lacking irrigation, many marginal farmers rely on rainfall to water their crops, making them highly vulnerable to weather pattern changes. Increasingly unpredictable rainfall is leading to reduced output for many marginal farmers. Flooding and droughts damage land and destroy harvests, change traditional planting seasons and lead to long-term loss of assets for many poor people. Marginal farmers often farm in fragile areas with poor soil quality, limiting the number of crops they can grow. Areas of particular concern include the Sahel and savannah areas of Africa, transitional ecosystems which are subject to long-term alternating cycles of desert expansion and contraction that are not well understood, but which are home to large, and growing, farming populations

Increased rural population densities in many areas have reduced the size of landholdings for farmers, meaning that plot sizes are sometimes so small they can no longer sustain a family. This reduction in the size of landholdings and resulting competition for land has pushed marginal farmers to cultivate unsuitable land on steep slopes, flood-prone land and arid areas. Many marginal farmers live in remote areas with poor infrastructure such as roads, electricity and storage facilities. Due to their location they face constraints over access to inputs such as seeds and fertilisers, credit and other services, and are often unable to take advantage of new market opportunities to sell their produce. Ill-health can also seriously undermine the efforts of the poorest farmers, especially those with limited labour. HIV & AIDS, malnutrition, malaria and anaemia can all reduce the productive potential of the rural poor, as well as increase the household caring tasks for women marginal farmers.

If measures are not taken to improve early response, to protect livelihoods and loss of assets, all other efforts to strengthen resilience and the gains of development will be wiped out, and the numbers of vulnerable households locked into chronic food insecurity will increase. In addition, early warning systems, including indicators of severe and moderate malnutrition levels, as well as malnutrition response action plans that set out precise triggers, processes, and responsible stakeholders must be put in place to improve people’s ability to respond and bounce-back from extreme weather events, high food prices, and other risks.

b. Enhancing resilience

One-off shocks that have a short-term impact (e.g. illness, natural disaster), and shocks that have a more permanent, longer term effect upon a household (e.g. death, serious and recurring illnesses). By resilience, we refer mainly to a household‘s ability to cope with short-term shocks, as long-term shocks can debilitate even the strongest of households.

According to the United Nations (UN) resilience is “the ability of a system, community or society exposed to hazards to resist, absorb, accommodate and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of its essential basic structures and functions”.[14] Addressing resilience as part of smallholder agriculture, particularly at community level, has the potential to unite the sectors of development, humanitarian and environment necessary to prevent disasters and deliver long-term sustainable solutions. It requires a holistic view or systemic approach to reducing vulnerability, mitigating risk and addressing inequality.

In Kenya recurrent droughts have eroded people’s livelihoods, assets and coping strategies. However, a survey revealed that severe acute and global acute malnutrition (SAM and GAM respectively) in the district of Moyale were much lower than in neighbouring districts with similar conditions. As drought cycles have shortened, the need for a more flexible approach to planning, responding to, and recovering from droughts has become clearer.[15] Concern’s community-based approach to disaster and risks has helped reduce malnutrition and improve resilience in the long-term. Resilience practices include using drought-resistant crops and diversifying  livestock, conflict resolution in management of natural resources particularly water, including potential to exploit public–private partnerships, as well as developing trigger indicators to inform health and nutrition interventions at times of crisis, and flexible planning and funding.

c. Protecting assets during shocks and emergencies

There has been a growing recognition that in situations of chronic food insecurity institutionalised social protection programmes are more efficient and effective than repeated annual emergency food aid.[16] Social protection programmes like cash transfers, can help smooth consumption and sustain spending on essentials in lean periods without families having to resort to selling their assets or other negative coping mechanisms. They have the potential to help poor households save, invest in productive assets and obtain better credit terms. Ethiopia has used its high growth rates to make significant progress in reducing poverty. A contributing factor has been Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). Ethiopia recently added early warning and contingency planning functions for triggering a scaling up of PSNP interventions in response to emergencies. Resilience makes safety net/social protection programming both developmental and humanitarian.[17]

[1] Concern Worldwide, Food Security and Livelihoods Recovery Programme: end of programme evaluation. Stephen Brown, FEG Consulting, November 2008.

[2] P. Wagstaff and M. Harty, The Impact of Conservation Agriculture on Food Security in three low veldt districts of Zimbabwe, Trócaire Development Review 2010.

[3] Note: due to data variability observed, data quality is being reviewed by Concern Worldwide.

[4] Farming for Impact, a case study of smallholder agriculture in Rwanda, Concern Worldwide (UK), London 2011.

[5] Creating Pathways for the Poorest: Early Lessons on Implementing the Graduation Model, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, Washington DC, 2009.

[6] E. Duflo, Targeting the ultra-poor : impact assessment, preliminary results, Global Graduation Meeting, July 18th, 2012.

[7] World Bank, From Agriculture to Nutrition: Pathways, Synergies and Outcomes, Washington DC, 2008.

[8] World Bank, From Agriculture to Nutrition: Pathways, Synergies and Outcomes, Washington DC, 2008.

[9] Masset E, Haddad L, Cornelius A and Isaza-Castro J, A systematic review of agricultural interventions that aim to improve nutritional status of children. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, 2011.

[10] Chemin Levi Miyo, 24 months evaluation, Concern Worldwide and Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, 2012

[11] World Bank, World Development Report 2011 (2011), p 217-240.

[12] J. Mosley, Translating early warning into early action, East Africa Report, Chatham House, London 2012.

[13] D. Maxwell, M. Fitzpatrick, The 2011 Somalia famine: Context, causes, and complications, Global Food Security, 5–12, 2012.

[14] United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2007.

[15] W. Erasmus, L. Mpoke and Y. Yishak, Mitigating the impact of drought in Moyale District, Northern Kenya, Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, Issue 53, March 2012, Overseas Development Institute, London, 2012.

[16] DFID, Cash Transfers Evidence Paper’, DFID, London, 2011.

[17] Intermon Oxfam, Définition du Cadre d’orientation stratégique de moyens d’existence (COSME) en Afrique de l’Ouest (Sahel), Avril 2010.


UNSCN Secretariat Team , Switzerland
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 ( Investing in agriculture is one of the most effective strategies for reducing poverty and hunger and promoting sustainability (; 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).

Juan Carlos Garcia y Cebolla and Frank Mischler FAO, Italy
FSN Forum

We wish to congratulate the HLPE for its paper on investment in smallholder agriculture, especially the analytical framework.

While most issues are included in the paper, we would suggest that the executive summary first section of the paper (first section of the paper: “The importance of smallholder agriculture”) already points out that the prevalence of undernourishment among members of smallholder families is very high. Although they are food producers, very often they are net food buyers, especially shortly before the harvest.

The reason for their deprivation are lack of access to electricity, no safe drinking water, inadequate public health, education and sanitation services, lack of access to productive resources and  dismal rural infrastructure. Investment that should benefit stallholder farmers should directly address the underlying causes of malnutrition mentioned above. As the report rightly points out: most investment in smallholder agriculture is realized by smallholders themselves. One could add, that the resources invested directly benefit the local community in two ways: 1. Most resources invested are derived from the local economy investment and 2. Many of the investment don’t benefit only the farmers but the community as a whole. Improved infrastructure, like tertiary roads, or maintenance works of wells and water reservoirs may serve as examples.

The report talks about the main reasons why farmers can’t increase their investment (para 9). Two constraints could be added to this list. First, investment by smallholders is a high-risk action. Smallholders often have no access to credit or suffer from inferior conditions. If return on investment is lower than expected, smallholders may face serious consequences. Second, smallholders operate in an inadequate environment as basic public services are lacking.

The report highlights social protection and other policies that reduce their exposure to risk, enabling them to invest and explore other opportunities. Many times they are characterized as risk adverse. The reality is that their exposure to risk is so high that taking more risk would be fatal for them. It also has consequences when designing and implementing extension and R&D programs that could be adequate to their needs and context, it is not only a question of low cost innovation, risk faced that could affect their livelihoods is critical.

From a human rights perspective this needs to be corrected. State parties to the International Covenant on economic, Social and Cultural Rights have subscribed to the commitment to progressively realize the right to food. This includes the obligation to invest the maximum of available resources (Art. 2, ICESCR) to this aim. In the 2004 Right to Food Guidelines (“Voluntary Guidelines on the Progressive realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the context of National food Security”), state parties to FAO further agreed to their obligation to create an enabling environment that allows all women, men and children to feed themselves in dignity. With respect to smallholders this includes policies, strategies and programmes that directly support them, as well as establishing and maintaining a governance system that offers basic public services and minimizes undue risks.

We applaud the authors of the paper for considering ‘access to social, economic, and political rights’ in addition to access to financial resources and access to markets and services. Too often development experts maintain a purely economic or technical perspective, forgetting that smallholders, first and foremost, are rights holders that need (i) their basic human rights met in order to have the necessary security to look ahead; (ii) economic fairness to build resilience and gain market access/share; and (iii) to participate in decision making processes that concern them and make their voice heard. One could add the dimension of cultural human rights that encompass rights related to themes such as language; participation in cultural life; cultural heritage; intellectual property rights, among others.

You also reflect the need of recognition and enforcement of rights regarding existing rights on land and resources, making an explicit mention to the  Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security would provide clearer guidance on this issue.

A saying goes that ‘a right is only a right if it can be claimed’. In reality however, poor rights holders, such as smallholder farmer, lack adequate access to justice. The national smallholder investment programe proposed by the HLPE, or existing programs should include grievance and redress mechanism that are accessible to poor individuals at a local level, do not require undue investment of human and financial resources and don’t put the claimant at risk. In addition to legal recourse mechanisms, administrative recourse mechanisms could be incorporated into program design as well as support for mediation of less serious offences.

About the typology presented: all the typologies have some trade offs. It is useful, addresses diversity  provides elements that made it operative, and allows to look to the key elements needed for a Human Right based approach.

We are aware that useful reports need to be concise, but maybe you consider useful to include some considerations related to the regional (international level) regarding to two specific points: regional mechanism or initiatives like CAADP in Africa, or ECADERT in Central America, just to mention two examples, and the specificities of boundary territories.

With kind regards

Juan Carlos Garcia y Cebolla and Frank Mischler

(Right to Food Experts in FAO’s Agricultural Development Economics Division (ESA))

Laurent Levard GRET, France
FSN Forum
  1. Definition and significance of Smallholder agriculture : is the approach in the report adequate ?
  • Utile et pertinente définition  des SHF (small-holder farmers), et notamment le fait qu’il s’agit d’agriculteurs familiaux (avec les différentes implications en termes de non séparation des sphères de la production et de la reproduction sociale de la famille).
  • Sur le rôle de l’intérêt de l’AF (SHF) pour la sécurité alimentaire : l’argumentation se base sur les rendements (yields). Ils sont certes définis (« physical production per unit of land »). Mais il faut aller plus loin pour ne pas créer de confusion : préciser qu’il s’agit de la production i) totale par unité de surface (intégrant a) toutes les productions des cultures associées et b) les productions animales permises par la valorisation d’une partie de la production végétale et des sous-produits et ii) annuelle, c’est-à-dire tenant compte de la succession de différents cycles productifs dans l’année. En effet, la supériorité de l’AF par rapport aux autres types d’agriculture est souvent en partie liée à ces questions, elle ne peut être démontrée en se contentant de comparer deux niveaux de rendements de maïs, part exemple. Attention donc à l’utilisation du concept de « yield gap » p. 59).
  • Sur l’intérêt de l’AF (point 2.2.) il manque une question centrale : la richesse produite par l’AF, mesurée en termes de valeur ajoutée annuelle par unité de surface. L’intensité en travail de l’AF et le recours à des intrants internes à l’exploitation (fourrages, fumiers) se traduit souvent non seulement par de meilleurs rendements à l’hectare (cf ci-dessus), mais aussi (et dans des proportions accrues) par une plus grande VA à l’hectare, en comparaison à d’autres types d’agriculture. Si l’on considère que la terre constitue souvent le facteur limitant (immédiatement ou potentiellement, car non extensible), l’efficience de la production par rapport à ce facteur de production (et donc la VA/ha/année) doit être considérée comme un critère central d’efficience économique (et, indirectement d’impact sur la sécurité alimentaire SA)
  • Il manque également dans cette partie 2. (2.2. bis, mais cela peut aussi être intégré dans le 2.1., car a un impact sur la SA) : le rôle de l’AF en termes de préservation et amélioration de la fertilité du milieu. Il faut mentionner l’intérêt fondamental des SHF à reproduire cette fertilité (à la différence d’autres types d’agriculture qui ne visent que le profit de court-terme) et donc de son impact sur le potentiel productif à venir. La question des impacts écologiques est abordée en 2.4. (« revisiting energy efficiency issue ») mais en abordant qu’un aspect partiel.
  • La question de l’intérêt de l’AF du point de vue de l’emploi (partie 2.2. p. 28) mériterait d’être renforcée, en enlevant le « probably » . Et en soulignant que cet impact sur l’emploi va de paire avec un impact en termes de distribution plus équitable des revenus dans la société (dans une société ou tout le monde travaille, il y a plus de chance d’avoir une plus juste répartition des revenus et d’avoir moins de très pauvres), et donc aussi en termes de SA.
  1. Framework for Smallholder agriculture and related investments : is the tipology useful, adequate and accessible for the problem at hand ?
  • Utile et pertinent de mentionner les grandes catégories d’investissements pour la petite agriculture. Notamment le fait que le travail agricole lui-même, quand il permet d’accroître et d’améliorer les ressources productives (y compris la fertilité de l’écosystème), constitue un investissement (P. 36)
  • Pertinent de souligner le rôle central donné aux investissements par les agriculteurs eux-mêmes
  • A deux reprises (p. 31 et 32), il y a une posture « sur la défensive » sur les engrais chimiques et «conventional intensification» : cela demanderait une démonstration / explication plus en accord avec la tonalité du reste du document.
  • Les investissements dans le savoir-faire devraient être davantage développés. Les concepts de « research and extension » utilisés à plusieurs reprises, devraient être accompagnés de la mention des échanges d’expériences entre agriculteurs. (mentionné également en réponse à la question 4).
  1. Constraints to smallholder investment: are all main constraints presented in the draft? Have important constraints been omitted?
  • Utile et pertinente analyse des trois types de risques
  • Utile et pertinente analyse des freins à l’investissement : faiblesse des ressources productives elle-même ; risques ; environnement économique, social ; environnement institutionnel
  • Utile mention de la volatilité des prix agricoles et du niveau des prix eux-mêmes (mais ce dernier aspect devrait aussi être repris dans le résumé)
  • Dans le résumé, réintégrer la question de la nécessité de prix rémunérateurs (ne pas parler que de volatilité) (bien présent dans le texte lui-même).
  • P. 37., 3.2. paragraphe suivant « the different types of capital/assets », 1ere ligne : « labor force » et non « labor ».
  • P. 38. (partie 3.3. « What type of investment ?”, 3.3.1. “Investment and productivity”) : il manque une véritable analyse de la façon dont les différent types de techniques / d’investissements influent sur la valeur ajoutée annuelle par unité de surface et sur la productivité du travail, en différentiant notamment :
  • i. Les investissements permettant un accroissement de la valeur ajoutée par unité de surface et par cycle de production, (via a) une augmentation des rendements, b) une meilleure valorisation de la production, ou encore c) une diminution de certains coûts)
  • ii. Les investissements permettant de multiplier les cycles de production sur une même surface au cours de l’année,
  • iii. Les investissements permettant de remplacer du travail humain et ainsi a) d’accroître la surface cultivée par actif, b) de mieux réaliser le travail (=> impact de type i)) ou de c) réduire la pénibilité du travail  (de dernier point est mentionné dans le texte, mais pas les autres)

Il s’agit en effet d’investissements de nature bien différente qui répondent à des situations particulières que peuvent mettre en évidence des typologies de producteurs. De plus, les investissements en i. et ii. Peuvent avoir un effet immédiat ou différé (accroissement de la fertilité des sols, amélioration génétique, etc.). Or ce type d’analyse du type d’investissement (at farm level, mais pas seulement, on peut aussi raisonner des investissements publics ou investissements privés en amont et en aval de la production sur cette base) répondant aux différentes réalités est bien souvent absent (ce qui amène à des recommandations techniques non adaptées).

A ce titre, les 2 paragraphes qui se suivent en (de « For smallholder agriculture… » à « … more labor intensive options ») et qui abordent la question de l’agroécologie mériteraient d’être mieux structurés et argumentés (et certaines conclusions discutées) à l’aide de ce type de distinction des différents types d’investissement.

D’une façon général, cette approche pourrait utilement aider à structurer et compléter la partie

  • Il est fait mention des acquisition de terres (p. 43), en les qualifiant d’investissements. Attention, il importe de bien préciser que, au niveau d’un individu, acquérir des terres représente bien un investissement, mais que, du point de vue social (de la société), il n’y a pas « investissement », c’est-à-dire accroissement du capital (qu’il soit économique, « naturel», « social » ou « humain »), mais simple transfert de propriété ou de droit d’usage.
  1. Are the main areas for recommandations and the priority domains for action adequate? Does the draft include sufficient information at the adequate level to support the policy messages?
  • Pertinence des recommandations.
  • Utile mention du rôle donné à l’amélioration des conditions de vie elle-même des familles (et donc rôle des politiques sociales)
  • Utile mention de l’importance de disposer de bonnes typologies de producteurs
  • Utile mention des limites et risques de l’agriculture contractuelle (et non seulement son intérêt)
  • Dans le résumé, réintégrer la nécessité de subventionner les investissements des SHF (via intérêts bonifiés ou autre) (mentionné dans le texte)
  • Financement de l’agriculture (p. 51). Mentionner la nécessité dans de nombreuses situations de subventionner les investissements compte tenu des montants qu’ils impliquent et de leur effet différé. (mais, c’est bien mentionné p. 55)
  • Les financements dans les infrastructures et services permettant de réguler les marchés agricoles (dispositifs de stockage, d’information sur les marchés, etc.) sont à peine effleurés. Ils sont pourtant très importants. La partie 5.2.4. doit donc être renforcée.
  • Les investissements dans le savoir-faire devraient être davantage développés. Les concepts de « research and extension » utilisés à plusieurs reprises, devraient être accompagnés de la mention des échanges d’expériences entre agriculteurs (mentionné également en réponse à la question 2).
Alexandre MEYBECK FAO, Italy
Alexandre MEYBECK

I would first like to thank the HLPE for calling for contributions at this stage of the process, while they can still be usefull. It is especially welcome as this draft already contains a summary and first tentative recommendations.

 At this stage, the draft provides broad and interesting elements on the topic, although still academic especially in some sections. The invitation to provide references and evidence based examples is thus  particularly welcome.

1) The approach adopted in the report on the definition is adequate especially as it recognizes the diversity and heterogeneity of small holders agriculture. Keeping in mind the object and audience of the report, some points could deserve further consideration.

A clear, simple and operational definition of “small holder” by the HLPE would be particularly usefull, not only for this report but, more generally, for the on going work of CFS and the HLPE. There is often a need to have a clear understanding of what small holder agriculture covers, or something akin to it, see for instance box 1 of the Climate Change and food security report “what is a small scale farm?”  It could then be framed in various contexts and confronted to other notions such as “family farming” for instance. Such notions, after been defined, should then be used consistently all along the report.

The significance of small holder agriculture and the importance of investment would be gain by framed in the broader perspectives of agricultural development and its role as a driver of economic development (World Bank, 2008). It is of particular relevance since a report dealing with investment has to be forward looking and account for the need for agriculture to answer a growing global demand, driven by population and income growth, and to feed a population which is increasingly urbanized. This creates opportunities for the agricultural sector with specific challenges for small holder agriculture. Among the questions to be addressed here, as raised by some contributions is how best to answer the growing demand for food and agricultural products, what role could small holders play and at what conditions? This is very linked to the very future envisaged for small holders agriculture, with very contrasting visions and evolutions, often regional or country specific. The report describes some examples of evolution of the size of the farms. May be it could go a bit further and attempt to delineate possible futures of farming, including small holders, as determined by broad trends, including population growth.

In that perspective, the significance of small holder farming as job provider is mentioned but could be further stressed. The role of agriculture development and especially of small holders as a driver of rural and economic development should also be recalled here. Especially as (see below) investments in small holder farms and for small holders are intrinsically linked: often small holders investments drive/are conditioned by, the development of small local enterprises providing them inputs and services and transforming, trading, their products.

2) These considerations could lead to reconsider the formulation of recommendation 18 of a National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework. This could not be isolated from a broader vision of agriculture, rural and economic development. As small holders are not isolated from the rest of agriculture, nor indeed from economy, a vision of small holder agriculture should be part, and in many countries the essential part, of a Vision for agriculture. Such a perspective is also supported by the fact that, often, the lack of investment for small holder agriculture was often only the result of a lack of interest for agriculture in general. The biggest players, whether big farmers, land owners or industry having their own capacities to invest or drive investment.

3) The report raises the extremely interesting and important question of the legal status of “farming” and of small holders. This would deserve more thorough analyzes as it is of considerable relevance to facilitate and secure investments. Examples are specific tax regime for farming activities in many developed countries, protection of agricultural land in Quebec, specific land tenure regime in France for instance.

4) A framework for smallholder agriculture and related investments could be very usefull to help understand specific situations and design specific policies and actions.  

Such a framework should take into account the broader systems of which smallholders are part, territorial, particularly relevant for natural resources management and public investments but also food chains which are driving economic relationships. This last dimension is not very present and could gain in being explored.

It could also benefit from a clearer typology of investments, distinguishing short term investments (for instance seeds and fertilizer for next season) and long term investments such as land restoration or trees for instance, distinguishing material investment from immaterial (education, knowledge sharing).

5) There is also a need to clearly identify investments to be done by smallholders themselves, from those which are needed to support them or make them possible, either by the public sector or by the private sector.

This last point would deserve more attention. Investments by small holders can trigger and be facilitated by the creation of small local enterprises, often providing jobs and income to women to provide inputs or transform output. Among other examples the adoption of metallic silos for crop and root storage, promoted by FAO, NGOs  and other development agencies not only reduces post harvest losses and improves the capacity of farmers to interact with markets; it also provides new job opportunities for rural youngs, including often small holders and drives the creation of small enterprises (Mjia 2008, Tadele 2011). Another example is the creation of local seed enterprises which both trigger local production of seeds, adapted to the needs and demands of small holders, providing added value to local seed multiplicators creates additional sources of income and increase efficiency and resilience of production (Van Mele et al 2011, FAO 2010). 

Such a typology could help distinguish the investments which depend on other investments, whether by other small holders in the same territory, by other private actors, either as input providers or output buyers or transformers, or by public actors. This could identify where collective (as a group of farmers or a food chain/sector) or public action is a condition for small holder investment or could facilitate it.

6) The draft does appear to contain main constraints to smallholder investment. Some of these could deserve more consideration.

Among the first constraints for smallholders investments is probably their exposure and vulnerability to numerous risks which limits both their capacity and the willingness of other actors to invest. Agriculture is exposed to physical risks, weather, plant pests, animal diseases, economic risks, price volatility of both inputs (energy, fertilizers) and outputs (Eldin et al. 1989, OECD 2009). Small holders in developing countries are particularly vulnerable because they lack assets. Their land tenure is often insecure. Access to basic inputs such as seeds and fertilizers is often irregular. They often lack the public services (veterinary services, pest monitoring) which could manage risks (monitor, prevent, act early to prevent their spreading). These vulnerabilities often add themselves.

The importance of vulnerability of small holders has been underlined by the HLPE, both in its report on climate Change and food security and in its report on social protection. This last report give examples showing how improving resilience of households can facilitate investment. A workshop organized by FAO and OECD in 2012 discussed various risks to which agriculture is prone. It shows how public policies can reduce vulnerabilities, thus facilitating investment. These policies would deserve more consideration in 4.3 and 5.2.4 should not be restricted to “reducing economic risks”.

This initial remark could lead to consider slightly differently the three lines representing diversity (fig 14). What is important in “assets” is not only the quantity but the degree of protection against risk. Assets totally invested in livestock are at risk of drought or diseases. Security of land tenure could be, especially considered towards investment, as important as the land itself. In “markets”, the balance of power between actors, often determined by relative economic size, is crucial. In both cases “institutions” can play a regulating role, protecting assets, limiting risks (both natural and economic) and ensuring fair rules of the game.

Given its importance for investment, land tenure would deserve to be specifically considered. Not only does insecurity of land tenure limit the willingness to invest in land management (including land restoration, agroforestry,…), it often prevents it as a transformation of the land could be resented by the “owner” as a form of appropriation. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security recently adopted by CFS would deserve to be mentioned here. The legal status of trees and their protection could also be a determining factor in the development of agroforestry for instance.

7) Finally, the report could be very useful for CFS if it could “make the case” for why, or under what conditions, investments in smallholder agriculture are part of “responsible agricultural investments”. The analysis and recommendations of the HLPE report could appropriately feed into the undergoing work of the CFS, which intends to lead to the adoption, in 2014, of  “principles for responsible agricultural investments”.

8) The 2008 World Development Report of the World Bank was a milestone in reviving the proofs and the message that Agriculture was key to Development, but that this required a “productivity revolution in smallholder farming”, together with more sustainable practices and more competitiveness. Which many interpreted “smallholders have to grow”. This report could be the second milestone if it manages back-up the traditional “pro-smallholders” thinking, in making the proof that for economic, environmental or social reasons, smallholder agriculture is not going to vanish but has to be part of plan, if not a main part - and how-  for the future of agriculture, and balanced economic development,  in various regions, North and South. For this it needs to appropriately document (with credible references, economic, social and environmental evidence-base) justify and back-up the “pro-poor” and “small is beautiful” approaches (logical from a political/ethical point of view, but often challenged by economic rationales) used to discriminate between “good” versus “bad” investments, and the directions which smallholder agriculture, and as part of this agriculture in general, has to follow .


  • Eldin, M. & Milleville, P., eds. 1989. Le risque en agriculture. Paris, ORSTOM. 619 p.
  • FAO 2010, Promoting the Growth and Development of Smallholder Seed Enterprises for Food Security Crops, case studies from Brazil, Côte d’Ivoire and India. FAO Plant production and protection paper 201.
  • OECD. 2009. Managing risk in agriculture: a holistic approach. Paris.
  • Tadele Tefera*, Fred Kanampiu, Hugo De Groote, Jon Hellin, Stephen Mugo, Simon Kimenju, Yoseph Beyene, Prasanna M. Boddupalli, Bekele Shiferaw, Marianne Banziger. The metal silo: An effective grain storage technology for reducing post-harvest insect and pathogen losses in maize while improving smallholder farmers’ food security in developing countries Crop Protection, Volume 30, Issue 3, March 2011, Pages 240–245
  • World Bank. 2008. World Development Report 2008, Agriculture for Development. The World Bank, Washington, D.C.