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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.

Oxfam International ,
FSN Forum

Oxfam inputs on the CFS HLPE Zero draft report ‘Investing in smallholder agriculture for food and nutrition security’

The theme covered by this HLPE report is absolutely crucial to achieve food and nutrition security. In fact, small scale food producers are a key actor to ensure that everybody has enough to eat today and in the future. Adopting adequate policies and provide necessary public investments should be a top priority for both national governments and international organizations.
The report includes very useful analysis and recommendations. However, there are a number of very significant issues and gaps that need to be addressed in order to ensure that the final version of the report will provide comprehensive analysis and evidence-based recommendations to policy makers.

Positive aspects to the report

We welcome that the report covers some very important points in supporting sustainable, equitable, and resilient small-scale food production:

  • Smallholders have been too frequently neglected in policy and public investment despite the opportunity to invest in them for poverty reduction, food security, and sustainability.
  • Investment in smallholders requires development of a national program that is country specific, comprehensive, broadly owned, and backed up by political support.
  • Smallholders’ own investments dwarf other investments in agriculture and public investment is critical for leveraging them.
  • Political voice of smallholders is often lacking yet absolutely critical to ensure that they are represented in decision-making processes at all levels that affect them.
  • Producer organisations are incredibly important for reducing smallholder risks while increasing their power in markets and should therefore be supported by policy and investment.
  • It is critical for public investments to help smallholders overcome constraints to accessing resources and services.
  • The report highlights the importance of the complementarity of non-agricultural rural services (education, healthcare, water and sanitation, and social protection) for poverty reduction and improving productivity of smallholders.
  • The need for support to informal markets is discussed as a priority for smallholders.
  • The importance of diversification of production to improve nutritional status.
  • Research and extension must prioritize smallholders.

Critical areas missing or inadequately represented
We are disappointed that the current version falls very far short in some incredibly critical areas for sustainable, equitable, and resilient smallholder development. The following elements should be addressed in the final version of the report.

  • Gender – Women are literally mentioned only once on page 47 as bearing much of the workload. This is a very serious gap that risks undermining dramatically the value of the entire report. Women are often not seen as ‘productive’ farmers, and do not receive recognition for their unpaid farm work. This, among other factors (including unequal land rights), has led them to have less access to natural resources, extension services, information, markets, and financial services than men. For example, women account for only 10–20% of land owners. Women also bear a disproportionate burden of care and reproductive roles, and are disproportionately impacted by poverty and hunger. Empowering women means increasing their participation and leadership, for example in producer organisations. It also requires that more women benefit from access to productive resources – for example, through appropriate training methods and equal property
  • rights. It also includes tailoring interventions to account for the multiple roles they play and specific barriers they face. Ring-fenced funding for women smallholders, collecting sex disaggregated data to track progress, and removing existing policies that unintentionally reinforce gender discrimination are also critical. Food security cannot be reached without addressing the specific constraints that women face.
  • Environmental sustainability/building resilience – Although it is mentioned in passing a few times, it is not really addressed by the report, which is a huge failing considering the threats of soil degradation, water pollution, biodiversity loss, and climate change to smallholders. None of these issues are addressed, yet they represent absolutely critical investment needs, largely by the public sector, but increasingly by the private sector as well. Agroecology is only mentioned once on page 59, although support for agroecological approaches is widely seen as the most critical way to move forward on ensuring both increased production, environmental sustainability of production systems, and reduction of input costs for smallholders. The need for support of adaptation to climate change and practices/techniques that can be promoted to build resilience is completely missing. While diversification is mentioned for nutrition, the report fails to recognize the critical role diversification plays in building resilience to climate and economic shocks and thereby reducing risk for smallholders. In the recommendation section, subsidies for fertilizer are supported yet there are no recommendations for support to sustainable approaches like agroecology. Rebuilding innovative extension services and reforming R&D to achieve wide-scale uptake of agroecological practices is a good place to start.
  • Governance – There is not enough on regulation of investments that severely disadvantage or harm smallholders and the environment. For example, regulations on corporate concentration, environmental pollution, taxing corporate actors, etc. The policy environment can either drive negative or positive investment. Therefore, policymakers have a critical challenge: develop policy that supports small-scale producers and draws in private investors to inclusive and sustainable investments. This can be done in three ways: 1) Supporting smallholders’ access to land/water/natural resources, infrastructure, services like finance/extension, and oversight of contracts; 2) Setting the rights climate for positive investment, for example regulations to protect the environment and incentives to encourage sustainable agriculture like reforming extension services and R&D; and 3) Once investments are made, markets must be governed so they work better for smallholders.
  • Power in markets – The report seems to see producer organisations as largely useful in contract farming. This misses the point. Power imbalances mean that large investments in land, agriculture and food processing often marginalise or displace smallholders rather than work with them. However, even where smallholders are included, the reality is that the most powerful in the supply chain usually extract the majority of profits while pushing a disproportionate share of the risks onto the least powerful – the smallholders. Interventions that address power imbalances include supporting producer organisations, investing in training and access to resources, and supporting the development of local wholesale and wet markets, for example through investment in storage infrastructure and hygiene facilities. Evidence shows that smallholders are better able to access these markets, and that these markets act as effective intermediaries, in linking smallholders to more formal markets.
  • Access issues – While financial services are important, they are overemphasised in the report to the detriment of other critical access issues for smallholders - natural resources, services like extension and R&D, information/knowledge on sustainable approaches, market information, targeting access of women, etc. These other access issues are scattered throughout the document, but are left out of the conclusions. .
  • Support for local markets, staple food crops and diversified cropping – Although support for informal markets is discussed, the section falls short of including diversified markets for a variety of crops most important to poor people, particularly women. Dependence on international markets can be risky for small-scale farmers. At the same time, local and regional markets are growingi, so small-scale producers can improve incomes by focusing on food crops. And, diversifying crops makes smallholders less vulnerable to economic and climatic shocks. For instance, in Ethiopia, studies have shown that focusing on improving productivity of food staples has a greater impact on poverty than increasing the production of high-value products.
  • Public investment – Socially-oriented investments in the report are seen only as those of healthcare, education, and social safety nets. However, services such as innovative extension services and R&D focusing on crops most important to poor people/women/biodiversity and promoting agroecological practices are also providing incredibly important ‘social goods’. Further, the ‘public goods provision’ section misses several key pieces: extension, R&D, storage, and market information. Massive public investment in agriculture is desperately needed to help fix the broken food system. The FAO estimates that $42.7bn annual additional public investment in agriculture is needed to Zero Hunger by 2025.
  • Private investment - Private sector investment in agriculture can play a positive role in delivering inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction if 1) ‘do no harm’ criteria is fulfilled by companies; and 2) a good regulatory environment is in place. ‘Do no harm’ criteria include ensuring workers’ rights and respecting the rights of local communities. Focusing investment on small-scale farmers, particularly women, can have even greater outcomes for poverty reduction. However, in order to do so, it requires 1) business models that adhere to some key principles; 2) government regulation; and 3) government investment. Key principles include: focusing on staple food crops and diversified cropping; investing in local and regional markets; working with producer organisations; investing in processing; investing in access to services and focusing R&D on what is appropriate for small-scale producers; investing in sustainable agriculture; and empowering women.
  • CFS rai - There is no mention of the CFS principles of responsible agriculture investment process and how this paper links to that process. Yet, it is an incredibly important multi-stakeholder process to develop principles that can guide better investments in agriculture, including smallholder agriculture.
  • Country investment plans - It is unclear how the ‘National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework’ links with many already-developed Country Agricultural Investment Plans (CIPs), including CAADP plans in Africa. Is the new framework meant to be a smallholder-focused addendum to those plans? Further, there is too much emphasis that these national plans should focus on all types of holdings including corporations and agro-industries. Government plans should focus policy and resources on supporting the poorest and most marginalized farmers – the poorest of women and men small-scale producers. It would be more desirable to build on already existing processes and propose what elements should be included in CIPs that are existing or under development.
  • Making the case for smallholders – The first part of the paper appears to be making the case for the importance of smallholder production. Yet, it does not mention a critical argument for smallholders, which is the economic multiplier effect of investing in them. In fact, growth in small-scale agriculture has twice the effect on the poorest as growth in other sectors. It also fails to discuss the gender equity and resilience-building opportunities that smallholder agriculture can provide.
  • Land appropriation – Land appropriation is mentioned in a small paragraph on page 51, but is an increasing and incredibly critical problem facing smallholders, particularly considering that the report promotes contract farming, which when done badly can be a tool used to push smallholders off of their land. There is no mention of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure Governance and the need to invest in their implementation. Further, all investments must ensure the rights of workers and communities are supported, notably through the implementation of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent for all communities.
  • Public Private Partnerships are increasingly being implemented. It would be very useful for decision-makers if the report provide some analysis on this trend and provide recommendations on how to ensure that PPPs do not undermine and in fact support the progressive realization of the right to food.

i Nigerian farmers, for instance, can produce and deliver soybeans to Ibadan, a local city, at 62% of the cost of imported soybeans.

Aksel Naerstad Development Fund, Norway
Aksel Naerstad

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

From The Royal Norwegian Society for Development (Norges Vel), and The Development Fund (Utviklingsfondet), Norway.

The document on Investing in smallholder  agriculture  for food and nutrition security is extremely timely and a precious contribution to the current approaches. It brings invaluable ideas, concepts and definitions which will greatly contribute to the work of those working in this field.

The paper should be improved:  The document does not focus enough on investing per se and is too general in too many domains related to smallholder agriculture. Because of this the document looses power. Most of the recommendations are not for investing but for everything related to SMALLHOLDER agriculture.

See the attachment for more comments and suggestions for improvements

Dr. Philip McMichael Cornell University, United States of America

Here are some comments in the form of notes corresponding first to points in the Summary and Recommendations, and then page numbers. I hope they are useful



       Comments on smallholder investment report



Pt 5: very important to note SH involvement in markets, but not always equally.

12: Political dimension could also include democratic control over agricultures in accordance with national food security, & SH viability, objectives

14. Neglect and ignorance of SH existence and potential should be brought forward as a framing issue. Instead of starting with a definition as in #1, why not begin with the observation that the condition of the SH is first and foremost a condition of neglect and misunderstanding. A social, cultural and ecological blindspot to be blunt!

15. Suggest adding: and concern with overcrowding slums, and an opportunity also for economic and social ‘multipliers’ in rural regions/territories.

20. and markets at local levels? (less susceptible to export strategies)

28. Introduce the idea of investment in the smallholder commons rather than simply distinguishing vulnerable and ‘well off’ – especially given advocacy of collective action in 29 and Fig 1.


Specific Recommendations

Pt 32. managing technical risks also requires particular farming practices over and above policies and tools.

33. involvement of banks and financial systems needs close regulation to avoid indebtedness.

35. important to emphasize new markets as new growth areas (especially in global North, attracting new SHs)

38. strengthening democratic SH organizations good – but why number 38?  This issue of voice/representations needs to frame many of the other dimensions/recommendations.




16 – Future visioning of agriculture could be brought forward to organize/shape the introduction of SH as vital to food security, employment, energy efficiency, rural vitality and environmental stewardship

17 Multifunctionality a critical part of revisioning agriculture

26 Why not emphasize the ecological importance of mixed farming?

28, 2.2 – important point about SH potential to contribute to domestic food security and employment,

29 and about adequate conditions for market participation.

Also critical point regarding differentiating types of markets, to ‘de-naturalize’ the globalized agrifood markets often considered the only (viable) market, and underline the significance of differentiating necessary investments for SH to participate in different agr markets

34 Why wouldn’t an agr-led development strategy consider reducing the export of family members and strengthen farming communities, rather than take for granted the 65% SH in LAmerica who increasingly depend on off-farm income?

3. Framework for SH Agr and Investments

36 An important point to argue that for SH capital formation is labor-driven, as it sets up the argument for paying attention to gender equity, health & social protections: this theme is critical and it speaks to the issue of recognition of the potential and rights of SHs.

39 emphasis on collective investment important – landscape management and SH organizations, eg. What about supporting seed exchanges, commons?

40 Important to emphasize social safety nets etc as a right for SH often neglected in urban-centered programs, and assumed to be failing (cf p 44)

41 emphasis on laws/regulations in corporate/SH relationship important – may be important to mention that private standards represent one way in which corporate processors or retailers create their own market ‘laws’ [just as, on p 43, land deals are confidential]


46- 4.2: Persistent poverty section is good, but reinforces a sense of stasis or decline of SH conditions – important to continually connect to lack of recognition in expectations of SH farming and SAPolicies that have set SH farming back


49 SH uniqueness (linkages between economic and socio-cultural risks, eg) means that there needs to be stronger voice concerning the specificity of SH practices that cannot be reduced to or understood purely from a market logic (as outlined on p 50 regarding the ‘white revolution’ in India).


54 the typology depicts types of smallholders according to assets, markets and institutional context. It is not clear that these dimensions can be so easily isolated. Markets are institutions. It means, for example, that (neoliberal) policies liberalizing markets resulting in ‘food dependency’ are separated from the impact on smallholders – the so-called ‘cheap food regime’ (hinted at on p 60).

55 identification of examples of positive interventions is useful



58 good to invest in human capital vs land and productivity focus only


63 important to emphasize research to improve knowledge base for producers

66 Importance of public financial institutions and partnerships with private, cooperative and community institutions

67 reorient value chain agriculture to local and national markets – not just a matter of saying ‘despite the preference of development agencies and even national governments to prioritize modern for-export value chains…’ the issue is surely epistemic – that is, it is more than a matter of preference – there is a WTO regime and a history of structural adjustment and exporting to pay debt: all ingredients of a global vision of corporate markets ruled by “comparative advantage”

70 National Smallholder Vision and Strategic Framework indispensible – to address and overcome constraints SH. Why not signal this right at the beginning of the report?


Ms. Céline Bignebat INRA - French National Institute for Agricultural Research, France

I really enjoyed reading the report and found many very interesting sections and proposals in it. Here are a few comments.

Sections 1 & 2 - smallholders:

  1. General comment: I have the impression that the report largely overlooks the family nature and structure of smallholder agriculture. The internal heterogeneity is not mentioned much, but it could be determining to understand investment behaviours, as well as impact of investments in terms of productivity. Property rights over assets, use rights and control rights may be interesting to highlight, especially when considering men/women relationships and behaviour (I think about land issue in particular, and access to property); but we may think about resource pooling as well, and/or decision making in the household. For enlarged families, intergenerational issues may be at stake as well when trying to understand investment. In particular microcredit is often directed to women. This may lead to considerations about a gendered division of productive activities.
  2. General comment: the approach you have at the beginning of the report, namely that smallholder investment mostly consists in labour, is interesting, even though not referred much to in the rest of the text. It raises a question: should not human capital be considered as one of the point where investment is crucial? Even though the literature does not find a clear relationship between educational level and productivity, literacy may help accessing credit or information so as to invest profitably.
  3. Graphs are often representing the number of holdings, which may sometimes be misleading for the reader, especially when the text is referring to a concentration process. Perhaps proportions can sometimes be easier to read.
  4. p. 25: they are numerous studies about the relationship between farm size and productivity, however, to my knowledge, with no clear-cut conclusions. The Brazil example (p. 25) seems relatively anecdotic and somewhat not convincing, because (i) the conclusions the report draws are categorical: “These data show that the inverse relationship between farm size and land productivity, is still omnipresent today” (ii) we don’t know much about the study: are that Net or gross revenues? Margins? When were the data collected? (iii) the observations about the size/productivity relationship may change across countries or years.
  5. Smallholder in food processing is an interesting section, that perhaps could be developed (p. 27). We have some further details p. 39. It seems to me that it tackles in a way the question of the difference between non-agricultural and off-farm activities, and thus the question of the boundaries of agricultural investment. In programs like “progresa” in Mexico, a large part of the amount of the subsidies is dedicated to the development of small business in connection with sales of the household agricultural production. Peri-agriculture value-adding activities may as well be defined as “agricultural” investment: ie, transformation of cassava for urban consumers in Ivory Coast. The question of the diversification of activities into non-agricultural sectors is as well not far away in the sense that it contributes to agricultural production.
  6. I was wondering (p. 30) about the role of intermediaries other than producer organizations. This is perhaps to take into account, especially when considering interlinked contracts, like credit for production – this kind of contracts most of the time concern credit for variable costs (input purchase), but sometimes it can include for up-front investments as well, in particular in high-value global chains that require the upgrading of the production process.


Section 3 & 4 - investment:

  1. Public-Private partnerships for investment in agriculture are studied by an emerging scientific literature that may be interesting. Partly it refers to large or risky investments, like R&D in new technologies (Spielman et al., 2010). However, it includes as well the role of NGOs in alleviating the credit/liquidity constraint faced by small producers (Narrod et al., 2009; Poulton and Macartney, 2012).
  2. Section 4.5. I can’t understand why the typology is not in the section 1 or 2 of the report, or perhaps only the framework – assets, markets, institutions (I understood sections 1 and 2 as setting the definition of smallholder agriculture and the constraint/opportunities smallholders face) it could be useful to define the unit of analysis of the report, and analyze its diversity. This could enable clarifying more rapidly in the report that the category “small producers” is not homogenous and provide a key in understanding the diversity.
  3. In the typology:
  • (i) The categorization: from the column “characterization.illustration”, I have difficulties to understand what type of difference you make between combination --+ and ---, especially in terms of investment.
  • (ii) As assets are endogenous (and the main point of the study – investment), it may be interesting to figure out different types of transition patterns from one category to the other. It may help for the recommendation part.

Minor comments:

Section 4.1.: Why beginning by constraint in terms of recognition? Perhaps financial constraints/missing markets are more important? (see figure 13)

Section 4.4.: Why policy, and not just environment?

The expression “ownership of policies” (P. 40) is not very clear to me.


Narrod C., D. Roy, J. Okello, B. Avendaño, Rich and A. Thorat, 2009, “Public-private partnerships and collective action in high-value fruit and vegetable supply chain”, Food Policy, 34: 8-15

Poulton C. and J. Macartney, 2012, “Can public-private partnerships leverage private investment in agricultural value chains in Africa?”, World Development, 40(1): 96-109.

Spielman D., F. Hartwich and K. Greber, 2010, “Public–private partnerships and developing-country agriculture: Evidence from the international agricultural research system”, Public Administration and Development, 30(4): 261-276

Dr. Philip McMichael Cornell University, United States of America

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the HLPE draft.

I've tried to flag some issues that are important, need strengthening, and in some cases need 'front-loading' -- first and foremost the question of recognizing smallholder agriculture seems to me to be paramount. There is a lot of really good material in this draft along these lines, but often buried. While it's good to keep reminding readers of this, it's also important to signal these fundamental issues up front, as framing issues.
So here are my comments, in short-hand, attached.

Ms. Felicity Proctor, United Kingdom

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important document

1          Although the body of the text (page 33 etc.) raises the issue of heterogeneity of the small-farm "sector" - this is not adequately highlighted in the summary. Understanding this heterogeneity and responding to it will be central to meeting the objectives of food security, nutrition and economic development

2          The report would benefit from more discussion on the need for and sequencing of differentiated policies and interventions to meet the needs of the different types (size, location, assets, farming system, hh profile, etc.) of small-scale farmers within a given country context. It would be useful to recognise that there will be winners and losers as the small-farm sector moves forward. Who benefits (i.e. which type of small-farm hhs) and why from specific interventions to support economic aspects of the small-farm sector, how to deal with trade-offs and how to manage effectively the interface between economic service and social protection interventions needs to be understood, monitored and managed. Given this heterogeneity, a ‘one size fits all’ for the smallholder farm sector in a given country (or even a subnational regional/territorial) context is not appropriate

May I suggest that the following may provide some additional insights on heterogeneity in the case of Africa?

Jayne, T. S., Mather, D., and E. Mghenyi (2010) Principal challenges confronting smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. World Development 38 (10) pp1384–1398 Jayne, T. S., Yamano, T., Weber, M., Tschirley, D., Benfica, R., Chapoto, A., and B. Zulu (2003) Smallholder income and land distribution in Africa: Implications for poverty reduction strategies. Food Policy 28 (3) pp253–275

3          The smallholder debate needs to be set within a longer term framework which takes into account the population demographics in rural areas including the rural-urban dynamic and the current and anticipated rural and urban employment profiles. Smallholders matter not least because in some regions (e.g. SSA, parts of South Asia) there are simply not [enough] other livelihood/ employment opportunities that can absorb the expected population growth - inter-generationally. This is a case to revisit the smallholder debate in its own right - your section p23 only speaks to this in the context of changing farm size. The issue of population trends (as well as wider economic and social transformation) is too important to leave out of this debate and calls for the small-farm discussion of what next and why - at country level to be set within a longer term framework i.e. 30 plus years.  The authors may like to look through Proctor, F.J. and V. Lucchesi (2012) Small-scale farming and youth in an era of rapid rural change

4          On smallholder livelihoods - yes all smallholder hh are engaged with 'the market' one way or another but not all market their produce from the farm - this needs to be noted. Whilst the paper talks of remittances (page 9... and savings) it does not talk [enough] about the balance of farm and non-farm incomes (note- employment in this context is both formal and informal) within the hh and the role that rural non-farm economy (RNFE) plays in enabling investment in agriculture and in managing hh income and risk.  Arguably any strategy to support the small-farm sector needs not only to address the social sectors of health and education (you refer to this in the body of the report) but also how the RNFE (formal and informal) sector is supported i.e. the policy and institutional context in which the different categories of smallholders and their "agriculture plus" livelihoods are enabled. As an aside - see Fox and Pimhidzai 2011 for a recent commentary on the informal sector in the case of Uganda

5          Whilst there is quite a lot in the report on contract farming (as an option to support the small-farm sector) - there is very little on 'new business models' at the first stage procurement level including the importance of the role of intermediaries and how they should/could be better supported - for both the traditional and modern markets. Bienabe et al., 2011 – already referenced in the paper has some ideas but this reference was not used to illustrate some examples of different models

6          The role of PROs needs better disaggregation by function - advocacy, services, marketing - each call for different structures and capacities. In most of SSA and Asia these structures are weak (in particular for the latter function) and largely driven by development intervention - raising questions of both suitability and sustainability

7          Page 9 - "smallholder agriculture is the largest provider of food and raw material" - do we have the evidence of the production levels by farm size /commodity/ country/region/global.  Given the theme of the paper - I think more information is need here and if we don’t know we should say what exactly we do and don’t know

8          Land access and land security debate in the context of smallholders could be given more focus

9          The paper whilst making reference to basic education is silent on vocational and technical education – not only for the small-scale farmer and their structures RPOs, cooperatives etc. but also for skills enhancement of the actors who service the smallholder’s input and outputs market chains

10         There is nothing on the next generation of small scale farmers –the specific barriers to entry – their aspirations – how to make small-scale farming more attractive and at what scale and in which context

11         Country level debate on smallholder sector - this was also one of our key recommendations - Proctor, F.J. and V. Lucchesi (2012).   I can understand where the authors are coming from but in some ways each country needs an 'agriculture transformation debate' (i.e. 30-50 years foreword) and then the smallholder role within the wider agricultural [and arguably also structural] transformation framework ... not a smallholder debate first then contextualising it.  This report could usefully elaborate how such debate at country level could be taken forward - what are the key elements etc. As noted by another contributor such debates could usefully be set within the framework of other related national processes.


Government of the United States of America ,
FSN Forum

This study promises to be a worthwhile update on what could and should still be done to address constraints to smallholder investment in agriculture, a topic continually revisited by the development community over many decades.

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

A tighter definition of smallholders is needed. The definition of smallholders offered in the initial section of the paper (“run by a family that derives a substantial and indispensable part, or all, of its income and/or food from agriculture” and with a small resource base) is in essence a description of a family subsistence farm. This definition is vague and lacks criteria that could easily be verified from available cross-country data. The definition of smallholders will help to determine the scope of the paper, and thus needs to be carefully considered in the context of the issues to be addressed in the paper.

The definition should take into account the focus on constraints to smallholder investments. While it is very useful to consider smallholdings from the perspective of livelihood and family well-being, the size of the land holding from an agriculture perspective and from an investment perspective is one of the major characteristics that distinguish this subset of agriculture from others in terms of food security, livelihood and well-being. Even for livestock production the amount of land for forage or pasture is a critical factor. Other elements of the resource base, including access to water, roads, and infrastructure also could be important considerations for smallholder investments. The analysis of the constraints to investment in the paper should take into account the linkage between resource constraints, education, and poverty. It could consider, for example, whether there is a minimum threshold of natural resources, especially land and water, beyond which it is much more likely that a smallholding will provide an adequate livelihood or be a viable enterprise. An important consideration for investment decision-making is whether a smallholding has a base of essential natural and technical resources that will allow a reasonable return on investments made in other resources and assets.

The definition should incorporate a vision of what a smallholding could be/should be after investments. An insufficient resource base can limit a smallholder farm to subsistence. However, various smallholdings provide a decent living. The objective of more investments could be to move beyond subsistence and to a livelihood that produces more nutritious products, more purchasing power, and ultimately lifts the farmer above the poverty threshold..

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

Analysis of the constraints to investment should be the priority for the report. The typology could be useful, but should not lead to more effort being expended on categorizing smallholders than on analyzing the constraints to smallholder investment, especially since multiple method of categorization can overlap for one single farmer.

The typology does not incorporate a dependency ratio – the ratio of family members to labor units in the household. This has a bearing on the income or food necessary to meet basic needs and on how big “small” has to be in terms of providing adequate resources for a livelihood.

3. Constraints to smallholder investments: are the main constraints presented in the draft? Have important constraints been omitted?

The constraints section is distorted by the initial focus on legal recognition and political influence. Poverty, lack of access to resources, risks, and policy disincentives are important constraints to analyze. There are many reasons these constraints exist. Lack of legal recognition and political influence are not necessarily among the most important reasons nor are they universally applicable.

Recommendations should be addressed separately from the constraints analysis. Section 4.5 on the typology also includes a list of interventions to address the constraints. Potential interventions should be analyzed and discussed in this section without presuming that certain actions must be taken.

The comprehensiveness of this document would be greatly improved by including a section devoted to this long-run solution to poverty among smallholder farmers and to national food and nutrition security. The study should identify the parameters of potential income increases from smallholding versus other options.

The paper plays down good governance and rule of law issues. An environment that encourages investment in smallholder farmers is an important contribution that is essentially ignored in the paper. With regards to what the paper terms the “political dimension” the focus is mainly on state intervention to “emancipate neglected groups” rather than to creating a political and economic environment conducive to investment and to active participation of farmer cooperatives and civil society groups.

Smallholder farming has been shown in many circumstances to be as or more productive than large, capital intensive farms in the conditions faced by many poor countries. Studies from the early 1960s (initiated by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen in India) to the present (based on rigorous micro studies in Africa) demonstrate that in many or most conditions faced in poor countries, small farmers’ productivity is as high and often higher than large holdings. The implications and limitations of this productivity bonus for smallholder should be more thoroughly assessed in the paper.

Recommendations and Policy Messages

The recommendations need to be more concisely presented and linked to the analysis.

Recommending a process approach detracts from a needed focus on tackling the real constraints to smallholder investment. Countries should decide for themselves how to prioritize constraints to smallholder investment within their own planning and investment frameworks. A national smallholder strategic framework is not necessarily the best approach for each country.

The recommendations should recognize the changing role of smallholder farming during different stages of the development cycle.

In the short- and medium-term, smallholder farming in poor countries is an essential source of linkages, demand, and employment in sectors relying on agriculture – for example, processing, input supply, demand by small farmers for non-tradable services. In such circumstances, large capital intensive farms will not generate many of these linkages and will therefore fail to generate employment and economic linkages with the non-agricultural jobs and services in rural areas and small towns that are crucial to development and growth. The very high elasticities of employment with respect to agricultural growth occur only in smallholder based agricultural growth because of these linkages.

In the longer-term, the solution to smallholder poverty is to create conditions that allow labor to move out of agricultural production. Following the normal course of successful economic development, as future generations leave farming, small farms will be consolidated into larger holdings from which remaining persons can earn larger incomes. As the rural labor supply moves into more productive and remunerative employment in off-farm rural and urban activities, this process will in turn increase demand for the products of those remaining behind on small farms. Future generations need to be better educated and trained to increase productivity to meet growing demand on the remaining farms and to be able to find better jobs off the small farms (due to faster non-farm employment generation).

The focus on rights in the recommendations is unbalanced. Some of the rights asserted, such as the “inalienable right to farm,” have neither an established foundation nor widespread acceptance.

Many of the recommendations are too general and open to different interpretations. The recommendation that “price stabilization is needed” is questionable. Price changes are an important market signal in well-functioning markets. Advocating land redistribution without discussing compensation is unacceptable. Advocating national and international market regulation is too vague. Markets are regulated; how they are regulated is critically important.

Presentation of Issues

The paper should not assume that smallholder farming is a preferred model of agricultural production. The paper adequately demonstrates the prevalence and importance of smallholder farms. However, the purpose of the paper is to analyze the constraints to smallholder investment, not to advocate for the preservation of smallholder farms as a preferred model.

The paper has an unacceptable bias against globalized markets, multinational firms, large farms and “the industrialized food system”. Many unsubstantiated claims are made that detract from the credibility of the analysis. The paper advocates for state intervention in land tenure, markets and/or with corporations in cases where none is needed.

More thorough analysis is needed of public intervention in markets. The paper does address markets created by public procurement (e.g. Brazil’s national food purchase program PAA on page 55)—it would be good to know the “standards” for selling into such markets and more on their sustainability. In many other places the paper suggests public guarantees or public investment. Here is would be good to look carefully at whether these are helping small farmers to deal with/link to markets and opportunities or creating potentially expensive programs to support smallholders that too inefficient to survive outside of this protected environment.

More focus is needed on comparative strategies for linking smallholders to food value chains in national and regional markets. The document in places appears to evaluate markets in terms of their ability to support smallholders and to suggest that large-scale investments in infrastructure and organization are needed to create the “right” kind of markets for smallholders to link to. This is an impractical approach. It would be more fruitful to develop ways to work more effectively with existing markets—as some of the later section of the paper does. It might also be helpful to look at the differences in requirements for standardization, quality and phytosanitary characteristics across different kinds of markets—e.g. the higher demands to sell to WFP or into regional or global markets. The paper should also look carefully at the assumption that smallholders can simply market whatever they have in surplus over subsistence consumption. This might work in some markets, but can be inappropriate in others.

Mr. Eric Sabourin CIRAD and University of Brasilia, Brazil


Toutes mes félicitations aux auteurs de ce document qui sont parvenus à synthétiser et illustrer une somme de données et d'analyses sur l'agriculture familiale dans le monde.

Je ferai deux commentaires qui soulèvent deux  recommandations qu'il me semble utile d'ajouter au rapport.

Le rapport reconnait la diversité des contributions de l'agriculture aux différents marchés (des biens, du travail, de la terre, etc p 29)), mais relève surtout la contribution de l'agriculture familiale aux filières structurées ( à l'alimentation des villes via les marchés nationaux, a certaines filières d’exportations de commodities ou de nested markets).

Il est même déploré la faible contractualisation des transactions marchandes de l'agriculture familiale, sans que soient relevés les dangers et dérives de l'agriculture de contrat (ou agriculture intégrée) qui a depuis les années 60 en Europe, en Amérique Latine comme en Asie, contribué a grossir le rang des sans-terre en faisant des petits producteurs familiaux de simples travailleurs des agro-industries qui souvent en cas d'échec (maladies, ravageurs) ou de faible production se sont emparées via les banques  du peu de terres et capitaux de ces familles qui ont été expropriées. Les abus des firmes dans le cadre de la production familiale intégrée de soja au sud du Brésil (Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul) dans les années 1970 sont une des principales causes de l'apparition de sans terre dans cette région de la constitution du Mouvement des Travailleurs Sans Terre dans les années 1980. Un exemple récent dans la même région concerne la faillite des entreprises nationales (Perdigao) et internationale (Doux,France ) d'industrie de la volaille via la production intégrée. les agriculteurs familiaux brésiliens en contrat avec Doux n'ont bien sur pas bénéficier des mêmes appuis et protections que ceux de Bretagne en France.

De fait le rapport semble ne traiter que de l'agriculture familiale intégrées aux filières et marchés capitalistes, celle qui apparait dans les statistiques commerciales. Il est noté a juste titre pour bien des situations, le cas de petits producteurs ruraux qui vivent également d'autres revenus et activités que ceux de la production agricole (travail en dehors de l'exploitation notamment, aides et transferts sociaux). Si ces situations existent et peuvent être recensées par les statistiques des politiques publiques, il existe de par le monde et surtout dans les pays en développement la situation inverse (beaucoup plus difficile à admettre donc a recenser) de familles paysannes qualifiées d'agriculture de subsistance, qui en plus de leur subsistance (l'autoconsommation n'est en règle générale pas mesurée par les statistiques) , contribuent à l'alimentation des populations locales et des petites villes ou bourgades rurales, via es marchés de proximité et des formes de redistributions "non marchandes" (au sens de non capitalistes) qui échappent à toute statistique ou pour lesquelles il n'existe pas d'effort d'identification et de qualification statistique.

Dans ce cadre la, le rapport ne mentionne pas explicitement la contribution des agricultures familiales et paysannes (le mot n'apparait jamais) à la sécurité et souveraineté alimentaire des pays et surtout à celles des populations rurales (et des petites villes rurales qui augmentent).

Un dernier commentaire concerne les recommandations en termes de politiques publiques d'appui à l'agriculture familiale: pour compléter les deux pertinentes recommandations du rapport en termes de renforcement des capacités institutionnelles des agriculteurs et d'appui à l'action collective.

Il convient de recommander la reconnaissance publique des dispositifs collectifs des agriculteurs familiaux, y compris des dispositifs non formels (sans statut juridique officiel) dans la mesure où ceux-ci assurent des fonctions de production de biens communs ou de biens publics locaux (éducation, information, innovation, références technique, via les Maisons et Ecoles familiales rurales, les groupes de paysans -expérimentateurs, les groupements de vente en commun, etc ) ou de gestion de ressources naturelles communes (terres, forêt, eaux, biodiversité, etc).

Cette reconnaissance publique peut passer par

a) leur reconnaissance juridique (leur proposer des statuts collectifs adaptés comme les GDPL Kanak en Nouvelle Calédonie, les Fonds de pasto des pâturages communs au Brésil ou les Banques de Semences Communautaires en Inde et divers pays d'Amérique Latine),

b) leur inclusion dans des politiques publiques plus larges :  accés au stratut de terres de réforme agraire ou de réserve indigène, au crédit bonifié, etc  par exemple

c) appuis techniques et financiers directement  aux collectifs au lieu des dérives et gaspillages des financements individuels des agriculteurs au titre de la PAC, de la multifonctionnalité, de la rémunération des services environnementaux et ecosystémique et autres instruments du même type qui relèvent plus du clientélisme politique que de la gestion de politiques agricoles.

Sur ces deux  sujet voir Sabourin Eric, 2012 Sociétés et organisations paysannes, une lecture para la réciprocité, Versailles , Ed. Quae, col. Synthèses  + editions en portugais  Editora UFRGS Poro Alegre, 20011 et Fundo Editorial UARM, Lima, Peru, 2012


Bien cordialement

Eric Sabourin,

Cirad et Université de Brasilia

Animateur du Réseau Politiques Publiques  et inégalités en Amérique Latine.

French Council of the Notarial Profession , France
FSN Forum

Food insecurity created by the increase in the price of foodstuffs has led to a new phenomenon in Africa: the acquisition or leasing by governments or firms from certain countries of vast stretches of agricultural land in order to meet their own food needs. According to the FAO, between 20 and 30 million hectares have been taken over in recent years.

Causes of the land grabs

In order to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the earth in 2050, it will be necessary to double agricultural production: land—and the water that comes with it—has now become a means of exerting power and ensuring economic security, alongside oil. States aim to secure their sources of water and agricultural supplies for the long term, either directly or indirectly, through public companies or sovereign funds.

50% of potentially cultivable land is currently underused, as the people who live on it do not have the necessary resources to develop it, nor do they have secure legal access to the land. Land of this type is the first target of these new investors.

The question that now arises is which production model will best enhance the value of this land.

The right to food and land security

Access to natural resources, without which the right to food cannot become a reality, is closely linked to secure access to land. It is particularly difficult to determine the real-property rights of rural populations in developing and emerging countries as laws are imprecise or overlap, customary rights are not codified and land registries are either non-existent or obsolete.

It is for this reason that the issue of land governance must be central to our thoughts about food security: economic security cannot exist without legal certainty, particularly land security. In consequence, the legal system [that guarantees the real-property rights] must come into existence before the economic system.

If Africans are provided with secure title deeds they can be helped to fight poverty themselves, because secure title deeds make it easier to get credit. With this end in mind, the French High Council of the Notarial Profession set up a working group on real-estate titling, or real-property registration. Its aim is to provide support for countries that wish to introduce a secure system of land registration.

How can countries affected by land grabs be protected?

In order to ensure that the countries concerned derive a benefit from these massive investments, firstly, the rights of the rural populations must be made secure, and secondly, the contracts made by the governments of these countries with the investors (whether companies or states) must be regulated.


The inhabitants of the areas transferred to investors are powerless in the face of these newcomers, as their real-property rights are recognized neither by the players involved in these operations nor by the governments of the countries concerned.

While the issue of why to protect these rights is political and economic, the issue of how to protect them is mainly legal.

French notaires can make a real contribution in this latter area. The practical implementation of such protection requires a conceptual framework and also a modus operandi.

The task of securing the rights of rural populations over the land divides into three stages :

- identification

- recognition

- protection

a) The identification and definition of land rights

Ascertaining and recognising a number of rights, whether individual or collective, over land, begins with an investigation into the land and involves listening to the people concerned. This is followed by a legal analysis of the rights as they are understood by their holders.

It is imperative to recognise the great diversity of systems of real-property rights and to relate them to public-interest issues, such as the careful stewardship of land and of natural resources.

b) The recognition of land rights

The next stage is the recognition of rights (whether ownership rights, customary rights, surface rights, concessionary rights, rights conferred by a lease or sui generis rights) which, in order to be effective, must be registered—usually as a result of registration or titling campaigns. This enables the people concerned to have their rights in the land, which were defined at the previous stage, formally recognised (see for example the land registration offices in Madagascar).

The possession of an effective, indisputable title deed enables the owner’s rights to be recognised. It is the deed that gives the holder access to the law. Apart from the security that it brings, the recognition of real-property rights has a number of positive consequences, such as the recognition of the dignity of the person, particularly the rights of women, the improvement of assets and therefore agricultural production, and access to microcredit.

The most important thing is to recognise the land right, as it is understood by the holder of the right.

c) Protection of land rights

The protection of land rights is guaranteed by the registration of those rights in a public register. In the interests of good land governance, the rights recognition process, which is the work of a field legal officer, should be distinct from the process of registration, which is a job for a state official or the authority responsible for keeping the register up to date.

An efficient land registration system must therefore include not only access to the right but also its later protection, placing emphasis on the prevention of disputes.


As the acquisition of land on a massive scale is usually achieved by signing a contract, it is important to set up a quality charter for each country concerned, which will lay down precisely all the rights and obligations of the beneficiaries.

Such contracts must be regulated insofar as they may harm the territory as a whole, the country’s natural resources and the rights of the local population. For this reason, the World Bank has expressed the wish that henceforth reference will be made to the voluntary guidelines deriving from the consultation procedure that was set up by the FAO on responsible governance and the right to access land and adopted in 2012 by the United Nations thanks to the work of the CSA and the FAO.

Good governance should therefore include regulation, which means that contracts must be fair : it is normal for an investor to derive a profit from its investment, but only insofar as it undertakes to acknowledge a certain number obligations.

The obligations to be borne by investors may be :

  • Respect for the rights of local populations
  • Obligation to pay a land tax
  • Requirement to participate financially in the setting-up of agricultural cooperatives
  • Training of the local people
  • The choice of crops
  • The determination of a “fair price”
  • Obligation to choose agricultural workers from the local population
  • Respect for a minimum wage
  • Etc…

The introduction of such a policy would be totally consistent with three of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which the United Nations Member States hope to achieve by 2015 :

  • To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • To ensure environmental sustainability
  • To develop a global partnership for development

Willy Giacchino

Expert Land Tenure Security for the French High Council of the Notarial Profession

January 2013