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

Prof. JS (Pat) Heslop-Harrison University of Leicester, United Kingdom
05.01.2013
JS (Pat)

I welcome the opportunity to comment on the V0 draft, which certainly covers a wide range of important issues. I would like to highlight very briefly three areas that I feel are insufficiently addressed in the V0 draft.

Firstly, I felt that the whole report underplays the critical role of education in investment and food or nutrition security. It rightly points out that crop yield potentials are not achieved, the complexity of achieving smallholder nutritional sufficiency, and even poor investment decisions by smallholders, but I would suggest that education at all levels is critical to alleviating these problems. As well as primary and high-school eduction, one can argue that the emphasis on training BSc level and MSc level extension workers and larger family or other farmers, has had a major impact across many parts of Asia in ensuring food sufficiency, safety and sustainability.

Secondly, I was happy to see the attempt to reference research underpinning many of the conclusions. However, throughout the report, much of this cited research is weak, often written in vague terms, and inadequately reviewed. I think it would be valuable for the report to highlight areas where better knowledge of the issues is essential. National and international organizations will then be able to encourage research in these areas - as the report notes (recommendation 14), the contribution of smallholders is "too frequently neglected in policy and public investment" but V0 does not detail all the ways this might be mitigated.

Thirdly, I was sorry to note the limited comments about genetic improvement of crops and animals, and potential of new species. The rapidity of agricultural change is alluded to several times, but I am not sure that consequences and rapidity of adoption of new genetic stocks and improved agronomy is fully considered. Of course the changes is best exemplified by the Green Revolution wheats over very few years in the 1970s, but it is important to scan the nature of future revolutionary improvements.

I hope that the final report will build momentum to the political support for smallholders and the key contribution that they make to the well-being of so many billions on the planet today and in future generations.