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

FSN Forum Team

Posted on behalf of Samuel Gebreselassie, Future Agricultures Consortium, Ethiopia

Dear Moderator,

This is a short contribution on your zero draft report of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition on ‘Investing in Smallholder Agriculture for Food and Nutrition Security’ which is open to comments from experts and researchers working on small farmers.

In addition to low productivity which is largely technical problem, a fast and sustained growth of small farmers especially in potential areas (of Ethiopia) could also be a non-technical problem, i.e. narrow aspiration and fatalism which is largely psychological problem but might restrict the aspiration and desire for change of small, largely poor farmers.  A study by Bernard et al (2012), for instance, suggests that fatalism lowers the demand for long-term loans and loans for future-oriented productive purposes (Bernard et al (2012). This problem might be complicated by government policy that considers small farmers as homogenous group of farmers.

Currently I am conducting an exploratory study aiming to describe the emerging market-led agriculture in Ethiopia in general and the emerging small-investor farmers in particular. The core research question this study investigates revolves around enabling environments and future aspiration and goals of such emerging small-investor farmers. It also assesses alternative policy and institutional options or supports that might help such farmers fulfill their dreams, which will have pull effect on other ‘average’ farmers.

Though no statistics is available on the number of small-investor farmers currently exist in Ethiopia; their number is expected to grow overtime especially in high potential areas like Lume district in central Ethiopia where the study is conducted.

The major thesis of the study is that such farmers need different type of support and to convince Ethiopian policy makers to outline separate policy and technical package for such farmers.

The major purpose of my writing to you is, however, to share you the following two pie charts from my ongoing analysis.

The survey of aspiration and dreams of the study farmers also reveal diverse difference in their future aspiration, dreams and ‘perceived’ goals.

Despite some weakness in the method that include lack of sampling frame that forced the sample not to be representative (to the true population) and its consequent impact on having no knowledge on the number or the percentage share of such emerging farmers in the farming population of the study area, the study clearly indicate the need for special support for such kind of emerging farmers.

After an in-depth revision of Ethiopia’s five year development plan, IMF also provides similar kind of recommendation for Ethiopian government.

“Excluding domestic or foreign private commercial large farmers, the broader agricultural policy of the country overlooked this emerging group of small-investor farmers.  Most government policy and strategy documents consider silently the rest of small farmers as homogeneous or near-homogenous group. Critics, however, recommends the government to rethink otherwise. The IMF, for instance, in its evaluation of the government five-year (2010/11-2014/15) development plan commonly known as the GTP, advise the government the importance of private investments for smallholder agriculture and broaden its narrowly defined private sector agriculture to include both commercial large investors as well as emerging small farmers (IMF, 2011).”

To summarize, my points are two. First, any support to smallholder farmers should not be limited to technical or market support but should also focused on building their psychological makeup that is essential to broaden their aspiration and desire for change. Second, any technical or policy support for small farmers should not be uniform and should not be standardised as small farmers could not be homogenous or near-homogenous group.

Finally, the above two pie charts as well as the points discussed were drawn from my on going research work financed and conducted by Future Agricultures Consortium or FAC (

Finally, my contribution might not be relevant if your open electronic consultation strictly based on the points raised on your V0 Draft as I will read it after this comment or at time in the near future. My apology for this.


Samuel Gebreselassie,

Research Fellow,

Future Agricultures Consortium.