Big Farm /Small Farm
During 2008 there have been many reports of private companies in the North and state corporations in the South reacting to the opportunity and threat of higher food prices by planning to acquire land in Africa, South-east Asia, Brazil and Central Asia to produce food.
The most startling of these announcements is that of the Daewoo Corporation of the Republic of Korea that revealed that it was acquiring the rights to farm no less than 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar, a position from which the company and the government have now backed away from following a storm of local and international protest. In many cases the reports suggest that the aim is to farm the land on a large scale, rather than to contract production through existing family smallholdings.
It is now more than three years since IFPRI, Imperial College, and ODI organised a workshop at Wye for specialists to debate the issues surrounding small farms. It looks to be time to revisit those arguments in the light of higher food prices, the arguments being made for large-scale farming and apparent intent of capital-rich investors.
To start the debate, a reply to Professor Collier was drafted by Steve Wiggins (Position 2) who argued that that large farms in Africa are unnecessary, have had their failures in the past, and carry significant risks; and that if additional food is needed, then small farmers — given the right conditions — can do the job. They have in the past and there is no reason to imagine that they cannot do so again.
FAC invited contributions to the debate that responded to the points made in the two position papers or the suggested themes listed below:
1) Small and large farms: definitions, trends and patterns
2) Small and large farms: environmental, livelihood and food security costs and benefits
3) Farm scale, economic efficiency and competitiveness
4) Agriculture policies: agri-business, rural areas, food quality and safety