e-Dialogue: What future for small-scale farming? Inclusive transformation in challenging times

Small-scale farmers are critical to food systems in much of the world. Vast numbers of rural households rely, at least in part, on agriculture for their livelihood. Yet times are tough for small-scale farmers, with many being among the poorest and most food-insecure people on the planet, who are furthest away from achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). Meanwhile, COVID-19 puts a spotlight on the importance of resilient food systems and the vulnerability of poor rural households.

A profound transformation of small-scale agriculture is needed to create food systems that are equitable, healthy, resilient and sustainable. Breakthroughs are urgently needed so:

  • small-scale farmers can earn a living income to afford good food, housing, education and healthcare,
  • small-scale farmers can help produce the right balance of food for healthy and sustainable diets for themselves and consumers,
  • farm families caught in a poverty trap can transition into opportunities beyond agriculture,

These breakthroughs are more vital and urgent than ever given the emerging impacts of climate change and COVID-19.

To develop transition strategies and avoid future crises and suffering, perspectives on the future – 5, 10 and 20+ years -are needed.  It is crucial to better understand how changing demographics, economies, food systems, natural resources and climates will impact on small-scale farmers. This e-Dialogue will bring foresight and scenario thinking to the challenging questions around how small-scale agriculture can contribute to a future where the world eats more healthily, sustainably and responsibly.

Join this e-Dialogue with a difference to hear the latest thinking of those working on the front-line to support small-scale agriculture; to explore the bigger picture trends, and to pose your own questions and solutions.

The outcomes of this e-Dialogue will be made available for the preparation of the Food Systems Summit and will contribute to the IFAD 2021 Rural Development Report on Food Systems, being prepared by Wageningen University and Research in collaboration with a global network of researchers.

The Format

APRA has been co-hosting an ‘eDialogue on What Future for Small-Scale Farming?’, a rolling series of virtual events, in partnership with the SDSN Sustainable Development Solutions Network/Wageningen University and Research, Foresight4Food initiative/Oxford University and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Five eDialogues were held during July – November 2020 and involved well over 500 participants from five continents. The series generated a set of thought-provoking debates on the future of small-scale farming around the world, which have profound policy implications. Jim Woodhill, Ken Giller and John Thompson share some of the policy implications in their blog, eDialogue: What Future for Small-Scale Farming? Emerging themes.

Other panellists from the eDialogue share their reflections in a four-part blog series: 

  1. Aida Isinika: reflections on the eDialogue
  2. Martin Muchero’s perspective: small-scale farming, its challenges and how to address them
  3. Jemimah Njuki looks to an inclusive future for small-holder farming in Africa
  4. Abdel Ismail: Is small-scale farming changing for the better?

The outcomes of the eDialogues will be fed into the ‘IFAD 2021 Rural Development Report’ and documented as a contribution to the ‘2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit’.

The e-Dialogue Series

Five virtual anchor sessions were held through to November 2020. 

Setting the Scene (Jul 16): emerging trends, challenges and opportunities for small-scale farming in the context of changing food systems – round-table discussion and question and answer session

Local Perspectives (Aug 27): grounding the dialogue in local experiences with Vlogs from farmers and young professionals – short visual stories and panel discussion and audience questions

Regional Realities (Oct 21-22): – exploring and comparing the dynamics of small-scale agriculture and food system change across Asia, Latin America, Africa and OECD country – parallel regional round tables with a synthesis panel

Transition pathways and strategies (Nov 10): assessing the options and scenarios for an inclusive transformation of small-scale agriculture with a focus on the specific challenges for different groups of farmers given their scale, gender, assets or geographic and market context – propositions presented by panelists, panel discussion and audience reactions.

Wrap-up and Policy Implications (Nov 25): drawing out the key messages and insights and assessing the implications for national policy and development investments – synthesis presentation, round table discussion on policy implications, closing reflections from participants.

e-Dialogue Contributors

More information can be found on the Foresight4Food website.
Cover photo credit: USAID on Flickr.