First ‘e-Dialogue with a difference’ held on the future of small-scale farming

Smallholder led transformation can reap from huge potential gains, chief among them is the obvious improvement in peoples’ lives’. APRA researcher Milu Muyanga shared his views in the first session of a new virtual series, on ‘What future for small-scale farming?: Inclusive transformation in challenging times’.

The first e-Dialogue session, ‘Setting the Scene’ was held on July 16 2020, and provided an overview of the challenges smallholders face and the opportunities for improvement in yields and standards of living.

Small-scale farmers are among the most food-insecure on the planet, yet they are also integral to food systems across the world. With the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, the small scale farming sector is vulnerable and in need of urgent transformation.

Milu Muyanga, senior APRA researcher and Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University was one of the panellists. He noted that:

  • There are huge potential gains that can be reaped from a smallholder-led transformation in Africa, chief among them the improvement in peoples’ lives.
  • Smallholder farming in sub Saharan Africa is beset by low productivity, a lack of irrigation & dependence on rain-fed agriculture with only one growing season.
  • Problems affecting smallholder #farmers are compounded by a lack of investment in infrastructure & an unpredictable policy environment.
  • Decreasing farm sizes as a result of a rising population and toxic soil from an overuse of inorganic fertilisers are 2 examples of ‘megatrends’ affecting smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The challenges facing smallholder farmers may seem daunting, but are not insurmountable. Countries in Africa can thrive, but this depends on today’s policy actions (or inactions).

View his contribution in full below:

Key points from other panelists:

  • Gilbert Houngbo, President of IFAD. He opened the first session by saying that small-scale food producers have always been key to food security. Still, with food scarcity on the increase in recent years, the pandemic is worsening this situation.
  • Irene Annor Frempong, Director of Research and Innovation at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. She called for programs that help farmers move up the ladder to become commercial. She argued that science should play a key role in addressing the vulnerability of small-scale farmers.
  • Julio Berdegue, UN Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Representative for Latin America. He noted that we should also focus efforts on building the capacities of smallholder farmers, and highlighted a global increase in the share of smallholder household income coming from non-farm activities.
  • Jemimah Njuki, Senior Program Officer at the International Development Research Centre. She warned that researchers and policymakers tend to generalise small-scale farmers and think of them as homogenous, or facing similar constraints.
  • Avinash Kishore, Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), South Asia. He pointed out that with a greater demand for safer food processing, there are too many individuals (producers and processors) and not enough actors to ensure safer food processing.

The session was co-hosted by the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), in partnership with the SDSN Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems, Foresight4Food and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Further sessions to be held as part of the e-Dialogue include:

  • Local Perspectives (Aug 27);
  • Regional Realities (Sept 24);
  • Transition Pathways and Strategies (Oct 22);
  • and Wrap-up and Policy Implications (Nov 26).  

Findings will feed into the 4th International Conference on Global Food Security in December, the IFAD Rural Development Report 2021, and the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

To register for the upcoming events and to join the discussion, click here.

For a full summary of the first eDialogue, click here.

Watch the eDialogue in full, below: