In The News
Smallholder farmers have been sidelined for more than 60 years now, in spite of producing about 70% of the food consumed worldwide. Currently, 5 million smallholder farms that are less than 5 acres (two hectares) is the source of livelihood for 2.5 million people. Why have these smallholder farmers who clearly play an important role in ensuring food security been ignored while industrial farming continues to benefit from agricultural research, subsidies, trade agreements, tax credits and regulatory systems?
It can be allegedly traced back to the 1960s when experts proclaimed that by 1990s the world population would have outpaced agricultural production. Industrial farming’s ability to yield huge quantities of cheap grains using hybrid seeds and chemicals proved to be a savior. In the same vein, rich developed countries that dole out millions of dollars as foreign aid to the developing countries required the recipients to be in favor of industrial farming. This entailed sourcing cheap grains from the industrialized farms instead of rallying behind smallholder farmers.
This approach led to smallholder farmers being systematically ignored. Fast track to 2015 and experts have predicted that with the world poised to add more than 2 million people by 2050, current food production levels will have to rev up. This dire prediction has done what governments were reluctant to for decades now, bring smallholder farmers back into the limelight. With no viable percentage of arable land left, the only solution is to figure out how yields on lands being cultivated can be enhanced significantly. The smallholder farmers now had an unexpected ally, the global food industry.
The global food industry for purely business reasons has initiated deals with smallholder farmers across developing countries. This was to ensure that supply of agricultural commodities maintained its pace. Companies belonging to the global food industry of all shapes and sizes started procuring in large quantities from smallholder farmers in middle income and developing nations.
De facto leader of the smallholder farming revolution, the global food industry faces a huge dilemma. At the heart of the dilemma lie service agents who play a dual role. One to help farmers help enhance farm productivity and second is to acquire the harvest directly or indirectly. This system is flawed as the supply chain ends with the service agents. Farmers are viewed as invisible entities that are interchangeable. To balance their new role and its larger moral values, the global food industry is trying to understand how smallholder farmers can be self-managed net contributors.
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