Smallholders and family farms play an important role in agriculture. They help provide food for the growing world population, create and preserve jobs in rural areas, and stem the rural exodus. In order to stay in business, smallholders and family farms need stable markets, an infrastructure adapted to their needs, and access to education, training and to financial and information services. The SDC helps smallholders and family farms to adapt to change and to boost production in a sustainable way. Three films offer insights into the daily life of smallholder farms and the SDC’s work in this area. The UN has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming.
Some 70% of the people living in poverty around the world live in rural areas and depend to a large extent on agriculture for their livelihood. Smallholders produce about 50% of the food worldwide and 500 million small farms are located in developing countries, where hunger is most prevalent.
Harnessing women’s potential more effectively
The SDC’s support for smallholders and family farms in developing countries mainly consists of assisting them to adapt to climate change, to changing available means and methods of production and to new market demands in order to boost and improve their production. Women carry out about 50% of agricultural work in Africa and Asia. Yet because they have insufficient access to the means of production, their agricultural yields are 20-30% lower than men’s. Giving women better access to means of production could reduce hunger in developing countries by around 17%.
The SDC’s activities are focused on the following areas:
- Establishing a regulatory international framework that supports smallholder farming (including seed regulations and international trade rules)
- Securing access to natural resources such as land and water
- Strengthening farmers’ organisations to enable them to offer their members better services and to voice their concerns more effectively in the political arena
- Improving access to services, particularly for women small farmers, to realise their untapped potential
- Ensuring better access for women and young people to means of production
- Improving storage and processing of agricultural products to reduce postharvest losses
- Promoting research and advice on new technologies adapted to the needs of smallholders and family farms
- Creating alternative sources of income for smallholder farmers
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines smallholder as small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest keepers and fishers who manage areas below 10 hectares. Smallholder farms are characterized by family-focused motives and it is the families who are responsible for everything from production to farm maintenance. Part of what is produced is consumed by the family itself. Smallholder farming is about a third less productive than large-scale farming. Despite this fact – or indeed because of it – the international community is increasingly convinced that supporting smallholder and family farming can contribute to alleviating world hunger and poverty.