Smallholder and family farming

Smallholder farming family in a cabbage field in Honduras
Small farms produce almost half of the world’s food needs. © SDC/Fritz R. Staehelin

Smallholders and family farms play a key role in feeding the world's growing population and creating and preserving jobs in rural areas. They can also help to stem migration. In order to stay in business, smallholders need access to stable markets, infrastructure adapted to their needs, and access to education, training and financial and information services. The SDC helps them to adapt to change and to boost production in a sustainable way.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations  defines smallholders as small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest keepers and fishers who manage areas of less than 10 hectares. Smallholder farms are characterised 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 – Switzerland is convinced that supporting smallholder and family farming contributes to alleviating world hunger and poverty.

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, as well as to new market demands in order to boost and improve their production.

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Current projects

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International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) - core contribution

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2032

ICIPE is Africa’s leading insect research institute contributing to plant, animal, human and environmental health. SDC supports ICIPE as its work is highly relevant for the transformation to sustainable food systems, agroecology, healthy nutrition, and the promotion of the ‘One health’ approach. ICIPE’s development path is closely linked to Switzerland through longstanding partnerships with prominent Swiss experts and organisations. 


CORIGAP: Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia

01.04.2021 - 31.12.2022

SDC supports the International Rice Research Institute and national research and extension partners in six countries in Asia (China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam) to develop quantitative tools and methods to optimize the sustainability of irrigated systems in order to enhance regional food security while minimizing the environmental footprint of rice production. Through this contribution, Switzerland has initiated the development of sustainable rice production indicators which are now adopted by more than 100 private and public organisations.


Futuro Microbank

08.03.2021 - 30.06.2023

Limited access to financial services is a key constraint of rural micro and small women and men entrepreneurs (including farmers) to develop their business and to generate employment and income. The Swiss supported Banco Futuro is successfully providing affordable financial services to rural entrepreneurs (80% women), thus allowing them to enhance business and livelihood opportunities


Resilience for Pastoralist Communities in Northern Kenya

01.03.2021 - 31.07.2025

Pastoralism is a millennia old livelihood strategy adapted to the marginal and harsh environ-ments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In order to support pastoralists, this programme contributes to strengthening public and private institutions in the water and livestock sectors, putting policy frameworks in place to ensure efficient county-wide and cross-border water and rangeland management systems, and to increase access to water and pasture.


AgriPath: Empowering farmers’ transition to sustainable agriculture through effective and efficient digital pathways

01.03.2021 - 28.02.2026

500 million smallholder farmers need to increase their agriculture productivity, income and climate resilience. There is a lack of scientifically validated evidence on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of digital agriculture services. AgriPath aims to bring sustainable agriculture[1] to scale by identifying, evaluating, and promoting promising pathways for digitally supported agricultural advisory services. 

[1] The Consortium will embrace current concepts of climate resilient agriculture, climate smart agriculture, sustainable land management and agro-ecology. 


Programme d’Appui aux Filières Agropastorales de Sikasso - PAFA 2

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

En partenariat avec le Luxembourg, la Suisse soutient les exploitations familiales, le secteur privé et les collectivités, chacun dans leur rôle, dans le développement des filières pomme de terre et lait dans le Sud du Mali, générant ainsi des opportunités d’emplois et de revenus durables, en particulier pour les femmes et les jeunes. Le programme soutient ainsi le développement économique et la stabilité politique d’une zone peu touchée par le conflit, mais où ses précurseurs sont présents.


WOCAT 2020+ The Global Network for Sustainable Land Management

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Implementing sustainable land management is essential for reducing land degradation and achieving climate and livelihood resilience. WOCAT, the Swiss founded Global Sustainable Land Management Platform, offers robust and up-to-date knowledge and tools for evidence-based decision-making to implement the most appropriate practices within a given context to improve land resources, ecosystems and livelihoods.


PFNL Crédit d'ouverture Phase 1

01.01.2021 - 28.02.2026

Au Tchad, les PFNL constituent une importante source d’alimentation pour la population rurale (tamarinier, jujubier). Le projet facilite : (i) la valorisation de certains PFNL pour améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, (ii) l’accès à des marchés porteurs et rémunérateurs à travers le renforcement des petites et moyennes entreprises et, (iii) l’amélioration des conditions cadres socio-économiques visant la création d’emploi et de revenu pour les plus pauvres (gomme arabique).


Plantwise plus (PW+)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023

The project Plantwise Plus aims to help farmers face climate challenges and plant health threats. Through the provision of information on climate adaptation practices and technologies (agroecological practices), decision-making tools, and targeted climate risk analyses, the project will help countries to prepare themselves for and prevent plant health threats and reducing crop losses. In the past, CABI and Switzerland have made a proven difference to livelihoods and food security of 40 million farmers worldwide.


Global Forums for Rural Advisory Services and youth in agriculture. Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) Young Professional in Agriculture and Rural Devel-opment (YPARD)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

The COVID-19 crisis magnified existing inequalities. The people with less access to resilience mechanisms, such as the poor, women and youth groups are hardest hit, risking the loss of decades of improvement in poverty alleviation. Rural Advisory Services (RAS) are an important production input for millions of small farmers around the world. The two international networks based in Switzerland, and present in most geographical locations in the world will together develop and strengthen the ability of rural advisory services to better serve the smallholder farmers. 


Covid-19 Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (single phase)

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2022

Established by The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) addresses immediate impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic on rural people, prevents the erosion of results from past and ongoing operations, and puts in place building blocks to support post crisis recovery and long term resilience. As an IFAD member state, Switzerland joins international efforts with this time-bound response to prevent the health crisis from turning into a food crisis.


Aceli Africa

01.11.2020 - 31.10.2025

Aceli Africa is a market-led platform to catalyse finance for credit-constrained East African businesses along selected agricultural value chains that offer the best potential for income and job creation, food security and nutrition, gender inclusiveness, and promotion of climate-smart and agro-ecological smallholder agriculture. Key Swiss added values are the up-scaling of social impact financial instruments pioneered by SDC with partners, the involvement of the largest Swiss private impact investor, and the focus on two SDC priority countries.

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