Smallholder Farming Under Increasingly Difficult Circumstances: Policy and Public Investment Priorities for Africa

May 2, 2006 - Author: T.S. Jayne, D. Mather, and E. Mghenyi

IDWP 86. T.S. Jayne, D. Mather, and E. Mghenyi. 2006. Smallholder Farming Under Increasingly Difficult Circumstances: Policy and Public Investment Priorities for Africa

This paper identifies major trends affecting the future of the small farm in Sub-Saharan Africa, and identifies policy responses and public investment strategies by African governments, governments of high-income countries, and multilateral donors that can give African smallholders the chance to be viable in an increasingly globalized world.

Most small farms in Africa are becoming increasingly unviable as sustainable economic and social units. More so than in other regions of the world, small farmers in Africa suffer from civil disruptions, political turmoil, HIV/AIDS, and weak support from their governments for agricultural science and technology, extension support, health and education. Furthermore, many African farmers are disadvantaged by the global agricultural trading system and the increasing privatization of agricultural research. In addition, there remains inadequate appreciation in current development strategies of the fact that most farm households in Africa control less than one hectare of land, that average farm sizes are continuing to decline steadily, and that the ability of most households to produce a sustainable livelihood from their farms is declining. Unless the policies of local governments, donors, and rich country governments are changed dramatically, the world may see increasingly frequent and severe economic and social crises in Sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these crises are likely to have global repercussions. Thus, even from an insular and self-interested perspective, groups in the rest of the world would find it in their interests to pay attention to the challenges facing the small farmer in Africa and other low-income regions of the world.

Our main conclusions are that without renewed focus on growth in agricultural productivity, improving rural households’ access to land and rural education, strengthening agricultural input and output markets, HIV/AIDS, real change in world trade protocols, and increasing investments in agricultural development by donors and governments, many small farms in Africa will face a very uncertain and untenable future, involving major dislocations, migration, growing problems of urbanization, and increasingly chronic crises of hunger and poverty. A meaningful agricultural growth strategy aimed to support the small farm will need to match recent promises of support for pro-poor agricultural growth with necessary financial support for high-payoff public investments and policies.

Tags: cross-country, food security group, idwp, nutrition, policy research and capacity building


Thomas Jayne

Thomas Jayne

David Mather

David Mather

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