Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Small Farms’ Large Benefits

ROME – As drought becomes increasingly common, farmers worldwide are struggling to maintain crop yields. In the United States, farmers are experiencing the most severe drought in more than a half-century. As a result, global corn, wheat, and soybean prices rose in July and August, and remain high.

But the severe dry spell parching croplands across the US is only the latest in a global cycle of increasingly frequent and damaging droughts. In Africa’s Sahel region, millions of people are facing hunger for the third time since 2005. Lack of rain in the region and volatile global food prices have made a bad situation worse. Indeed, it is the world’s poor – particularly those in rural areas – that suffer the most from these combined factors.

This does not bode well for our future. By 2050, global food production will have to increase by 60% to meet demand from a growing world population with changing consumption habits. To ensure food security for all, we will have to increase not just food production, but also availability, especially for those living in developing countries. That means breaking down barriers and inequalities, building capacity, and disseminating knowledge. In Africa, smallholder farmers – who provide 80% of the sub-Saharan region’s food – need infrastructure for agricultural development, including irrigation and roads, as well as better market organization and access to technology.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development sees enormous potential in Africa’s agricultural sector, which experienced 4.8% growth in 2009, compared to 3.8% in the Asia-Pacific region and only 1.4% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Given that agriculture amounts to roughly 30% of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP, and accounts for more than 60% of employment in most African countries, the sector’s development could reduce poverty in the region substantially.

Not only in Africa – in countries like Burkina Faso and Ethiopia – but also in emerging countries like China, India, and Vietnam, experience has repeatedly shown that smallholder farmers can lead agricultural growth while stimulating broader economic development. Small farmers, both women and men, are Africa’s biggest agricultural investors. And agriculture-driven GDP growth is more than twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

But African farmers encounter significant barriers to achieving their potential. On average, they apply less than 10 kilograms of fertilizer per hectare, compared to 140 kilograms in India. Furthermore, less than 5% of agricultural land is irrigated, and improved crop varieties are rarely used.

Agricultural development efforts should, therefore, focus on promoting the growth and sustainability of smallholder farmers and small rural businesses. This requires a more supportive regulatory environment, technical assistance, as well as connections to suppliers, distributors, and finance providers.

Countries that are experiencing significant agricultural growth, such as Brazil and Thailand, have benefited from public-sector investment in research and infrastructure development. We should consider not only how to improve the ability of smallholder farmers to grow food; we also must strengthen their ability to participate in markets, while improving the way those markets function.

Moreover, sustainable investment linkages between smallholder farmers and the private sector are needed. By enabling farmers to increase their output and incomes, smallholder-inclusive private investment can bolster economic growth and food security. Finally, farmers’ organizations, which are crucial intermediaries between producers and corporate investors, must be involved in the formulation of plans and policies aimed at agricultural development.

A vibrant rural sector can generate demand for locally produced goods and services, thereby stimulating sustainable employment growth in agro-processing, services, and small-scale manufacturing. Such opportunities would allow young people to thrive in their rural communities, rather than being forced to search for work in urban areas.

Africa can feed itself. But that is not all: With knowledge, technology, infrastructure, and enabling policies, smallholder farmers in Africa and elsewhere can drive sustainable agricultural development, contribute to global food security, and catalyze economic growth worldwide.

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  1. CommentedJonathan Lam

    Gamesmith94134: Small Farms’ Large Benefits

    Small farm’s large benefits really provides another system that build unemployment within to sustain the balances on human resources and productivity in a micro-economical way to growth; it made an challenge on the restraints or the abuses from the macro-economic policies that made it accountable and profitable. . Kanayo F. Nwanze said more on the micro-economical growth that may switch the present arid climate in the financial world.

    It is intrinsic principle of the supply and demand that applies to locality and manpower in assumption of utilize its land resources or skill labors to recuperate growth in a smaller way, but it benefits in a larger sense of being employed. Perhaps, it is better to understand the food production is no longer a hostage to pricing by the present financial system or even market controls; it is subject to productivity and consumption that how we, human can survives. It is not how the government job may offer in the salary in a living sustainable; or what supplementary value that high tech environment in the urban area can make one enjoyable. It is how we utilize our resources to produce an environment to grow economically and financially too. It sounds minimal in changing the chaotic financial world, but the anemic growth with unemployment does not make sense.

    More often, we thought of the efficient way to do things to produce, but we lost our goal in sustaining a price value instead of achieving the growth. Many instances in the price system we pursuit, many gave up their harvests because of low pricing; it is because we relies on the price from the market but not the locality or consumption. Millions dollars of food were disposed or productivity aborted on the supply and not the demand of the market system. But, how marketable is the food or affordable can people pay?

    It is time to return to the basic of supply and demand in the micro-economical way, human consumption may not depend on the price but its survival.

    “By 2050, global food production will have to increase by 60% to meet demand from a growing world population with changing consumption habits. “

    If the increasing the global food production is our goal, we should make sure the rural kid jumped off the building of the Foxcomm dorm, and thousands of unemployed crowded to the capital for government jobs; they serve warnings to the politicians that the dependency of the profitability or efficiency may not be economically after all. After the hike in labor cost brings on inflation and cut in food production, their blind faith to pursuit of industrialization can be hazardous to the health to its people and nations as well. It demands a balance on the micro-economical policy to maintain a sustainable growth and maintenance of the circuitry on resources, like employment and food in its own rights in the supply and demand. Monetarism could be overwhelming on numerations or accountable; but life is the genuine basics of survival to all.

    Perhaps, when we can bring on the financial and technology to aid local farming in a small way, we can gain in a larger way in term of stability and balance in our macro-economical thesis, if supply and demand can lead its way. It is profitable if one can survive under the lower prices on corn or cotton with better employment. After all, profits are numeral, humans are survival.

    May the Buddha bless you?

  2. CommentedJephtah Lorch

    Thank you for a positive outlook on Africa's ability to feed itself.

    For a people, or rather a culture, to feed itself it needs dicipline and willing leadership. At least the leadership of many countries is unwilling to create real advances due to a highly tribal culture and certain corruption that minimizes the amount of real aid that reaches the farmers.

    In Africa it is easier to become a pirate than a farmer. This should be changed to achieve such hopeful success.

  3. CommentedJ St. Clair

    'As a result, global corn, wheat, and soybean prices rose in July and August, and remain high...that makes no sense...if you are promoting techonology, irrigation, etc. etc....there should no be any problems....since there are problems with this already in USA...then why do the same thing in other countries....you all need to stop promoting government to get involved......government can help by getting involved in funding but not owning.....

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