In happier times, it was deemed politically correct to repeat the mantra that “the small farmer is going to feed the world”. It seemed to give everyone in the food security business a warm, fuzzy glow.
But times have changed, and how.
There are now more people eating food than growing it and many of those that are growing it, are doing so just to feed themselves and their families. And their struggle is intensifying. Nowhere is this more so than in Africa where: i) a massive 80% of its farmed land comprises family plots of less than 2 ha, yet contributes only 30% to the continent’s total agricultural production; and ii) where 60% of the population is trying to subsist on land that is increasingly threatened by decreasing fertility, land fragmentation, erosion and climate change. As yields decline, larger areas of land are needed to maintain production moreover, and this of course leads to deforestation, habitat destruction, watershed degradation and desertification.
Urgently needed is a shift from “unsustainable extensification” to what has become known as “sustainable intensification”.
While it is easy to point the figure at the unremitting population growth in Africa’s rural areas, it is less easy to point the finger at the perverse subsidy structures and trade barriers that protect developed markets and continue to constrain achievement of the trade based concepts of global water and food security that experts now consider to be the only way forward.
But all this is changing…
Experts now acknowledge that Africa’s small farms have the potential to contribute to a successful agricultural revolution, one that is employment intensive, pro-poor and ultimately pro-environment. What is more, the trade based concept of global water and food security has left the realm of the experts and is now part of an emerging dialogue at key policy levels and is captured as such among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which 193 of the world’s countries are committed.
Key among the SDG’s is number 2.3 as follows: “By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment”. In other words for “sustainable intensification” to happen in Africa, its small farmers need three things:
This is the mission of RainTrust!