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our response: support

“With half a hectare we usually harvested four sacks of maize without compost.  With compost we harvest up to 10 sacks.  Everybody is now aware of the importance of compost and we can no longer get manure from herdsmen for free.  Compost pit construction is the most successful activity in the village of Boungou.”

Nassouri Pascal, Burkina Faso

Persistent chronic hunger and poverty in most low-income countries, ongoing food price volatility, and the increasingly evident impacts of climate change all demonstrate the failure of the current global food system to meet the needs of the rural poor.  In 2009, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) reaffirmed this point in its report ‘Agriculture at a Crossroads’, which argued that ‘business as usual’ will not enable poor countries to address development and sustainability goals.

In order to provide effective support to smallholder farmers in the face of existing and emerging challenges, we believe that multi-lateral and bilateral donors should focus agriculture aid allocations and policy dialogue in Africa on:

  • promoting sustainable approaches which seek to minimise dependence on expensive and inappropriate external inputs;
  • safeguarding the natural resources on which vulnerable farmers depend, through increased funding for soil and water conservation;
  • strengthening the capacity of smallholder farmers to cope with the shocks of sudden onset weather disasters, and to adapt to slow onset climate change;
  • promoting innovative approaches, systems and institutions to scale up and diffuse existing sustainable technologies and farmer innovation. In particular, aid allocations should focus on recruiting and training women extension workers, retraining extension workers to improve their technical, communication and facilitation skills, and supporting locally-based extension systems;
  • delivering agricultural marketing services and innovations that enable vulnerable farmers to link their produce to local markets;
  • encouraging research projects that include vulnerable farmers in the development of drought-resistant cropping systems and livestock breeds;
  • supporting approaches that address the specific needs and priorities of women farmers, who constitute the majority of smallholder farmers, in order to ensure that they benefit equally from agricultural goods and services; and
  • facilitating self-mobilisation by local farming communities, especially in remote regions, to empower them to influence decisions that affect their livelihoods.

“I have already expanded my shea butter processing and with the increased income, I am in a position to pay for my children’s education even if my husband cannot.  Now when my husband is absent, I am able to provide for the family with ease.  Previously, I would not have been able to do that.”

Abegka Anankpieng, Ghana

  • There are over 300 million rural poor people in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • 62% of the rural population in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than US$1.25 a day.
  • 30% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished.
  • Africa has approximately 33 million small farms, representing 80% of all farms in the region.
  • Smallholder farmers produce as much as 90% of agricultural output in Africa.
  • The vast majority of smallholder farmers are women. Women produce over 70% of the food in Africa.

Sources: IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2011, FAO/WFO The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010, 2005 Information Brief Small Farms: Current Status and Key Trends, Oksana Nagayets, 2009 IAASTD Report: Agriculture at a Crossroads.

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