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the challenge

“The main problem we have is hunger.  We have six children to look after, three of them are orphans.  We only have a small plot of land and we struggle to grow enough to feed everyone.”

 Winnie Chipeta, Malawi

Agriculture is the lifeblood of African economies and societies - more than half a billion Africans, or some 65% of the population (more than 80% in some countries), depend on small-scale farming as their primary livelihood source.  

Yet they are marginalised and often do not produce enough to feed their families throughout the year, primarily because they lack access to the inputs, services, credit and markets that would enable them to increase their production.  Smallholder farmers are also deeply vulnerable to climate and economic shocks. 

Despite the challenges facing smallholder farmers, the agriculture sector has been neglected by national governments and international donors over a sustained period.  Furthermore, smallholder farmers, and particularly women, are often excluded from the development of agricultural policies, research and programmes that affect their livelihoods. 

  • 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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