According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, governments need to play a more active role in support of smallholders if they are to become productive enough to help feed a growing world population, which is expected to reach more than nine billion people by 2050. The FAO thinks smallholders may hold the key to extra production, which they calculate should increase by 60% to sustain the population growth.
"Smallholders cannot continue to be seen as part of the hunger problem. They are an important part of the solution and are crucial to promote sustainable agriculture and management of our natural resources," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva opening this week sessions of the Committee on Commodity Problems (CCP).
According to a report discussed at the Committee this week, an improved understanding is imperative in identifying public sector policy interventions to enhance smallholder participation in markets.
Key elements determining whether and to what degree smallholders entered the market as sellers were the ability to use assets productively, efficient infrastructure and accessible markets, the FAO report noted.
For semi-subsistence producers, particularly those in remote locations, facilitating participation in local markets could be a first step.
In other cases, government actions could include offsetting risks to potential investors; temporary public subsidies for inputs such as seeds and fertilizer; facilitating provision of credit to farmers in remote areas; support to producers in meeting more rigorous commercial standards; and the promotion of public-private partnerships in the provision of market infrastructure.
FAO could help member countries determine the best policies open to them by improving understanding of their smallholders' market participation, sensitizing stakeholders to the various options before them and building their capacity to identify, formulate and implement the most appropriate interventions.
The Committee underscored the need to identify more closely the constraints preventing smallholders from integrating more closely into the market. Policies and strategies to support smallholder integration into markets and value chains constitute a priority for the CCP, the Committee added.