Thursday, June 20, 2024

Africa’s smallholder farmers need support to build resiliency and sustainability


The world is at a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the smallholder farmers who feed millions of Africans are not given much attention and support.

Smallholder farming is a major source of food production and income for the global rural population in general, especially in the developing world. As many as 2.1-2.5 billion people are involved in farming smallholdings and there are perhaps 500 million smallholdings in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The good news is there’s loads of potential to unlock. Generally, smallholdings are a family affair, run in a rudimentary and inefficient way. A small improvement to the productivity of 100 farms via training or giving access to better fertilizers can have a huge impact.

The bad news is it’s tough. The large majority of smallholder farmers operate on their lonesome on lands that are isolated and cut off from towns and cities. They are really hard to reach, let alone help and engage in conversation.

More and more firms are getting it right by introducing new finance mechanisms to help farmers access loans and plan for their future. Farmer training is working wonders at boosting productivity, too.

But there is still so much that can be done. So far, too many companies have ignored this increasingly vulnerable tentacle of their supply chains. Maybe 2020 will be the year that smallholder farmers get the attention and support they need to build resilience and sustainability for the long term.

If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic has taught us how to appreciate the little things we took for granted — having a social life, shaking hands, hugging, etc., which in our culture shows care and is a reflection of our affection.

I must quickly appreciate how countries, both large and small, are putting in place measures to cushion their citizens against further damage.

To date, some 3.6 million people worldwide have been infected with over 249,000 deaths. There is no vaccine or drug for it yet. It is unequivocal that the world has not seen anything this huge in a long time, with many on lockdown and living in fear.

An estimated 500 million smallholder farming families (representing more than 2 billion people) rely to varying degrees on agricultural production for their livelihoods. As the largest global segment by livelihood of those living on less than US$2 a day, smallholder families are central to global financial inclusion efforts. But reaching smallholders with financial services is challenging in Ghana, where I live, as well as elsewhere in Africa.

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