The Future of Small-scale Agriculture

How important is small-scale agriculture in feeding the world?

What is the outlook for small-scale agriculture in the future of global food systems? Are small farmers set to radically change the future of food, tackle poverty and hunger, and stabilize a struggling system? Or are they meant to continue struggling in an inequitable system where interventions rarely hit the target, or can’t be scaled effectively?

The role of small-scale agriculture in feeding the world and responding to poverty and hunger is a long debated issue. Defining their role and understanding their future is further hindered by the limited information and poor data on certain aspects of small-scale agriculture and food production. The increasing complexity in our food systems further adds to the difficulty in describing the significance of small-scale food production.

Combining insight from leading global expertise with strategic dialogue processes, the ‘Farmers and Food Systems’ will deepen understanding and debate about the transformation of small-holder agriculture in the context of global food systems. The context for this work is the rapid and fundamental changes in the global food system related to urbanisation, changing consumption patterns, modernisation of markets and trade. With 2-3 billion people dependent on small-holder agriculture for their livelihoods and the drive for developing economies to transform their agriculture sectors, there are urgent questions about how transformation will happen and what pathways and strategies will be socially, economically and environmentally desirable. The dominant focus on globally traded high profile commodities means there has been insufficient attention on the future of smallholder farming in relation to domestic and regional markets, which typically operate under a very different set of incentives and constraints.

By integrating both global and national level analysis and insights in an iterative process it is expected to deepen understanding of both. The global level analysis will draw on expertise from leading institutions and thinkers, to identify and synthesize current investment and public policy trends, and to highlight economic challenges and opportunities for smallholder farmers, including for off-farm employment in the wider food system, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

In July 2019, we will be holding two webinars presenting our outputs on the project. This will be an excellent opportunity for the wider community to provide their input into the needs of re-orienting thinking around small-scale agriculture.

This project is supported and funded by the Open Society Foundations.

Upcoming Events:

Webinars on Farmers and Food Systems:

The webinars will report on the key findings of the Farmers and Food Systems project, with discussion and comments from two discussants. There will be opportunity for comments and discussion at the end. The discussants will be named closer to the time:

Webinar 1: 8 July (Monday) 2019 – 1100-1300 British Summer Time

Webinar 2: 10 July (Wednesday) 2019 – 1500-1700 British Summer Time

Please email: or if you would like to attend. Web-links will be made available here closer to the time.


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