Session 3: Regional Perspectives.

By Jakob Hambüchen, 28.10.2020

In his Blog post, Ken Giller reflects on the first two sessions and highlights two critical questions that still need to be answered. To read more visit our Blog.

On October 21 and 22, the SDSN, Foresight4Food, IFAD, and APRA co-hosted the third in a series of eDialogues on the future of small-scale farming. The session explored and compared the dynamics of small-scale agriculture and food system change across East Asia, South Asisa, Latin America and Africa. The perspectives of small-scale farming in each individual region was discussed in a panel discussion. Afterwards, in a synthesis session panellists from each region reflected on the regional sessions and explored if and how the regions can learn from each other.

Session 3 Contributors

Regional Session East Asia

Fabrizio Bresciani, Regional Lead Economist at IFAD

East Asia is a highly dynamic region with great opportunities.
Farm population is actually not ageing. 55-60% of young people (<25 years) live in rural or semi-rural areas. Over 60 % of them spend their times on farms, as shown in the Rural Development Report of 2019.

  • In rural areas, 35 % of the youth earns their income from non-farm activities, in semi-rural areas 50 %. The off-farm income increases during the transformation.
  • An increasing amount of land is leased. In China, the amount of leased land doubled in the last ten years.
  • The transformation process already started. Agricultures proportion of the GDP shrank to 15-20 %, showing the potential of the surrounding industries to form a consolidated agrifood sector that absorbs a large share of the total amount of unskilled labour in the broader economy.

Read more…

Regional Session South Asia

Sudha Narayanan, Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development, India

India is a country of smallholders with 1,6 million operational holdings in 2015. This has multiple reasons:

  • No land consolidation
  • From 2000 to 2015 the number of farms <1 ha grew from 60 to 68 %
  • Fragmentation is supported by culture and policies
  • High risk of economic fall-back after selling the land due to limited career options outside of farming

This has especially implications for women and youth:

  • Women often do not claim land out of cultural reason.
  • Male migrate into urban areas, resulting in a feminisation of farming.
  • Women and youth have limited access to resources and markets.
    • Hence, both often need to do low-quality labour.

There must be a system change to combat the following challenges:

  • The high heterogeneity of farmers and regions demands tailored policies.
  • The current food system offers no promotion of nutrition.
  • Only the farmers who have access to markets benefit from it the others do not.
  • Water availability must be secured, and irrigation must be done
  • Households are still net food buyers – 85 % of the consumed food is bought.

Read more…

Regional Session Latin America

Milena Umaña, Researcher at the Latin American Centre for Rural Development

Three points should be addressed.

  • There is a large diversity of smallholders depending on regional culture and environment.
  • Small-scale farmers are important as they do not only produce food but also contribute to the diversification of the local economy and nature in rural areas.
  • Smallholders’ productivity will be influenced by climate change. Policies must increase farmers’ resilience.

Claus Reiner, Country Director, and Head of SSTC and Knowledge Centre, Brazil, Chile, LAC at IFAD

Investments in small scale agriculture are essential due to their many social services.

  • They are the guardians of biodiversity by cultivating different species of plant as well as animals and support wildlife.
  • Contrary, agribusinesses in Brazil focus on very few species and thereby endanger other species while mostly producing for export.
  • Small-scale farmers cover most of the regional food supply.

Read more…

Regional Session Africa

Adebayo Aromoloran, Professor of Agric Economics and Dean of Faculty of Agriculture at the Adekunle Ajasin University in Nigeria

Globally more than 94 % of the farms are from small-scale (less than 5 hectares). This group, however, only covers 20 % of the global farmland and accounts for below 35 % of global food production.

Nevertheless, they provide the means of livelihood for over 85 % of people living in Africa’s rural areas. Hence they are key for food security, poverty reduction and employment.

Decades of investment failed to enable structural change and tackle the existing challenges.

  • Low access to inputs and investment capital
  • Low productivity
  • Low assimilation of technological advancement
  • High unit cost of production
  • Low response to policies
  • Low marketable surplus
  • Low level of market engagement

Adebayo raises two questions:

  1. Should small-scale farmers be empowered sustaining food security, poverty reduction and employment until 2030?? Yes
  2. Should Africa continue to rely on small -scale farming for food security, poverty reduction and employment after 2030? NO, because Africa must focus on medium-scale farming in the future.

Read more…

Synthesis Session

Grahame Dixie, Executive Director Grow Asia, East Asia:

Smallholder farming is not a homogeneous sector and there is a system change that needs to be supported. This brings up certain opportunities and challenges.


  • The strongly increasing food demand is an opportunity to bring cash into the rural economy.
  • Young people combat the ageing of farming and are more concerned about diversity, professionality as well as food safety.
  • Ongoing land consolidation pushes the economy.
  • Supporting the surrounding industries will tackle rural poverty.


  • The very poor must be supported not to be left behind during the transformation.
  • To integrate young farmers, they must earn a decent living, get educated and access to digitalisation.

Read more…