eDialogue: What future for small-scale farming?

Inclusive transformation in challenging times

Small-scale farmers are critical to food systems in much of the world. Vast numbers of rural households rely, at least in part, on agriculture for their livelihood. Yet times are tough for small-scale farmers, with many being among the poorest and most food-insecure people on the planet, who are furthest away from achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). Meanwhile, COVID-19 puts a spotlight on the importance of resilient food systems and the vulnerability of poor rural households.

In five dialogue sessions, held from June to November in 2020, we explored with 41 knowledgeable experts from all over the world the potential future of small-scale farming and inclusive as well as sustainable pathways towards a food system transformation. In total, 670 people registered for our dialogues and we are thankful for their contributions.

Sessions recordings and summaries

Summary blogs

In three blog posts, the organisers Jim Woodhill, Ken Giller and John Thompson summarised and reflected on the outcomes of the eDialogue sessions.

To sustain the livelihood of smallholders in the future system, change is required which is highly complex since no silver bullet exists because of the high and multi-layered heterogeneity of smallholders.

Moving forward, a food system transformation approach should include the following four integrated elements:

  • inclusive commercialisation,
  • the option for farmers to improve their nutrient availability through self-consumption,
  • social protection,
  • and the diversification into off-farm income.

Supporting the predominantly private agricultural sector through public goods and policies is risky but inevitable to enable sustainable development. In the past, many perverse structures were put in place that eventually did not benefit but harm the smallholders. The optimal approaches, however, are currently not sufficiently explored.

How to move forward

The outcomes of this eDialogue will be made available for the preparation of the Food Systems Summit and will contribute to the IFAD 2021 Rural Development Report on Food Systems, being prepared by Wageningen University and Research in collaboration with a global network of researchers.

If you want to keep yourself updated on the future course of the eDialogue, resulting reports and events, please register here. Announcements will then be shared with you via mail.

In case you are inspired to contribute to the issue and discussion, you are still welcomed to send us vlogs to communicate your local and regional reality of small-scale agriculture and its implications for the future, using this email address jim.woodhill@foresight4food.net.

Additionally, you can send us short blogs, reflecting on a session, a statement or a blog post of our eDialogue.

eDialogue Contributors