February 2017

We’re working in collaboration with the Soil Association, calling for UK overseas aid to be used to support smallholder agroecological farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. In a joint submission to a parliamentary inquiry on UK aid, we’ve set out how empowering smallholders will improve food security while helping mitigate climate change, increasing resilience and improving gender equality.

We’ve collaborated with the Soil Association, who champion organic principles and practice to secure the health and vitality of people, farm animals and nature. They also work to make good food the easy choice for everyone across the UK, whoever and wherever they are.

In a world of plenty, millions of people worldwide continue to go hungry and are poorly nourished. The latest global estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) record that 795 million people were hungry in 2014-2016 and calculate that around half are from smallholder farming communities.

These problems are particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where 220 million people do not have enough food to eat. SSA has one of the world’s fastest growing populations but food production has not kept up and now nearly one in four people are thought to be undernourished, the highest prevalence of undernourishment in any region of the world.

Climate change is exacerbating hunger in SSA and, as the most climate vulnerable area in the world, the effects are set to increase. Only 4% of arable land is irrigated and consequently agricultural productivity is heavily dependent on rainfall. Agriculture is also increasingly vulnerable to land degradation; intensive farming practices are known to deplete nutrients from the soil, therefore organic techniques are particularly useful.

Agroecological and organic farming methods represent the best (low cost, low risk) option to achieve multiple objectives. They support small farms that are highly diverse, integrate and use low levels of external input and are ‘capable of meeting environmental, economic and social needs’. Investing in agroecological smallholder farming helps deliver key development benefits:

  • Increased yields
  • Increased nutrition and improved food security
  • Protecting the environment and wildlife
  • Improved livelihoods
  • Achieving climate resilience
  • Empowering women farmers

For rural communities in SSA, the adoption of agroecological farming techniques provides the basis of a more secure future and allows extremely vulnerable people in developing countries to eat healthy and nutritious food every day, all year round. This approach enables farmers to rise well above the absolute poverty line [1)] and increases resilience against the effects of climate change. As they become self-reliant, farmers grow in confidence and hope. Communities, riven by years of conflict, can be brought together [2]. Through smallholder empowerment, rural communities can become more vibrant and sustainable and provide greater opportunities for young people.

We have had great success in our training intensive programmes in Uganda and Kenya, helping empower smallholder farmers and increasing the awareness of the benefits that agroecological techniques can have.

Our written evidence to the International Development Select Committee advocated for increasing the development focus on smallholder farming to more effectively reduce world hunger and malnutrition, help mitigate climate change, increase resilience and empower women and communities the world over.

References: 

[1] [2] Send a Cow Uganda (December 2015) DFID-GPAF Evaluation. (Not yet published)