A third of the world’s 7.3 billion people are small farmers and their families. They work about 60% of the world’s arable land, producing nearly 70% of all food consumed worldwide. Yet, these people are among the poorest and hungriest on the planet. Why? And why aren’t we doing more to protect them?

In this op-ed piece for The Guardian, written by Huge Locke, cofounder and president of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance, Locke explores how this system emerged, what the challenges are, and what some possible solutions might be. The piece provides a great overview of the dynamics that led to the Green Revolution and what has occurred subsequently.

Locke made these observation and developed some ideas while working with 3,200 Haitian smallholder farmers, with support from the Clinton Foundation and Timberland. (These organizations are pioneering a new market-based approach, using trees as bio-currency. It’s an interesting project worth reading about).

Locke provides seven recommendations, ranging from implementing exit strategies for development aid, to supporting women producers, encouraging more organic production and redirecting foreign aid.

On investing in women farmers, Locke writes:


“Women share the workload on smallholder farms, but tend to have less say in their operation and receive little of the income. But when women are included as equals, productivity almost always goes up. Women are more likely than men to invest their increased income in the long term interests of their families and communities. There is no shortage of data to support these claims, but not nearly enough examples of action. There are three initial areas that will make a real difference. First, ensure that women get equal access to agricultural training. Second, make microcredit widely available to female farmers. Third, help women set up cooperatives and small businesses to process food into sellable products.”


A solid piece. H/T Chicago Council.


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