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Small-scale agriculture

Small farmers want to operate well and sustainably

Three-quarters of the world’s hungry people live in the countryside. It is here that 70 per cent of the world’s food is produced in small enterprises.

(04/02/2015) Every human has a right to food. In Jhiranya in India that idea has long been made a mockery. Here, every family cultivates around 0.2 hectares of land, that is less than one-third the area of a football pitch. The majority plant maize, soya and cotton – the yields are too low to keep hunger at bay. With the support of Welthungerhilfe, smallfarmers are fighting for their rights as humans and citizens of India.   

In Kongoussi, a village in Burkina Faso, the biggest problem is the barren soil. It is predominantly women and children who live here, the men have left in search of work. However, with the right cultivation methods, smart irrigation and good tools, together they can secure the nutrition of their children and families.

Small farmers in India have to fight for their rights. © Brockmann
Small farmers in India have to fight for their rights. © Brockmann
Small farmers in Kongoussi in Burkina Faso, female farmers work together to improve the irrigation of their fields. © Rosenthal
In Kongoussi in Burkina Faso, female farmers work together to improve the irrigation of their fields. © Rosenthal
A cooperative in Haiti presenting its product: mango liqueur. © Rosenthal
A cooperative in Haiti presenting its product: mango liqueur. © Rosenthal
Small farmers in Kongoussi in Burkina Faso, female farmers work together to improve the irrigation of their fields. © Rosenthal
In Kongoussi in Burkina Faso, female farmers work together to improve the irrigation of their fields. © Rosenthal

Jhiranya and Kongoussi – just two villages of the many worldwide, where the people live as smallfarmers. A small cultivation plot and minimal agricultural equipment is typical for smallfarmer enterprises. The majority of these enterprises cultivate their fields for their own needs, carrying out subsistence farming. Only a few can produce a surplus to sell. Correspondingly, the income is very low and, correspondingly, there is a high dependency on local environmental conditions. 

Different everywhere: locally-adapted agriculture

Economically, ecologically and socially sustainable – small farmers would like to operate in this way. Their aims: Securing nutrition, producing income and preserving natural resources. As such, locally-adapted agriculture is important. What precisely that means varies from region to region. Depending on climate zone, soil quality, water availability, investment opportunities, level of mechanisation, eating habits and market links, it must be decided in each location what will be cultivated and how. In order to be able to live well and long-term from their small farm, the farming families must utilise their entire knowledge and abilities – and learn other things and invest in new cultivation techniques.

What Welthungerhilfe is doing

Welthungerhilfe is therefore, firstly, supporting farming enterprises to cultivate their fields in an ecologically sustainable and yield-secure manner. This works, for example ... 

  • through diversity in cultivation,
  • sustainable irrigation management and
  • the improvement of soil fertility through compost and mulch.

Secondly, we are supporting farmers to organise themselves into cooperatives and to store, process and sell their agricultural produce. Equally as important is income from non-agricultural activities, so that at least a portion of the family’s needs is secure in the case of a poor harvest.

What Welthungerhilfe is calling for

But the smallfarmers cannot do it alone! Smallfarmer agriculture needs - and deserves - genuine political and societal support. As such, Welthungerhilfe is calling for smallfarmer agriculture to be placed in the centre of development policy, as a key to food security and fighting poverty – at both national and international level. Unfair, market-distorting and resource-damaging practices and policies should be halted.

Every human has a right to food... 

...As such, measures to ensure nutrition security are not an expression of charity. Quite the opposite: The governements of countries suffering hunger in their populations have a duty to support their citizens in the awareness of their rights. We, in industrialised nations, have an obligation to design the political and economic framework conditions so that the human right to food is not violated nor its realisation hindered.

Contact
Dr. Rafaël Schneider

Dr. Rafaël Schneider

Deputy Director
Policy and External Relations

+49-228-2288147

Facts and figures

Proportion of hungry people living in rural areas: 75 per cent 

Proportion of food produced by smallfarmer enterprises: 70 per cent 

Average size of an agricultural farm in Africa and Asia: 1.6 hectares 

Average size of an agricultural farm in Germany: 58 hectares 

Size of a football pitch according to UEFA guidelines: 0.7 hectares

Infographic
Infographic: How can we end hunger by 2030?
Infographic: How can we end hunger by 2030?
Videos

(February 2015) Smallholder farmers from Kenya and Uganda are crossing borders to learn from each other.

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