Increasing resilience of Africa’s smallholder farmers vital

With factors such as climate change, sustainability, and difficult access to markets putting pressure on Africa’s millions of smallholder farmers, efforts were needed to help increase the resilience of such farmers.

This was the view of a panel of experts at Nestlé’s CSV Forum.

Prof Robert Thompson, an expert on agricultural policy at the University of Illinois, pointed out that agriculture across the globe had been using up to 70% of accessible freshwater in its food and fibre production.

However, with the impact of climate change and increased competition from growing non-agricultural sectors of the human population, the world’s farmers would need to learn to make do with decreased freshwater use.

“Extreme climate variations are going to increase the risks associated with farming, leading to unpredictable revenue for farmers everywhere. Africa, however, has numerous agricultural resources. There’s no excuse for Africa not to be self-sufficient in terms of agricultural production,” said Thompson.

Prof Mandivamba Rukuni, executive director of Zimbabwe’s Barefoot Education for Africa Trust, said that in many parts of Africa smallholder farmers were currently supplying up to 90% of the agricultural produce consumed in nearby urban areas.

Improving their resilience into the future was therefore critical for ensuring that these areas continued to receive the food and fibre they needed.

“Agriculture is currently the only means to promote economic growth in Africa’s rural areas,” he said. “Africa’s smallholder farmers must not only be resilient today, but they must be resilient enough to effectively meet tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.”

Massandjé Touré-Litsé, general director of Côte d’Ivoire’s Coffee and Cocoa Council, said that targeted support from governments and the private sector was crucial for enhancing smallholder farmers’ resilience.

“The resilience of Africa’s smallholder farmers can also be increased by encouraging youth to enter this sector of the continent’s economy.

“Smallholder farmers should also be encouraged to diversify the products that they grow so they do not become prisoner to limited products and the buyers who purchase these,” said Touré-Litsé.