Resilient small farms to feed the world

A tribal family in Mandla District (M.P. , India) with their first harvest of paddy (Photo: Amarjeet Kujur@2016)

The situation of smallholder farmers doesn’t look different anywhere in the world. Alienated from the development process, most of them live on scarce resources, exhibiting their adaptation skills to survive the extremes of society and nature. Still they feed more number of people and produce more food in comparison to the industrialised agriculture. However, the focus of the agricultural research systems in most of the developing countries has been on large scale farms. The disconnect between the agricultural education, research and extension systems makes it more challenging for smallholders to have access and control over knowledge, information and resources relevant to them.

Smallholders are facing varying but similar challenges and fighing a loosing battle with the mighty corporations constantly mooting their capitalistic presence. Alianation of local genetic resources is affecting the agri-biodiversity, increased use of inorganic chemicals in the form of fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides etc. is directly affecting the quality of water, soil health and the quality of agricultural products. The health impact of this, need no mention here. External dependency of farmers have not only increased the input costs in agriculture, but the challenge to get these inputs on time are a major area of concern. Climate change and induced disasters have added to the vows of smallholders.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), about 795 million people out of the 7.3 billion people in the world, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014–2016. One in every nine person in the world faces chronic undernourishment. Two thirds of the worlds hungry people live in Asia. South Asia is considered as the worst affected. In this scenario, SDG 2 targeting to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture is a huge target to achieve for this region.

I have been part of SAFBIN programme (www.safbin.org), implemented in South Asia by Caritas organisations. Farmers in this programme have tested out a unique smallholder farmers collective led on-farm adaptive research approach with active involvement of the relevant stakeholders at various levels. This helped them to understand their challenges, problems and identify the solutions suitable to them. Since led by farmers, the ownership and sustainability is high and farmers collectively continue to identify innovative solutions for their problems. On an average, the food security of the farmers, increased from six months to ten months a year. Similarly the focus on crop diversification and nutrition helped them to increase the number of items in their food basket. The stakeholders like research students, scientists, academicians, extension workers have positively collaborated and appreciated the process. This collective efforts helped the farmers in building resilience to climate change. This is a scalable model to ensure sustainable production.

Now, many of the farmers have small surplus production from their farms. The major challenge they face now is to sell their small surpluses. With limited demand for the sustainably produced food, farmers do not get good price for their products. At a time, when eco-anxiety is rapidly increasing among people, a bridge between the conscious consumers and smallholder producers will long way help the smallholder farmers to continue their efforts to sustainably maintain their farms. The appreciation and continuous demand for the sustainably produced local food items will not only reduce the carbon foot print of the consumers but also help us to achieve SDG 2.

We are on a war against hunger and we are going to do everything it takes, to win it this time. The fairy tale in the link below is a representation of the life of smallholder farmers in the world: https://www.facebook.com/ursus.piscis/posts/2012583948974836

To continue this story, a thousand mighty wise men and women from all over the world, are planning to UNLEASH the war strategy in DENMARK, for achieving one of the worlds biggest war to to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.