Investing in Resilience of Smallholder Farming ‘Essential’

Kalkidan Yibeltal

AllAfrica – There are about 500 million smallholder family farms in the world today who are providing unto 80 percent of the food consumed by developing countries, according to Dr. Kanayo F. Nwaze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Dr. Nwaze stated this  at the International Food Policy and Research Institute (IFPRI) 2020 Conference titled  “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” being held at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

 According to IFPRI the post -2015 agenda should aim to end hunger by 2025, but this can only succeed “by building resilience to various environmental, political and economic shocks that threaten food security and livelihoods.”

Dr Nwaze believes the significance of building resilience for smallholder farmers, who are, unfortunately, at the receiving end of hard times is critical.  They are, according to him, devoid of investment options in times of crises as they often lack asset base, insurance, financial services and social safety nets. As a result they end up taking drastic measures such as removing their children from school, selling everything they have accumulated and migrating to the cities. Countries should therefore help small holder farmers in fostering ownership and ensuring sustainability. 

Drought, earthquake and tsunami 
“In the past five years alone, the world has witnessed a major 
earthquake in Haiti; drought in the Horn of Africa; an earthquake,
 tsunami, and nuclear crisis in Japan; and food price spikes in 
2008 which still impact global food prices today,” says IFPRI. 
In the past six months alone, Typhoon Haiyan has hit the 
Philippines; major flooding has struck the UK; civil conflict 
has continued in the Central African Republic, Syria, and 
South Sudan; landslides have ravaged Afghanistan; 
and a new disease called Middle East Respiratory 
Syndrome emerged on the Arabian Peninsula. 
“The most recent report from the Intergovernmental 
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also confirmed
 humans’ role in causing climate change and 
warned of further shocks to come.” 


“Many of the potential shocks we face, such as disease, 
food price spikes, and natural disasters, know no 
borders,” said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan, 
“our success in coping, and even thriving in the 
presence of shocks, will depend on renewed efforts 
to cooperate and collaborate on a resilience agenda,”

In an attempt to help families cope with hard times in a sustainable manner, theUnited Nations World Food Program (WFP) is working to get away from its traditional role as food aid provider to contributing 40 % of its operations to programs designed to encourage resilience, according to Dr. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of EFP. She also expressed her belief that the process of achieving resilience should start from a thinking paradigm shift. “Resilience requires an in-depth understanding of community livelihoods,” she said.

Taking a long term perspective, going beyond asset building and being 
multi sectoral as well as making sure that every man and woman can 
contribute to the maximum of their ability are some of the principles
 put forward by Dr. Cousin that the world needs to adopt. “Resilience 
will pay dividends for fragile communities who today face 
environmental, economic, and nutritional bankruptcy.” 
She added that for people in communities affected by droughts, floods, 
and other shocks, a resilience approach allows comprehensive action 
that both restores the productivity of people’s land and significantly 
improves their well-being. “Empowering resilient families to withstand 
shocks can reduce—even by half—the likelihood that children will 
become malnourished.” 
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn was more upbeat 
about the positive prospects of his government in helping 
smallholder farmers cope with increasing challenges stretching 
from environmental to fluctuating global market for agricultural 
products. “To be a resilient country we must also have a resilient 
agriculture system,” he said.  Ethiopia has therefore invested in 
raising the “productivity of small farmers, strengthening 
agricultural marketing systems, bringing more land 
under irrigation, and reducing land degradation by 
soil and water conservation measures.”   
“Our people are at the center of these 
investments and policies.”
More than 800 experts from around the world attended the 
three-day conference from May 15 -17 to discuss the scope 
of this challenge and the investments required to 
end hunger and malnutrition for good. 
Photo Caption: from left WEF Director General Dr. Ertharin Cousin, IFPRI 
Director General Shenggen Fan, Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson, 
The Global Environment Facility and Dr. Kanayo F. Nwaze, President 
of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Photo Credit: Addis Standard 
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