Report – Strengthening Smallholder Agriculture in Africa: Prospects for Mobilisation and Advocacy

January 24th, 2023

Download the report here

The reports summarizes the proceedings of a multinational convening organized under Trust Africa’s “Building an Advocacy Movement for Equitable and Sustainable Agriculture in Africa” project held on 24 to 26 November 2014 under the theme “Strengthening smallholder agriculture in Africa: Prospects for mobilization and advocacy”. The convening brought together stakeholders, partners, and researchers, program staff from TrustAfrica and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  

The convening provided a timely platform to reinvigorate discussions on how to sustain the agenda for a more inclusive and sustainable agriculture amongst a broad base of non-state actors with government actors. The convening was also used to launch the discussion on the second phase of TrustAfrica’s advocacy actions and movement building for sustainable agriculture project. The convening took the approach of setting the broader context and understanding the characteristic challenges and gaps of smallholder agriculture.


Setting the Broad Context: Where We Are Now.

The keynote address by Thokoza Didiza, Former Minister of Agriculture in South Africa, provided an overview of the key issues in sustaining the focus on smallholder agriculture. Noting that smallholder agriculture was reaffirmed in the Malabo Declaration of June 2014, by the AU and the Heads of State, the keynote highlighted that:

  • Although the goal of CAADP had not been reached, governments and civil society organisations were indeed asking the right questions and the mobilization of smallholder farmers was the way forward in continuous engagement and sustaining advocacy efforts to ensure that smallholder agriculture becomes a reality.
  • Gender issues continue to be central to mobilization and advancing smallholder agriculture advocacy, and women should be part of the constituency for mobilization. The mobilization of local governance structures such as traditional leaders was important to including women and girls in the mobilization strategy.  

Researchers involved in smallholder agriculture policy analysis presented papers on the broad context of smallholder agriculture in national economies and in rural livelihoods. In linking smallholder agriculture with broader economic and national development goals, the presentations noted that there was still an inadequate appreciation of smallholder agriculture in achieving development due to:

  • Limited information on small-holder agriculture and measurement of its contributions to national economies and society.  
  • Overemphasis on models of development based on creating economies of scales, intensifying production towards a particular industrial model and increasing exports. As such, large scale agriculture receives more attention and support in Africa at the expense of small-holder farming.
  • Inadequate attention to how land tenure reform and the specific mode of property rights has promoted investments beneficial to smallholder agriculture. 
  • The inadequacy and nature of markets that developed in the last 30 years around commercial agriculture that do not factor smallholder agriculture’s contribution to development. There are limited linkages between existing markets and smallholder farmers.
  • An insufficient account of land and water resources and reproductive labour in promoting small holder agriculture within the broader context of rural livelihoods.
  • Rural livelihoods remained technologically challenged and unable to take advantage of new technologies. As a response to urban crises and lack of urban employment and new opportunities, some have returned to agrarian livelihood activities e.g. Zimbabwe. 

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