15-16 JUNE 2016 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Small farmers, big business?

<p>So-called ‘inclusive business models’ with smallholders arouse considerable interest, not only amongst donors and in development cooperation but also amongst the private sector.</p> <p>In light of changing markets, collaboration between agribusiness and small farmers is becoming economically viable. Available models include contract farming schemes, joint ventures, management contracts or new supply-chain relationships. However, their impact and outreach are still limited.</p> <p>Drawing from the experience of the “Small Farmer Big Business Platform” initiated by GIZ, UNIDO, SNV, COLEACP and AFD, this brainstorming session will discuss how innovative public-private partnerships can join efforts, benefit from synergies, and create up-scalable business models that promote inclusive agricultural growth as well as food and nutrition security.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Lab 4
Session type: 
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 -
16:30 to 17:45
Key Points: 

EU and policy framework

  • More access to finance is required.
  • Mapping of agri-business service providers is needed.
  • European SMEs need to be stimulated.

Smallholders’ perspectives

  • Farmers need to organise themselves to access services.
  • Capacity building is needed.
  • Farming should be promoted as a profitable business.
  • It is important to demonstrate that farming is a viable option for young people.

Developing value chains

  • Stakeholders need to be sure collective action will bring results.
  • Certification tools are costly and should be combined with other tools to improve product quality.
  • Public-private partnerships are the way forward to scale up; they must be market-driven and underpinned by a strong business model.

Access to finance

  • Specific financial services are needed, both short and long term – including insurance guarantee schemes.
  • Loans must be affordable.
  • Bookkeeping and technical assistance should be made available.
  • Mobile and e-banking services are needed for rural areas.

The time is right for partnerships and new initiatives. Because farmers are entrepreneurs, harnessing the power and expertise of business to help build capacity is key. Small farmers do not have access to warehouses, cannot afford national certification for their crops or meet traceability criteria, and often lack the business expertise to maximise their income. Business partnerships can help overcome these obstacles, but to do so, work needs to be done along the entire value chain. Sustainable industrial development is needed to enable producers to get connected to bigger markets.

A partnership programme in Zimbabwe showed how sharing of risks and skills involving donors, NGOs, local officials and farmers resulted in a multidisciplinary project to produce good quality seed. Other good practice examples include public-private partnerships in Kenya, developing good agricultural practices in livestock and crops, and working with an agricultural institute so that farmers no longer lose 60 % of their mango and passion fruit production.

The challenge is to scale up best practice and lessons learned, and to encourage a wide range of partners to join forces to share such lessons.

Jean-Pierre Halkin, Head of Unit for Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition, Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid, talked about the post-2015 Agenda and the fundamental importance of food security and nutrition. The European Commission Communication, A Decent Life for All, demonstrates a level of ambition to help farmers do more than just survive the next drought, but also to become entrepreneurs able to provide a future for their children. Commercial family farming will enable farmers to face future shocks and seize opportunities.

Examples of case studies can be found at www.smallfarmersbigbusiness.org.


One of the key challenges is how to mainstream the wealth of experience and expertise in this sector and effectively use it to inform the post-2015 agenda.

  • Food security, nutrition & resilience

    Today, close to 900 million people are estimated to be under-nourished, nearly 15% of the global population. Such a challenge is compounded by population growth, diminishing arable land and the increasing frequency of natural and man-made disasters, which reduce the capacity of the most vulnerable populations to access safe and nutritious food.

    Enshrined in the first Millennium Development Goal, a key priority for the European Union (EU) is to fight hunger and malnutrition and contribute to reduce by half the number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. The EU continues to target its development assistance towards the most vulnerable and fragile populations.

    In its 2011 Communication ‘An Agenda for Change’, the EU resolved to take more action to deliver food security, help insulate developing countries from climate and price-related shocks and help provide the foundations for sustainable growth. This was complemented by other food security-related policies on resilience and nutrition.

    In its 2013 Communication ‘A Decent Life for All’, the EU re-emphasised proposals made in the run-up to Rio+20 calling for sustainable development goals focused on basic ‘pillars of life’, including food security, an issue that has been ‘mainstreamed’ in the EU’s programmes. While recent global initiatives have catalysed rapid support and investment, the EU has remained at the fore with efforts on food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and resilience implemented through various programmes and activities in partnership with multilateral and civil society organisations.

    For example, soaring food prices in 2007/08 led to the creation of an EU Food Facility, which provided €1 billion over three years (2009-2011) to improve agricultural productivity and food supply in the 49 most affected countries. This Facility reached a total of 59 million people, mainly smallholder farmers, with spill over effects on an additional 93 million. More recently, the EU has been leading the way to tackle ‘hidden hunger’ and has pledged to help reduce stunting in seven million children by 2025.