7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Small farmers, big business?

Small farmers, big business?

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.