Posted by: Home Strange Home | September 14, 2009

Smallholder Farms in Africa

Oftentimes the focus of development discussions is on industrialization and manufacturing, which are seen as necessary for growth and modernization to occur.  Agriculture is given a backseat.  This shows itself in donor spending: less than 5% of aid in 2007 was spent on the agriculture sector.  Nor is there much support for agriculture within developing countries themselves; government spending on agriculture in developing countries is only 4% of public expenditure on average, reflecting the “urban bias” of many governments whose political constituencies reside in the largest cities. 

And yet so many of the world’s poor live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.  While there is a worldwide trend toward urbanization, 75% of the world’s poor still live in rural areas.  There are an estimated 500 million small farms in developing countries, collectively supporting 2 billion people.  

In Africa in particular, agriculture is extremely important to the economy  In many African countries, agriculture is the biggest private sector business.  Agriculture accounts for approximately 30% of GDP in Sub-Saharan Africa, 40% of its exports, and 80% of its employment.  Whereas developed countries often have large scale, capital-intensive, mechanized farms, in Africa labour-intensive smallholder farms account for 95% of agriculture and are an important source of employment.  There are an estimated 80 million smallholder farms in Africa.  

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), an agency of the United Nations founded in 1977, seeks to increase investment in smallholder farms in Africa, whether it be through micro financing, agro-processing, or market access.  Currently 45% of IFAD funding goes to Africa.

Source: and Developments Issue 46  


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