RIO+ highlights risks and opportunities for smallholder farmers’ in Africa

PAA Africa's public managers visit Brazil in 2012. Photo: WFP

PAA Africa’s public managers visit Brazil in 2012. Photo: WFP

“Policies for Africa smallholder farmers need to build on previous experiences, leveraging higher capability than was tried previously”, said today ( 2 ) the director of the RIO+ Centre, Romulo Paes, in Addis Ababa , Ethiopia.

On a visit to the African country at the invitation of the Brazilian government, Romulo participated in the third edition of the International Seminar of the cooperation project PAA Africa (Purchase from Africans for Africa ) , which started Monday 2nd and finished June 6th.

“The food emergency and the economic and social needs in the continent, which currently has the largest stock of farmable land in the world, requires the urgent attention of public managers for the work that lies ahead,” said Romulo Paes, highlighting that the African context poses both risks and opportunities.

“Many believe that the plantation model, a large-scale agriculture model, is the solution for mass food production. This is true in the case of commodities such as soybeans, cotton, and sugar cane but for all crops. In Brazil we have seen that smallholder farmers are the ones really feeding the population.” At a continental-size scale no less.

Time to gain scale

However, the Director of the RIO+ Centre drew attention to the fact that policies which encourage smallholder farming, such as food acquisition programs, need time to work as well as long-term commitment from public managers.

“Achieving scale immediately or even in the short-term is a challenge. The needs of beneficiary differ significantly and various approaches may apply depending on those needs. This can imply working in a consolidated/nucleus model, before activities can be expanded, at the right scale, to the wider population.”
Romulo Paes also noted that the problem is not always one of, lack of technical assistance to increase productivity. Also critical are mechanisms to enhance market access as well as inputs such as water, quality seeds and credit.

PAA Africa was conceived in 2010 by the Brazilian Government, African countries, and a number of international organizations with a view to enhancing cooperation between Brazil and Africa on food security and rural development.

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