We invite you to join our debate on food security and innovative programmes to support smallholder farmers. Share with us your ideas and comments around the following issues:
Challenges: What are the main challenges facing smallholder farmers in reaching new markets for their products?
Best practices: Which examples of innovative public policies are supporting smallholder farmers in developing countries?
Impacts: What impacts a governmental programme that guarantees alternative agricultural markets may have on smallholder farmers?
In order to provide you with a few inputs on these issues, we highligh a recent assessment carried out by the UNDP International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) on Brazil’s Food Acquisition Programme.
The Food Acquisition Programme (PAA), part of the Zero Hunger Campaign that purchases food from small farmers and donates it to institutions working with people facing food insecurity, has helped to increase and improve farmers’ production, but not enough to make them independent of the project.
The assessment was based on overall numbers of the program and specifically evaluated two methods involving the simultaneous purchase with donation. 72 interviews were also made in November and December last year with farmers, farmers’ leaders, technicians and representatives of social movements, state governments, municipalities and institutions that have received donations. The case study focused on three municipalities of Sergipe state: Estância, Indiaroba and Lagarto, where over 50% of the population is poor and more than 80% of farmers are smallholder producers.
Entitled Alternatives for Family Farmers Market Initiatives in Food Security: Lessons from the Food Acquisition Programme of Brazil, the study estimates that the changes promoted by the project in the techniques of cultivation and farmers’ organization are essential to encourage participation of producers in the market. The programme increases and diversifies production, improves food quality and intensifies the use of inputs.
The programme invested US$ 1 billion between 2003 and 2008 to purchase 2 million tons of food and distributed it to ¼ of the Brazilian population suffering from food insecurity. By guaranteeing the purchase of agricultural production by a pre-agreed price, the project provides income security to more than 100,000 benefited farmers.
In addition to producing more and being better equipped, farmers benefiting from the PAA also improved the quality of their products, because of the control established by the initiative. “With the resources available and a guaranteed market, farmers have explored new and reintroduced some cultures which had been abandoned, as different varieties of cassava,” says the study. There was an increase in acreage and / or variety of products available. Participation in the programme also led to higher use of inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and seeds, and became more frequent rental of tractors, investment in irrigation and purchase of equipment for beekeeping.
Market Access still a challenge
In the three municipalities surveyed in Sergipe, the market options available are normally street markets and intermediaries. “It can be extremely difficult for farmers to find and enter markets that would give them better opportunities,” the authors note.
Although they are more competitive now, the small farmers in those towns are still struggling to reach other markets. “Regarding the access of producers to other sales channels, changes caused by PAA were very limited,” says the study. The authors propose, therefore, additional support to farmers. “In the case examined, there is a clear need for technical assistance in the area of production planning,” say the authors, suggesting that training may stimulate the growth of agro-ecological or organic items, with higher added value.
The assistance should also include food processing technology and rules for licensing. “The development of management capacity, including knowledge of financial and legal procedures would also be appropriate,” the report recommends.
Series of studies
The publications on the Food Acquisition Programme are the first in a series that aims to compare different experiences in food security policies based on procurement of food. Upcoming research projects will focus on India and the World Food Programme (WFP, UN).
According to the researcher Darana Souza one important thing is “to show other countries what impacts a government programme to guarantee alternative agricultural markets may have on small farmers who, in turn, would have difficulty in entering the market without such incentives.”
You can also read the publication on IPC-IG website at:
Market Alternatives for Smallholder Farmers in Food Security Initiatives: Lessons from the Brazilian Food Acquisition Programme
Authors: Danuta Chmielewska, Darana Souza
Series: Working Paper # 64. June 2010.
Supporting Food Production and Food Access through Local Public Procurement Schemes: Lessons from Brazil
Authors: Darana Souza, Danuta Chmielewska
Series: One Pager # 110. June 2010.