Smallholder farmers throughout the developing world rely on crops or livestock for income and food security. In fact, smallholder farms make up the vast majority (80%) of farms in the African continent, with approximately 33 million small farms of less than two hectares as of 2009.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has discussed the potential of smallholder farmers in developing countries to contribute to increased food production and to lower the gap between actual and economically attainable food production.
Improving the welfare for smallholder farmers has the potential to improve agricultural productivity and resulting levels of poverty.
Challenges facing smallholder farmers
Despite the increasing demand for food in both developed and developing counties, smallholder farmers face a number of challenges, from pest and disease outbreaks or animal diseases to poor rural infrastructure and limited access to credit.
There are particular challenges for women, who play a key role in agriculture but face constraints including owning smaller farms, which affects their access to credit using land as collateral, or being less educated, which limits their access to technical information for enhancing production.
AIR conducts rigorous impact evaluations of agricultural development projects to better understand how various types of programs can improve smallholder farmer income and food and nutrition security.
- We draw from qualitative methods to assess the changes the interventions produce, conduct cost analyses, and evaluate the fidelity of program implementation.
- We evaluate programs that aim to increase farmers’ access to knowledge, technology, and agricultural inputs.
- We conduct evaluations of programs that aim to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers and Small and Medium Enterprises to accelerate value chain and private sector development.
Our clients include the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie); CABI, which is funded in part by the UK Department for International Development; the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC); and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP)/IFC of the World Bank.
Our current work includes projects in Benin, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia.