Small-Scale Farms Can Beat the Odds
Ugandan producer earns $100K a year on one acre
People like Shenggen Fan, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., who identifies closely with the 84 per cent of the world’s 570 million farmers who survive on five acres or less.
He grew up on one of those farms — a five-acres farm in China he shared with his parents and two brothers.
The agricultural economist, honoured earlier this year by the World Food Program’s Hunger Hero Award for his commitment to fighting global hunger, is well aware small farmers produce 80 per cent of the food consumed in Asia and Africa.
“However, that does not mean small is beautiful,” Fan said last month at the Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa. “In many cases, small means hungry.”
For Fan, “move up or move out” should be the mantra for reducing hunger and improving the profitability and sustainability of small-scale farming. “There are small farmers who simply cannot be sustainable,” he said. “It is not fair to keep smallholders hungry and malnourished.”
It’s a view that is widely held. But it is also one that other experts warn must be tempered with a new reality.