Reducing poverty amongst smallholder farmers
Access to profitable and sustainable markets is a prerequisite to guaranteeing food and nutrition security and economic growth for smallholder farmers in southern Africa. A recent study commissioned by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and OXFAM Southern Africa now reveals that 80 percent of women and youth sell their agricultural produce only in their local informal markets, without access to profitable and sustainable national and regional markets.
Smallholder farmers account for over 70 percent of the food consumed in the region, yet they make up the majority of people living in poverty
– FAO 2020, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to expose existing gaps in the agricultural markets and value chains, in addition to climate change induced adversities such as droughts, floods, pests, and diseases.
To bridge the gap between smallholder farmers and markets, OXFAM in partnership with FANRPAN and the Southern Africa People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) have launched a Markets Campaign dubbed ‘Markets for All’. The campaign’s aim is to promote market access for smallholder farmers, especially women and youth in the region in general, and in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in particular, where the studies were conducted. The launch unveiled an online platform hosted on FANRPAN’s website, that is advocating for community-led policy engagements. The ‘Markets for All Campaign’ will work with smallholder farmers, private sector, governments and other development partners to increase knowledge and access to global, regional and national markets by smallholder farmers, using ICT for Agriculture (ICT4A).
“The Markets for All Campaign will promote gender and youth inclusive agricultural market systems. The goal is to collaboratively ensure that smallholder farmers, especially women and youth, have adequate access to markets and market information“, said Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila, FANRPAN’s Chief Executive Officer, during the launch of the online campaign.
In 2018 only 5 percent of women and youth reported to have accessed financial and credit services for agriculture in southern Africa.
– FAO 2018. The future of food and agriculture – Alternative pathways to 2050.
“In Zambia, the government has put in place facilities and banks that are able to give loans, but the interest rate is far beyond my reach as a smallholder farmer. Credit facilities do not take into consideration the time it takes for the crops to grow, harvesting and cashing in. As soon as a loan is accessed, interest is due to be paid,” lamented Ms. Yunike Phiri, a smallholder farmer from Zambia during the launch of the Markets for All Campaign.
Inadequate post-harvest management diminishes the quality of smallholder agricultural commodities, thus affecting their ability to meet commercial and export market standards. “Because I do not have storage facilities for my tomatoes or fruits, I may end up selling them at give-away prices, or even throwing them away because of depleted quality,” noted Ms Flora Ouma a farmer from Malawi.
Women and youth smallholder farmers have to be empowered and organized into associations in order to increase their market bargaining power and access to facilities that include credit, finance, insurance and extension services.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Nellie Nyang’wa, the Regional Director of Oxfam Southern Africa elaborated the importance of the markets campaign saying, “The market is a key element in the value chain which has been ignored for a long time. We must work to transform the current state of agriculture failure to which, it will continue to be a poverty trap for many people living in rural areas.”
There is an urgent need to consider the fifth CAADP Malabo Commitment; Boosting Intra-African Trade in Agricultural Commodities & Services. This was emphasized by Dr. Godfrey Bahiigwa, the Director of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission. He said, “African states ought to fast track the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA). Implementing policies and institutional support systems will not only simplify and formalise current trade practises, but will also increase and facilitate investments in markets and trade infrastructure”.
For more details and on how to participate in this campaign, please visit the FANRPAN website.