Small-scale producers in sustainable agrifood systems transformation

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working paper
Arulingam, I.
Brady, G.
Chaya, M.
Conti, M.
Kgomotso, P. K.
Korzenszky, A.
Njie, D.
Schroth, G.
Suhardiman, D.

If the world is to transition towards agrifood systems that are more sustainable and equitable, small-scale production systems will be key to progress. Large parts of the world depend on small-scale systems for maintaining food security and nutrition (Lowder, Sánchez and Bertini, 2021; Herrero et al., 2017). Despite this centrality, neither small-scale production systems nor small-scale producers have received due recognition under predominant agrifood systems paradigms.

This paper analyzes the diversity of small-scale producers and demonstrates how understanding small-scale production can have consequences for how policies and investments are directed and how they impact small-scale producer livelihoods. The diverse roles and functions of small-scale production are presented as being essential to realizing sustainable agrifood systems transformations and respecting its social, environmental and economic dimensions. Constraints faced by small-scale producers in accessing the assets, financial and knowledge services and market positioning that can support profitable livelihoods are examined.

This publication provides recommendations for expanding the potential of small-scale producers for sustainable agrifood systems transformations across the following areas:

  • create an enabling environment to support the multifunctionality of small-scale production;
  • address the economic and social marginalization of small-scale producers;
  • ensure the political voice and participation of small-scale producers in agrifood systems governance;
  • increase access of small-scale producers to natural and productive resources;
  • improve access to financial services;
  • improve the market positioning of small-scale producers;
  • support the co-creation and exchange of knowledge and innovation for sustainable small-scale production.
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agrifood systems
sustainable production
agricultural production
Sustainable livelihood
information exchange