University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Food Futures in the World > Smallholder agriculture and food security: examining the routes for diversifying and sustaining rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

Smallholder agriculture and food security: examining the routes for diversifying and sustaining rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

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Smallholder farmers in developing countries face large-scale information asymmetry that prevent sustainable production and can result in the exploitation of the farming community. The challenge is particularly acute for women farmers, who face the greatest structural constraints to accessing information, despite their critical role in food production and family nutrition.

While agriculture is an important engine of growth and poverty reduction in developing countries, growth arising from expansion of land under cultivation tends to correlate with low levels of poverty reduction while the gains achieved with agricultural technologies have led to increasing productivity and gains in wealth. A recent trend in the agriculture sector has been to improve informational access for appropriate production planning, use of improved seeds and planting materials, suitable cultivation practices, effective post-harvest management, storage, value addition and marketing. A particular advance has been through the use of mobile phones to provide agricultural information to farmers in Sub Saharan Africa since 2007, partly in response to the decline in the provision of traditional extension services but also in recognition of the potential for mobile phones and tablet devices to revolutionize the provision of information to farmers.

This presentation will review the current situation of small holders in improving food production and the feasibility of the global agenda of ensuring diversification and sustainable livelihoods for this group of farmers. There will be a particular focus on the obstacles posed by poor connectivity in Sub-Saharan rural areas that prevent ICT from benefitting small holders. The opportunity presented by recent improvements in access to finance via mobile telecommunication and the need to build on this advance through the provision of cheap and sustainable energy will be explored. The institutional and structural features that currently hinder advances in technology dissemination will be reviewed and need for livelihood sensitive approaches that recognise the diversity of small holders in sub-Saharan ecologies will be emphasised.

This talk is part of the Food Futures in the World series.

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