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Agricultural innovations for smallholder farmers to reach the Sustainable Development Goals

Published on November 21, 2018 | Author: Linus Karlsson
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This topic is addressed at the International Symposium on Agricultural Innovation organized by FAO that starts today. During the symposium, focus will be to understand drivers and processes that unlock the potential of innovation rather than to introduce new technology or farming regimes. Many developing countries fail to harness the potential of innovation because scale-up processes are ineffective and do not properly reach smallholders. However, to reach the Sustainable Development Goals it is essential to address the challenges of small-scale farmers as they manage about 75 percent of the farmland worldwide.

At Agroforestry Network we believe that the symposium is a great initiative to support smallholder farmers in the challenges they are facing, e.g. food insecurity, natural resource depletion and climate change. In our most recent publication Achieving the Global Goals through agroforestry we conclude that agroforestry can contribute to achieve at least nine of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The evidence is clear on the potential of agroforestry but as FAO points out in this symposium, processes and pathways are often missing in developing countries for scale-up processes to reach smallholder farmers living in poverty. The lack of scale-up pathways is especially apparent for agroforestry innovations. Agroforestry Network has identified severely barriers keeping farmers from feeding of the benefits of agroforestry.

Barriers preventing agroforestry innovations from being scaled up

In the daily life of all farmers these barriers are found. For example, there are few value chains developed for agroforestry products compared to agricultural commodities. The slow return on investments in agroforestry systems also causes problems. Many farmers, and especially women, do not have access to capital or long-term credit. Insecure tenure rights also limit long-term investments, as farmers are hesitant to do long-term investments when they face the risk of being pushed of their land.

“Traditionally rural land management has been 
divided into into forestry and agriculture”

Barriers are also found in policies and institutional environments. One of the most apparent barrier is that agroforestry is not properly acknowledged in policy documents or by organisational structures such national ministries. The land management system tend to fall between two stools. Traditionally rural land management has been divided into forestry and agriculture. This paradigm still dominates rural development resulting in that no institution or policy takes on the led to implement agroforestry. Even in countries with an agroforestry policy, little work has been done to harmonize it with other development policies. Because of this, no governmental body takes on the responsibility for implementation. Furthermore, agroforestry farmers are not compensated for the ecosystem services they provide except in some carbon sequestration projects.

All these barriers are keeping agroforestry from reaching its potential as a land management system. At Agroforestry Network we will follow the Symposium on Agricultural Innovation closely to learn how such barriers can be addressed so that smallholder farmers fully can benefit from low-cost and sustainable  agroforestry innovations.

If you are interested in a more thorough analysis about barriers keeping agroforestry from being scaled up and how these can be addressed, have a look in the report:

SCALING UP AGROFORESTRY: Potential, Challenges and Barriers – A review of environmental, social and economic aspects at the farmer, community and landscape levels