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Smallholder Agriculture in East Africa: Trends, Constraints and Opportunities

Smallholder agriculture continues to play a key role in African agriculture. This paper investigates trends, challenges and opportunities of this sub-sector in East Africa through case studies of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania. In these agriculture-based economies, smallholder farming accounts for about 75 percent of agricultural production and over 75 percent of employment. However, contributions of smallholder farming, and agriculture in general to the region’s rapid growth between 2005 and 2008 have remained limited. Instead, growth was driven by services, in particular, trade. This paper finds that at the national level, weak institutions, restricted access to markets and credit. These factors, including inadequate infrastructure, have constrained productivity growth of smallholder farming. Measures needed to improve productivity of smallholder farmers include ease of access to land, training to enhance skills and encourage technology adoption and innovation, and removal of obstacles to trade. At the regional and global levels, international trade barriers need to be addressed.