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The Relevance of Smallholder Farming to African Agricultural Growth and Development

Farms less than two hectares constitute most farm holdings in Africa. Most of these farms are operated by rural smallholder farmers who are dependent on agriculture for their economic livelihoods. However, they are constrained by lack of capital assets that would enable them to increase agricultural productivity, food security and income. Despite these challenges, smallholders contribute significantly to the rural economy, and play a significant role in natural resource conservation. Therefore, they represent a critical population to include in poverty reduction efforts. Recent initiatives by African leaders aim to increase public expenditures on agriculture in order to spur economic development, position smallholders to play a significant role in regional growth. To understand the relevance of smallholder farming to Africa’s development agenda, this paper reviews the body of knowledge on smallholder farmers, the constraints and opportunities they face, and their use of practices which embody the tenets of ecological and climate-smart agriculture despite little public investment in this area. This paper recognizes the role of smallholder farmers and concludes that smallholder agriculture will be a driver of economic growth and development in Africa. In order to achieve this, adequate investment should be focused on eliminating the challenges faced by smallholder farmers.

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