Lino Miguel Dias

It’s Time to Accelerate “The Smallholder Effect”

Smallholders play a critical role in our global food system. Numbering approximately 475 million smallholder farms, they comprise the vast majority of our planet’s farmers. In fact, they are responsible for producing 80 percent of the food that helps feed families in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

And yet, for numerous complex reasons, smallholder farmers often lack access to the resources, technology, knowledge and markets they need to meaningfully grow their business and meet ever-growing, often-changing environmental, economic and social demands.

But there’s good news.

There is growing recognition of the singular role smallholders play in nourishing communities around the world.

At Bayer, we call it “The Smallholder Effect.” Like the proverbial pebble that creates ever-expanding ripples across the water, every action that benefits a smallholder farmer will create ripple benefits for their families, their communities, and – by extension – our society at large.

Simply put: the more we come together to work with smallholders, the more smallholders are able to support our world.

So how can we accelerate The Smallholder Effect?

Lino Miguel Dias
Lino Miguel Dias
Lino Miguel Dias,
Global Head Smallholder Farming, Bayer

Focus on the 35 Percent

First, we must recognize that all smallholders are not alike.

Unfortunately, smallholder farming has become a catch-all term. This creates the impression that all smallholder farmers have the same needs, challenges, goals and hopes.

But that is simply not the case. Smallholder farmers are an amazingly diverse population, requiring nuanced, customized and focused approaches.

Based on data from the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, we have identified three distinct categories within the smallholder segment:

  • The largest group fall into the “subsistence” category, occupying approximately 60 percent of smallholder acreage
  • The smallest is the “professional” category those on the verge of “graduating” from smallholder status based on their output. Sadly, this group accounts for just five percent of smallholder acreage.
  • The third grouping is made up of the final two segments: “emerging” and “advanced” farmers who together comprise 35 percent of the smallholder population.

We believe the greatest opportunity for Bayer to support smallholder farmers with its portfolio and solutions is by focusing on addressing the needs of the 35 percent!

The Power of Partnership

Second, we must create partnerships that take a holistic, market-based approach tailored to the local needs of smallholder farmers.

As noted in a recent Harvard Business Review article from Kaplan et al. “Inclusive Growth: Profitable Strategies for Tackling Poverty and Inequality”: “Corporations and other actors need to reimagine the regional ecosystems in which they participate if they are to bring poor farmers and unemployed urban youths into the mainstream economy.”

In other words, we can’t simply view all 450 million smallholder farmers as one homogeneous group and expect to help solve the challenges they face with a one-size-fits-all approach.

Even with well-orchestrated global collaboration, this kind of approach fails to appreciate the nuances that differentiate these farmers. It misses the opportunity to address unique needs through market-driven solutions. It doesn’t provide the individualized opportunities that are required to realize The Smallholder Effect.

For this reason, Bayer has embraced opportunities to engage in public private partnerships such as:

In April 2018, at the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings, in Washington, D.C., Bayer joined with leading public and private sector organizations to launch an alliance to provide holistic and innovative solutions that will enable smallholders to grow their farms into commercially viable and sustainable businesses.

But, as we come closer together, the key will be applying the lessons learned about what it takes for these cross-functional partnerships to succeed. The reality is that holistic, scalable solutions are most impactful for smallholder farmers when delivered through custom partnerships at the local, regional and global level.

Accelerating the Smallholder Effect

Smallholder farmers can have a big impact – an exponential impact – when it comes to eliminating hunger in ways that respect their communities and the environment. And, together, we have the opportunity to accelerate The Smallholder Effect.

We believe that it starts with a focus on the 35 percent of smallholders who not only occupy a significant percentage of acreage, but also who are emerging and advancing at a rate that we can help accelerate.

The 35 percent offers the most sustainable footprint – environmentally, economically, socially – to realize the promise of smallholders’ ability to feed a growing planet.

What do you think? Share your comments below and via social media using #SmallholderEffect

Current Readers´ rating (17)
All Comments

July 25, 2018 - 01:06 PM

As big as Bayer is I think focusing on 35% is repeating the process of leaving behind those already left behind. Trully, I think this initiative is neither inclusive nor innovative, for 35% have already better chance to thrive as you said, they are "advanced" or "emerging", but ok, you plan to accelerate the process...
How about Bayer having a segment that understand and find solution to this diversity of smallholders left behind in the 65% amount, but respecting their culture at first. Finding solution to this majority who are also rural producers I would consider, in fact, a masterpiece.
Good luck!

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Nelson Musisi
July 24, 2018 - 09:47 AM

This is a very good Idea. I grew up from a "small holder" and all that I've become is rooted by small scale. I love to join the movement of accelerating the small holder effect

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Dr Mahesh Chander
May 14, 2018 - 01:57 PM

True, all smallholders are not alike! it makes good reading, thanks!

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anuj dhariwal
April 26, 2018 - 11:08 AM

truly awesome initiative...and i am siure this will open more opportunities for players in adjacent industries (food, animal farming, fuel..) to join and contribute towards better livelihood for smallholers. keep us the spirit guys. all the best

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