Provoking big debate about small agriculture

Small-scale agriculture is well and truly back in the development spotlight — as the future to global food security, a route to rural poverty reduction, a steward of natural resources and a key to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

"We are asking for simpler — not lower — standards"

But if the need to support small-scale agriculture is agreed, the way forward remains highly contested. There is certainly a role for markets and the private sector. Indeed, many development policymakers and practitioners speak about ‘making markets work for the poor’ as the key to securing economic development, growth and prosperity.

But how best can we do that? Should we emphasise markets or rights? Is large agribusiness a partner in development, or a driver of exclusion? Do we support smallholders or wage labourers? How do we ensure the most vulnerable and marginalised benefit?

An IIED/Hivos knowledge programme, Small Producer Agency in the Globalised Market, has sought to stimulate debate on these issues that are ‘stuck’, through a travelling series of provocative seminars across Europe — in The Hague, Stockholm, Paris, Manchester and Brussels. The ‘provocations’ brought new and challenging insights on the role of markets and business in the future of smallholder agriculture.

Holding the ‘provocations’ in Europe was no accident. By contesting conventional wisdom and presenting fresh perspectives in European powerhouses, the knowledge programme got up close and personal to those within the development community — donors, investors, researchers and businesses — who hold real power and influence in shaping pro-poor markets.

Online extra

Provocation videos

Watch the IIED/Hivos provocative seminars held across Europe

Video documentary: Small producer agency in globalised markets

Some of the challenges facing small-scale farmers are highlighted in a video playlist – click on the playlist below to see all the videos.


Internal links

Making markets work for small-scale farmers? A series of ‘provocation’ seminars

Small Producer Agency in the Globalised Market