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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Transforming Smallholder Agriculture to Achieve the SDGs


There is overwhelming historical evidence from the developed world and from the newly emerging economies of the developing world that indicates that agricultural growth has been the primary engine of overall economic growth. The transformation of economies around the world, from predominantly agricultural to industrial, was kick-started by rapid agricultural productivity growth. Does the growth in agricultural productivity have to necessarily come from the small farm sector? Rapid improvement in small farm productivity is one of the primary mechanisms by which dramatic rural poverty reductions can be achieved as shown by the Green Revolution experience in Asia and more recently in sub-Saharan Africa. Economic growth policies that are inclusive of smallholder farmers directly contribute to the SDG 2 that is focused on ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture. Past efforts at small farm productivity improvement were focused on staple grains, looking ahead one needs to take a food systems perspective and encourage diversification into nutrition-rich legumes, pulses, horticulture crops and livestock. Investment in rural market infrastructure allows smallholders to commercialise and enhance the supply of perishable products. Linking small farms to urban food value chains is also a promising new avenue for rural poverty reduction.

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