The future of Africa depends on small-scale farmers

Smallholder farming initiative

In late 2015 Crop Science launched a Global Agricultural Initiative to support small-scale farmers in emerging and developing countries. Fredrick Ochieng Nyambare, Global Smallholder Farming Manager for Africa, talks about the status quo in Africa and explains why there is a major growth plan for supporting smallholders on this continent.

Fredrick, what are the particular challenges faced by smallholder farmers in Africa?

The challenges for small-scale farmers are similar across regions. In Africa, they are not much different from those in Latin America or Asia: access to resources, knowledge, to the market and to modern technologies. They have limited access to land (this covers the topic of land rights, which is fundamental). They suffer from low productivity and profitability and are lacking sufficient crop quality that could be marketed for higher prices and thus higher income for the family. What’s special about Africa is that the countries heavily depend on the smallholder farmers to ensure food security and fight hunger. More than 80 per cent of the food in Africa is produced on smallholder farms. And on the other hand, Africa faces the biggest challenges in terms of the general livelihood – which in turn means that even a small increase in income for a farmer and his family has a direct impact on the fulfillment of basic needs such as education and healthcare. Improving the situation of smallholder farmers in Africa thus becomes a driver for the overall development of the whole continent.

What programs are currently running to improve farmers’ income and livelihood?

We are starting our second pilot season with potato farmers in Kenya. The first season in Kenya could not yield representative results as harvests were severely affected by external factors such as drought. Still, we learned a lot about the mechanism of our approach. And I am happy to report that many farmers are eager to join our project. We even had to set up a waiting list for the next run. Because of the high significance of smallholders for the future of Africa, we have a further growth plan in mind to include more countries and more crops, but we will move forward step-by-step.

How do you get such new projects started?

All these initiatives follow a similar approach: we conduct baseline studies to figure out the particular requirements of farmers for certain regions and crops. To be as close to the business as possible, we have specific project managers and field agronomists in place in the countries who know their markets very well. Combined with our expertise on smallholder farming within Bayer and our partners, this leads to a clear picture of what needs to be done to increase production among smallholder farmers – to address the two objectives of our initiative.

Fredrick on one of his bi-weekly farm visits, having direct exchange with farmers and doing training follow-ups in the field.

So you benefit from the smallholding initiatives already developed within Bayer?

Absolutely! We have a very enthusiastic, international team and regularly share our best practices to learn across regions – sometimes in meetings, but also via our social media platform. The next important step is to find the right partners in the countries.

What kind of partners?

Partners to address the manifold challenges we mentioned along the chosen crop value chain. They can be financial institutions to ensure resources, players along the value chain for better market access, specialists in soil nutrition and fertilization and so on. Each partner trains the farmers in its specific field of expertise. We as Bayer for instance, provide training on seeds, crop protection, and integrated pest management or application technology. We strongly believe in partnerships. Empowering small farmers across the globe is a huge challenge and we cannot do it alone. My vision for Africa is to engage more partners in smallholder initiatives. We want to prove a concept and sell it to the rest of the continent. We can only make a difference if many others come on board and if each partner contributes its particular strengths.

Small Holder Farms

Fredrick Ochieng Nyambare has held several positions in Crop Science and Environmental Science. With his background in public health, he worked for international NGOs like Plan International and Christian Aid before joining Bayer six years ago. Knowing the challenges of local families and the farming community, he was excited to lead the smallholder farming project in Kenya, and now for Africa, because he is convinced that this is the right approach to improve farmers‘ livelihoods.

My vision for Africa is to engage more partners in smallholder initiatives