A Long Roe to Hoe – Family Farming and Rural Poverty in Developing Countries

Topic :

This report, commissioned by Oxfam GB, aims to examine the proposition that enhancing the productivity of family farms is the most effective way to reduce rural poverty in the developing world. It is analysed from a number of angles including agro-ecological and socio-economic diversity, the re-structuring of the agri-food system, agricultural research, rising fertiliser prices, climate change, and the assumption that young people will be content to live in rural areas and construct their livelihoods around agriculture.

The paper begins by setting out the background and rationale for such a study and summarising the key stages and changes in the development agenda over time. It then discusses the emerging consensus on family farming referring to the “near universal (i.e. across time and space) links between rising agricultural productivity and economic transition.” The paper also reasons the limitations to this consensus before concluding with a policy and action agenda.

The conclusion here is that while increasing the productivity of family farms in Africa can play an important role, poverty reduction on a mass scale, particularly in Africa, will require a more comprehensive and integrated approach. The final section explores five likely strategies for rural people, depending on the context in which they live, their situation, and their interests. These strategies are:

  1. Agricultural intensification
  2. Agricultural intensification with support
  3. Continuing to farm primarily for own consumption
  4. Seeking income in other parts of the rural economy
  5. Migration

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