Identification of Smallholder Farmers: A Challenge to Food Security in Developing Nations
Supporting farmers and their livelihoods is critical to increasing food securiy, and farmers at all levels in developed and developing nations need government support to enhance their activities. Unfortunately, many farmers who are on the frontlines of production in developing nations are not easily identified by government, thereby limiting their access to assistance.
My experience with the Nigerian agricultural system shows that farmers could be categorized into three distinct types:
The first type is the Smallholder Farmers, who comprise about 80 percent of the population, and produce more than 70 percent of the country's food. Their livelihoods depend on farming, and they will be on their farms from morning until evening except on their resting day (usually once a week). They often have limited access to formal education, information, capacity-building services, and assistance from government and other developmental agencies.
The second category could be described as Hobby Farmers. They are also smallholder farmers, but they farm as their secondary occupation. They are often educated and influential in their locality, and have better access to information. They are more able to take advantage of sponsored capacity-building programs and could benefit from government and developmental agencies' initiatives and assistance.
The third category is Big Farmers. Big farmers are often highly influential in society and government and also have greater access to government resources.
The smallholder farmers are the majority and produce much of the country's food, but may receive the least assistance and benefits from the government and other development partners because they have less access to these resources. Attempts by the Federal and State governments in Nigeria to reach smallholder farmers have not resulted in as much success as they could. The major reasons are that the enumerators used to survey local needs aren't from these communities, and the times they conduct their studies are when smallholder farmers are working. The inability to reach them has resulted in limited assistance. For us to improve this, the smallholder farmers must be identified to enable them to benefit from assistance in agriculture. For this to be achieved the studies conducted with farmers should be handled by trained local community members, and be conducted when entire farmers' groups are available—usually during their off day or in the evening. It is only once we reach smallholder farmers where they are, when they're available, that they can be empowered to upscale their production, thereby increasing food security.