Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Reader's Corner Series Kickoff: Successful strategies for the improvement of smallholder farming systems

Veronica LetelierWelcome to the Agrilinks Reader’s Corner, a new blog series on the latest agriculture issues from agribusiness and food security specialist Veronica Letelier. As Veronica sifts through the latest research, reports, articles and blogs, she will be sharing her top picks, saving you hours of extra reading time! Veronica’s idea of a fun Friday evening involves a fresh agriculture report, a glass of fair trade wine, and her dog Lola cuddled up next to her on the couch. So join us for the first installment of the Reader’s corner...

This week Veronica is reading Farming Systems and Poverty: improving farmers' livelihoods in a changing world from the FAO and the World Bank.

Renewed donor focus on agriculture and food security is making us, as agriculture specialists, dust off our tool boxes and bring back past lessons that apply to the current state of food security and agriculture. There is a lot of talk about value chains and how to increase the participation of vulnerable groups in the development process, but little discussion about farming systems and what we already know about them. I would like to start this bi-monthly Reader’s Corner series by highlighting the importance of understanding regional farming systems. By understanding these systems we are better able to see where the vulnerable groups can be found and the types of interventions that might sustainably move them into a more resilient situation.

The household, its resources, and the resource flows and interactions at this individual farm level are together referred to as a farm system. A farming system—in comparison—is defined as a population of individual farm systems that have broadly similar resource bases, enterprise patterns, household livelihoods and constraints, and for which similar development strategies and interventions would be appropriate.

There might be several farming systems in the same geographic area. And if we look at the farming system and who is engaged in each system, we are better able to target interventions and strategies that will improve farm household livelihoods and hasten the escape from poverty.

 These strategies can be summarized as:

  • Intensification of existing production patterns
  • Diversification of agricultural activities
  • Expansion of operated farm or herd size
  • Increase of off-farm income, both agricultural and non-agricultural
  • Complete exit from the agricultural sector within a particular farming system

Probably the most important messages of this report are 1) the great potential for reducing both hunger and poverty that resides in the improvement of smallholder farming systems, and 2) having a clear vision of who we are targeting with our interventions.

About Veronica

Veronica Letelier, Senior Manager at the International Resources Group (IRG), has 18 years of experience as an agricultural and food security development specialist focusing on program design, management, evaluation, and strategic planning for various agricultural development projects and trainings. Through IRG, she is currently a senior food security and agriculture expert for the USAID KDMD project. She has extensive experience working on USAID-funded projects and previously working in the private sector as an agribusiness specialist. Her experience includes countries in Latin America, East Africa and Southeast Asia. Ms. Letelier has Master's degree in Animal Science and a Bachelor's degree in Agronomy. She is fluent in Spanish and English.