When this issue of global poverty and hunger is discussed, one topic is often central to the conversation is the impact of small-scale farmers. In the developing world, these farmers are essential not only for providing food for their communities, but also for creating jobs and improving the local economy. While many experts are adamant that encouraging small farmers to participate in the “global cash economy,” meaning that farmers operate primarily to sell crops for cash, is the most effective way to diminish global poverty, others are advocating for a new approach. This new method focuses on “non-mentised agriculture” and acknowledges other factors besides the sales of surplus crops as a way to alleviate hunger and poverty.
Another term for this new method is the concept of ‘value-chains,’ the link between “input suppliers, farmers and markets.” The Gates Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, USAID’s Feed the Future, and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition support the utilization of value-chains and are confident in its ability to decrease global poverty.
Value-chains differ from the cash economy model by acknowledging that, although farmers need to earn money from their crops, not all of the crops will be sold on the market. One way farmers are doing this is by switching from growing cotton, which is strictly a cash crop and harmful to the environment, to other types of food crops (like rice, maize and soybeans in Ghana). Value-chains also call for more interaction between small farmers, markets, financiers, equipment services and other forms of agriculture training.
By working with these other groups, small-scale farmers will be able to better financially manage their farms and decrease production costs in order to increase surplus crops and earn a profit. With this method, financers also have the opportunity to invest in small farms. It is through improving agriculture strategies and creating business-minded farmers that profits will begin to increase not by farming primarily cash crops. However, because the chain-value method does not rely on many cash transactions, any economic improvements for farms go widely unreported. Once government officials develop a better tool for measuring such progress in the agriculture community, the impact of the chain-value will be better understood.
– Mary Penn