Production, advisory services and marketing

Two men working in a field, a third stands at the edge of the field with a notebook in his hand, watching.
The SDC promotes smallholder and family farms and as part of its work is committed to ensuring they have access to advice and innovative practices. © SDC

According to United Nations forecasts, the world's population will be around 9 billion by 2050. Managing natural resources responsibly while increasing food production is therefore a top priority. The SDC is already active in supporting sustainable agriculture, smallholder farms and research, with a particular emphasis on women and young people.

The SDC's focus

The SDC sees the potential in smallholder and family farms to reduce hunger and malnutrition. Thus the SDC promotes improved access for smallholder farmers to productive resources, facilitates advice tailored to their needs and assists them with marketing.

The SDC particularly endeavours to promote women as producers and market participants. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women perform a substantial proportion of agricultural work – around 50% in Africa and Asia. However, they often do not have adequate access to land and productive resources, so their crop yields are around 20–30% lower than men's. According to the FAO, empowering women could reduce hunger in developing countries by as much as 17%. To make use of this untapped potential and facilitate market access for women and young people, the SDC supports services targeted specifically at female smallholder farmers and the transfer of knowledge on production enhancement techniques.

The SDC also recognises the importance of good education and training for young farmers of both genders, and supports education and training programmes to this end.

Research, innovation and advisory services

Innovation in agriculture and advisory services geared to the needs of smallholder farmers are key to eradicating poverty and hunger. The SDC is committed to this approach. Areas targeted for innovation and advisory services include plant cultivation, animal husbandry, markets, financing and partnerships with the private sector.

Representing the concerns of smallholder farmers in policy dialogue

The SDC is involved in forging an international framework that supports smallholder agriculture, in order to improve access to productive resources such as capital, seeds, land and water for smallholder farmers worldwide. Among other things, it participates in the development of seed regulations and international trade provisions. The SDC also works to strengthen farmer organisations so that they can offer their members better services and represent their concerns more effectively at a political level.

Agroecology for sustainable production

To boost production while also promoting the responsible use of natural resources on smallholder farms, the SDC supports forms of agriculture that adhere to the FAO's Elements of Agroecology. This entails conserving natural resources with virtually no need for external inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers. Compost, for instance, reuses nutrients and biomass, and maintains soil fertility. A good mix of arable and livestock production not only preserves biodiversity but also provides the variety of food necessary for a healthy diet. In Africa, for example, the SDC supports the African Union's initiative to mainstream ecological agriculture into national production systems by 2025.

Improvements along the entire value chain

The SDC works with farmers, advisers, the private sector and policymakers to establish business models that benefit the poorest and ease the participation for smallholder farmers in the market. The main objective is to increase productivity sustainably and ensure equal participation in agricultural value chains by means of better marketing opportunities. A primary focus for the SDC is reducing harvest and post-harvest losses along production, distribution and consumption channels. This means raising awareness that food systems extend from agricultural production through to consumption, via storage, distribution and marketing. This is to be considered as a basis for sustainable forms of agriculture. Through such cooperation, the SDC also promotes access to affordable and healthy agricultural produce for all.

Background

By 2050, there will be about 9 billion people in the world. At the same time, arable land, grazing areas and water resources are becoming scarcer. Agricultural systems capable of supplying the world's population with adequate quantities of nutritious food are needed.

While in Europe food losses occur mostly at the end of the food chain, for example in supermarkets, restaurants or consumer households, in developing countries it happens at earlier stages. The reasons for this are inadequate harvesting, processing and storage methods, as well as a lack of market access. The FAO's 2011 study Global Food Losses and Food Waste found that countries in sub-Saharan Africa were losing up to 170kg of food per person per year due to these aspects. Since then, that has not substantially changed.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), there are approximately 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide, with smallholder agriculture being the livelihood of more than 2 billion people. These family farms produce around half of the world's food and over 70% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Climate change, natural disasters and economic changes are impeding the work of smallholder farmers. Smallholders are forced to adapt their production methods to changing and unpredictable conditions. They are thus reliant on research and advisory services. In the SDC's view, such services are successful if they take into account traditional and local know-how. The Swiss agricultural sector is a role model here, with its multifunctional, family-based and environmentally-friendly food production geared to social and regional balance.

Focus on smallholder farms

In three short films, learn how smallholders and family farms cope with challenges such as rising food prices and the effects of climate change.

'Can we feed the world?'

Over the next 30 years, the world's population is set to increase from 7 to around 9 billion people. More than 820 million people go hungry today. Three quarters of them live in rural areas and largely depend on farming for their livelihood. At the same time, food prices are rising, which has a particularly negative impact on people living in poverty in food-importing countries. Global changes in food production and distribution are necessary.

Film: 'Can we feed the world?'

 

'Today's reality of smallholder farms'

Through the story of the Traoré family in West Africa, the film provides an insight into the life of smallholder farmers in developing countries. The film shows how poorly functioning markets, insufficient opportunities for education, training and information, the effects of climate change, and poor access to land and water prevent family farms from realising their full potential.

Film: 'Today's reality of smallholder farms'

 

'Realising the potential of smallholder farming'

For smallholder farmers to be able to make a substantive contribution to food security, they must be able to expand their production beyond their own needs to meet market demand. The film recounts the SDC's efforts on behalf of smallholder farmers with regard to land rights, information and rural development.

Film: 'Realising the potential of smallholder farming'

Documents

Current projects

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International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) - core contribution

01.06.2021 - 31.12.2032

ICIPE is Africa’s leading insect research institute contributing to plant, animal, human and environmental health. SDC supports ICIPE as its work is highly relevant for the transformation to sustainable food systems, agroecology, healthy nutrition, and the promotion of the ‘One health’ approach. ICIPE’s development path is closely linked to Switzerland through longstanding partnerships with prominent Swiss experts and organisations. 


CORIGAP: Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia

01.04.2021 - 31.12.2022

SDC supports the International Rice Research Institute and national research and extension partners in six countries in Asia (China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam) to develop quantitative tools and methods to optimize the sustainability of irrigated systems in order to enhance regional food security while minimizing the environmental footprint of rice production. Through this contribution, Switzerland has initiated the development of sustainable rice production indicators which are now adopted by more than 100 private and public organisations.


Futuro Microbank

08.03.2021 - 30.06.2023

Limited access to financial services is a key constraint of rural micro and small women and men entrepreneurs (including farmers) to develop their business and to generate employment and income. The Swiss supported Banco Futuro is successfully providing affordable financial services to rural entrepreneurs (80% women), thus allowing them to enhance business and livelihood opportunities


AgriPath: Empowering farmers’ transition to sustainable agriculture through effective and efficient digital pathways

01.03.2021 - 28.02.2026

500 million smallholder farmers need to increase their agriculture productivity, income and climate resilience. There is a lack of scientifically validated evidence on the effectiveness and cost efficiency of digital agriculture services. AgriPath aims to bring sustainable agriculture[1] to scale by identifying, evaluating, and promoting promising pathways for digitally supported agricultural advisory services. 

[1] The Consortium will embrace current concepts of climate resilient agriculture, climate smart agriculture, sustainable land management and agro-ecology. 


Resilience for Pastoralist Communities in Northern Kenya

01.03.2021 - 31.07.2025

Pastoralism is a millennia old livelihood strategy adapted to the marginal and harsh environ-ments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In order to support pastoralists, this programme contributes to strengthening public and private institutions in the water and livestock sectors, putting policy frameworks in place to ensure efficient county-wide and cross-border water and rangeland management systems, and to increase access to water and pasture.


UNICEF Core Contribution 2021

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2021

UNICEF is the leading UN agency to advocate for the protection of children’s rights, to help meet basic needs and to expand children’s opportunities to reach their full potential. UNICEF is guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Switzerland in 1997. Switzerland supports UNICEF to provide education and ensure the protection of every child, to strengthen its institutional effectiveness and implement the United Nations Development System Reform. 


WOCAT 2020+ The Global Network for Sustainable Land Management

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Implementing sustainable land management is essential for reducing land degradation and achieving climate and livelihood resilience. WOCAT, the Swiss founded Global Sustainable Land Management Platform, offers robust and up-to-date knowledge and tools for evidence-based decision-making to implement the most appropriate practices within a given context to improve land resources, ecosystems and livelihoods.


Programme d’Appui aux Filières Agropastorales de Sikasso - PAFA 2

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

En partenariat avec le Luxembourg, la Suisse soutient les exploitations familiales, le secteur privé et les collectivités, chacun dans leur rôle, dans le développement des filières pomme de terre et lait dans le Sud du Mali, générant ainsi des opportunités d’emplois et de revenus durables, en particulier pour les femmes et les jeunes. Le programme soutient ainsi le développement économique et la stabilité politique d’une zone peu touchée par le conflit, mais où ses précurseurs sont présents.


Global Forums for Rural Advisory Services and youth in agriculture. Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) Young Professional in Agriculture and Rural Devel-opment (YPARD)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

The COVID-19 crisis magnified existing inequalities. The people with less access to resilience mechanisms, such as the poor, women and youth groups are hardest hit, risking the loss of decades of improvement in poverty alleviation. Rural Advisory Services (RAS) are an important production input for millions of small farmers around the world. The two international networks based in Switzerland, and present in most geographical locations in the world will together develop and strengthen the ability of rural advisory services to better serve the smallholder farmers. 


Plantwise plus (PW+)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2023

The project Plantwise Plus aims to help farmers face climate challenges and plant health threats. Through the provision of information on climate adaptation practices and technologies (agroecological practices), decision-making tools, and targeted climate risk analyses, the project will help countries to prepare themselves for and prevent plant health threats and reducing crop losses. In the past, CABI and Switzerland have made a proven difference to livelihoods and food security of 40 million farmers worldwide.


PFNL Crédit d'ouverture Phase 1

01.01.2021 - 28.02.2026

Au Tchad, les PFNL constituent une importante source d’alimentation pour la population rurale (tamarinier, jujubier). Le projet facilite : (i) la valorisation de certains PFNL pour améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle, (ii) l’accès à des marchés porteurs et rémunérateurs à travers le renforcement des petites et moyennes entreprises et, (iii) l’amélioration des conditions cadres socio-économiques visant la création d’emploi et de revenu pour les plus pauvres (gomme arabique).


Contribution to the UN-REDD Pro-gramme (single phase)

15.12.2020 - 31.12.2025

Forests are a central solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, their sustainable management is an imperative for the planet but also for millions of vulnerable people. The UN-REDD Programme is a key player in accelerating the implementation of appropriate policies and actions in tropical low and lower-middle income countries to reduce deforestation and restore forests. The contribution will allow for a strong Swiss engagement jointly with the Federal Office of the Environment, and for the capitalization of existing work of the four SDC domains on forest ecosystems and related livelihoods.

Object 13 – 24 of 190