Smallholder farmers constitute the largest contingent of the poor and yet they produce more than 80 per cent of the world's food, in value terms.
Though there are marked differences by country and region in the average size of small farms, it is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the 570 million farms worldwide are managed by an individual or a family, and that mostly they rely on family labour. Estimates further show that about 2.5 billion people depend on agricultural production systems for their livelihoods.
The report highlights the range of constraints that smallholder farmers face in developing economies and specifically provides new analyses of the state of their integration into the global economy. It underlines that smallholder farmers are both victims of climate change and key actors in the achievement of a more inclusive and environmentally friendly development path.
The report argues for specific measures at the national, regional and global levels, including in international trade and investment agreements, for unleashing the full business potential of smallholders. It showcases good policy practices, including the role of strong political leadership in reversing the policy neglect that small farmers have suffered from.
"Business as usual" is not an option if the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is to be achieved. In light of this, the report calls for greater resources to be devoted to supporting smallholders.
"It is now time for the international community to recognize the vital role smallholders play the world over in ensuring continued access to nutritious natural food and the achievement of global food security," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said. "I call on all development partners who have pledged to increase resources directed to the fight against climate change to devote special attention to smallholder farmers who are key players in sustainable agricultural practices."
And finally, the report also urges for the establishment of an accountability mechanism for monitoring progress on key commitments related to smallholders on trade, investment, finance and technology.