Trade and Agricultural Policies to Support Small-scale Farmers and Enhance Food Security


The project aims to strengthen national capacities to design and implement complementary trade and agricultural policies. The resulting studies examine the distributional and food security consequences of trade-led structural transformations in agriculture. The framework developed in the project looks at achieving higher integration of vulnerable groups that are dependent on agriculture into global value chains. If inclusive and sustainable, this integration will create new opportunities arising from commercialization and diversification in subsistence agriculture, particularly those stemming from the shift in farming from low-value staple crops to higher-value commodities, and crop diversification.

The project leverages UNCTAD expertise in non-tariff measures, voluntary sustainability standards, the trade-agriculture-gender nexus, biofuels and renewable energy, and pro-poor structural rural diversification through trade. It encompasses a scaling up process to deliver multiplier effects at a larger scale. It mobilizes the synergy of the expertise from within UNCTAD, and is linked to the program of work of ECLAC, ESCAP and ECA. Some project activities are implemented in close connection with FAO.


  1. Generate knowledge and build awareness and understanding of stakeholders on the social and environmental effects of trade-led structural transformation in agriculture;
  2. Increase capacities of policy-makers and other stakeholders to integrate the knowledge in trade policy planning and implementation, and to harness trade for inclusive and sustainable development in rural areas.

Relevance to the Sustainable Development Goals





The project in Vanuatu focuses on the cocoa and coconut sectors, which are highlighted in terms of trade-led opportunities in the Vanuatu National Agriculture Sector Policy and the Vanuatu National Coconut Strategy 2016-2025, including crop cultivation for biofuel and the development and marketing of handicraft and niche/boutique items. The crops were selected after a process of consultations with various stakeholders in Vanuatu during the early phase of the project.

While emphasising positive impacts of diversification and upgrading trajectories, the project advises care in implementing strategies to minimise potential negative long-term impacts on, for example, staple food production, women or ecosystems. It further cautions on perverse consequences whereby, without successfully integrating small-scale farmers in the product value chain, the principal beneficiaries of strategies may rather be the intermediaries.

Expected outcome:

Sustainability Impact Assessment Study on cocoa and coconut sectors;

Market Information Service:

  • Directory - national registry of stakeholders;
  • Pilot Repository - market intelligence tool.





The project in Guatemala analyses three agricultural sectors in Guatemala – potato, cocoa and cardamom - in terms of opportunities derived from trade of primary and processed products. The focus is on the growing trend among consumers in high income countries for artisanal, fair-trade, organically grown, single-origin products that allow niche market penetration by integrating into their traded products a narrative on the history and lives of local farming communities where the primary product is cultivated.

The strategies presented are aligned with sustainable development goals, integrating environmental, social welfare, gender equality, a more equitable distribution of income, and, more diversified income opportunities. Outcomes are expected to be positive overall, but the study nevertheless advises care in implementation to minimise any unforeseen and potentially negative long-term impacts, for example on issues such as staple food production.

Expected outcome:

  • Sustainability Impact Assessment. Study on cocoa, cardamom and potato sectors;
  • Capacity building national activities.





The project in Malawi focuses on three oil seed crops sunflower, soybean and groundnuts which are also prioritized as future export crops by Malawi’s National Export Strategy (2013-2018). The crops were selected after a process of consultations with various stakeholders in Malawi during the early phase of the project.

It is expected that the project activities and outputs will inform trade-led policies and diversification strategies in Malawi for the three crops including Malawi’s new National Export Strategy expected to be launched shortly. While exploring pathways to reduce Malawi’s export dependence in tobacco, the project seeks in particular to enable policies aimed at strengthening income, livelihoods and food-security for smallholder farmers and sustainable rural development including greater climate-resilience and empowerment of women.

Expected outcome:

  • Sustainability Impact Assessment. Study on cocoa, cardamom and potato sectors;
  • Capacity building national activities









24 January 2020Fair trade enterprises spread benefits through value chains
Goal 15
24 July 2019Small producers need help to enter lucrative "green" markets
05 October 2018Behind-the-border measures shaping trade take centre stage
17 September 2018Report: Voluntary Sustainability Standards can drive trade
21 March 2017Vanuatu assesses its green export potential
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