Contribution of Smallholder Production to Food Security: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

by MATSHE, I, 2009
Research Report. Centre for Poverty Employment and Growth, Human Sciences Research Council

Matshe explores the contribution of smallholder production to food security in sub-Saharan Africa and relates it to the South African case. Food insecurity is closely linked to the livelihood strategies of small-scale farming households. However, part of what drives food insecurity is poverty, and addressing smallholder food security should include innovations that mitigate internal constraints and provide economic opportunities for the poor. During the 1980s, policy intervention in extension services, improved access to technology and markets, and access to and secure ownership of land and capital assets enhanced own production and household availability of food from own resources in various countries. Efforts included providing subsidised inputs and developing production-related infrastructure and institutional service provision. Most of the interventions were tailored towards providing institutional support with increased extension, subsidised inputs, access to markets, and farmer training, including demonstrations to facilitate higher output. Access to livelihood assets, strong institutional support and a favourable external environment play a crucial role. Since most poor rural households rely on agriculture for a significant share of their income, increasing agricultural productivity reduces food insecurity and rural poverty. Attention to the totality of livelihood assets is an effective way of addressing food insecurity. Policies to support smallholder productivity boost food availability and lower local food prices, generate higher incomes and increased demand for locally produced goods and services, and result in broad-based socio-economic development in rural areas.