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3 Ways To Help Smallholder Farmers Help Themselves

High food prices over the past year and growing concern over the effects of climate change have combined to put global food security at the top of the international agenda. A growing consensus among experts and policy makers is that a part of that solution lies in the hands of smallholder farmers.

ROME -- Many poor farmers, even in hunger-prone countries, could produce food surpluses. The problem is that it’s not profitable for them to do so. Most of them have to sell their crops straight after the harvest, when prices are at their lowest so the gain is minimal.

Often they sell immediately because they need the cash to pay off debts contracted to buy seeds and fertilizers. Sometimes it's simply because they lack storage facilities to keep their crops until the market picks up. Their precious crops end up rotting or being eaten by rodents.

With little incentive to grow more food, farmers don’t and so the chance to ease hunger is missed.

Through a programme called Purchase for Progress, WFP offers smallholder farmers a secure market for basic grains, encouraging them to produce more and better food.

At the same time, it addresses some of the obstacles the farmers face, providing concrete support to help them benefit more from their labour. The 5-year pilot initiative is working a host of different actors including farmers’ organisations, small and medium traders, food processors and marketing platforms such as warehouse receipts systems and commodity exchanges.

Among the many areas in which P4P is making a difference, those frequently mentioned by farmers are:

1. Access to finance
For smallholder farmers around the world, access to finance is a major challenge. Without credit to buy fertilizer and seeds, they cannot grow as much as they could. Natalia Castro is one small farmer who was able to gain acess to credit and improve her yields with the help of a P4P programme in NicaraguaRead more

2. New market outlet
WFP’s demand for food creates a new market outlet for farmers to sell high quality grains. With a secure market, farmers are encouraged to produce more and achieve better yields. Paul and Angelo are among small farmers who were able to enter the market with help of a P4P project in southern Sudan . Read more

3. Gender
Agricultural marketing is a great opportunity for women in rural areas to improve their situation and become less dependent on men. Beatha Muicanziga, a former refugee and war widow from Rwanda, is among women now able to support themselves as a result of new jobs created through the P4P initiative. Read more

Purchase for Progress - connecting farmers to markets
WFP has a long tradition of buying locally whenever possible. P4P takes that practice one step further by empowering small farmers and linking them to markets. Find out more about how the programme works and who it's helping.