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What characterizes international discourse and action on investment in agriculture today?

A presentation by Nora McKeon

Food crisis and climate change/energy has provoked a rethinking of investment strategies to attain sustainable food security but has not (yet) resulted in a decisive change in approaches.


New sources of investment – beyond Official Development Assistance (ODA) and in-country government expenditure – have come on the scene strongly, targeting different objectives than those of food security, poverty reduction, development..


Confusion about what we mean by “investment” and who invests in what

“Country-led programmes” are the mantra

Possible components for small-scale producer strategies to influence current international thinking and action

  1. Bring debate back squarely to models of agriculture as related to food security/resilience/environmental/employment etc. goals (food sovereignty) and to the importance of smallholder on-farm investment as compared with other forms/sources of investment.
  2. Go beyond defense of family farming “tout court” to demonstrate that it can feed the cities at competitive prices, provide quality products, be reliable in delivering, and that it can do so better than large-scale industrial agriculture  CNCR/FONGS research is a good start, rice commodity chain in Senegal an example…..
  3. Clarify strategic ideas about what kind of policy environment and support is required for farmers themselves to be able to invest more effectively in the direction of achieving the goal of feeding Africa’s cities (e.g. subsidizing long-term investments-financial services, creating necessary infrastructure geared to domestic markets, market stabilization policies…) What kind of insertion of smallholders into  value chains and on what terms? What “business models”?
  4. Clarify strategic ideas about scenarios for the “modernization” of smallholder agriculture.( C.f. De Schutter). Three scenarios: transition to agro-industrial model, coexistence of agro-industrial and family farming (SAGCOT), agricultural investment channeled decisively if not exclusively into support of sustainable and agro-ecological small-scale farming.
  5. Think more rigorously about what agro-ecological approaches to agricultural production family farmers need to adopt in order to be able to merit the claim of being part of the solution to climate change.