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Smallholder Farmers Leading Climate Resiliency



  • Two thirds of Africa’s workforce is made up of smallholder farmers, and the majority of Africa’s small and medium-sized enterprises are agriculture focused. Furthermore, the global growing population demands a sustainable global food supply, and Africa is poised to serve as the leader in that endeavor. However, the African continent is dramatically affected by climate change, and due to variability in rainfall and temperature as well as increasing land degradation, smallholder farmers face uncertain production and increased vulnerability. 

“Everyone needs to redouble efforts. It’s not just about getting donor development funding, we need to get catalytic capital in there and present agriculture as a commercial value proposition,” Debisi Araba

  • Smallholder farmers are generally off-grid and rural, requiring innovations (like SunCulture’s solar powered irrigation systems) that meet their production needs. Incentivising these innovations requires market and policy support.
  • The inputs to solve this complex and urgent crisis—namely technology, labor market, and input resources—exist. The challenge is on focusing funding to holistically address solutions at scale. This requires a fundamental rethinking of how interventions are designed and financed. Rather than financing a multitude of disparate projects, which to date has created important learnings as to what works but has not led to lasting and comprehensive impact, the panel called for a global focus on four to five initiatives at a time, to create systems change. 
  • The panel believes that this challenge can be overcome, and pointed to the example of Sudan’s wheat industry, which is poised to become a net export in the next two years.

“When you have rainfall that is unpredictable, unreliable, [smallholder farmer] cash inflow is also unpredictable, unreliable. They’re one bad rainy season from financial ruin,” Samir Ibrahim

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • The global community must create urgency around the topic of sustainable agriculture with the same rigor as they did COVID-19, given the unprecedented number of food-insecure persons globally. 
  • The private sector can be a driving force in developing solutions, but there must be increased coordination in policy and market incentives to fully unlock its potential.
  • Key stakeholders—to include governments, donor agencies, the private sector, and the philanthropic community—must align behind coordinated interventions and focus investments in a smaller number of high-impact interventions.


Session Speakers