Thursday, 31 March 2011

Supporting small-scale farmers: rights or markets?

International Institute for Environment and Develoment

Development support for small-scale farmers must be based on both the enforcement of basic human rights and a pro-poor development of markets. This was the conclusion of a seminar Rights-based versus market-based development: a false dichotomy for small-scale farmers? held in Stockholm, Sweden last week.

Rights-based approaches present a simplistic package of measures to tackle what are very diverse and complex problems on the ground. And they are not easily separated from markets — markets depend on rights and the way in which rights are constituted has profound implications for the way in which markets function, explained IIED researcher Diana Mitlin

Kimanzu of the of the Swedish Cooperative Centre echoed the need to support producer organizations as the most effective way of giving farmers a voice in markets. He talked about a programme in Costa Rica run by nongovernmental organization Sedeco that, by supporting an organic farmers association, has enabled small-scale farmers to compete with big multinationals such as Monsanto and penetrate the country’s organic production sector.

Brazil is not alone in focusing on school meal programmes to support smallholders. “There are many examples of countries that have built entire industries on these types of initiatives,” said Katarina Eriksson, from the Tetra Laval group. “Thailand, for example, has built its whole dairy industry on school milk and Iran is doing the same thing”.

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