Shocks like conflict and extreme weather have a disproportionate impact on smallholder farmers, especially women. Most smallholder farmers live harvest to harvest and don’t have a safety net to fall back on in case of events like drought. USAID and the larger development community have been increasing their investment in recent years in building farmers’ resilience to these shocks.
Such investments have been through programs that spread the availability of improved inputs like drought- and heat-tolerant seed varieties and irrigation technologies, and training farmers in good agricultural practices that increase crop diversification, reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, conserve water, and grow more on less land (“sustainable intensification”). Additionally, by increasingly focusing on agriculture as a business, development organizations are helping increase farmer incomes, enabling farmers to invest more in resilience-building activities and providing a financial cushion when shocks reduce or even prevent production.
As the private sector’s role in agricultural development increases so does its role in building farmer resilience. As providers of inputs and services, companies ensure that farmers have access to the products and services that enable farmers to prepare for and survive shocks. Private sector companies are also important drivers of innovation, developing and commercializing technologies that help build resilience. For example, better irrigation technology allows farmers to grow more with less water and legume inoculants reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer by harnessing plants’ natural nitrogen fixation. Some companies also provide services like training and demo plot management that help farmers learn good agricultural practices that build resilience. And unlike most development programs, which usually only last for a fixed period of time, private companies are invested in building a long-term, sustainable market presence.
With the donor community increasingly focusing on resilience, companies interested in partnering with donors like USAID may want to consider how resilience is built into their business operations and how this can help build stronger partnerships.
How is your company helping build farmers’ ability to get through shocks like drought or flooding? How might your activities connect to USAID and other donor development goals for smallholder farmer resiliency?