There are many reasons why small-scale farmers are not able to produce enough food to feed themselves and their family. Scarce land resources, poor soil quality, lack of access to water, and limited access to credits and technology are some factors that limit small-scale farmers’ productivity. This is why focusing on these factors in agriculture and on small-scale farmers is key to combat poverty and hunger. The Development Fund is addressing these and several other issues in projects, that food security as explicit or underlying goal.
Food security is defined as a situation where all people at all times have access to enough, safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable food in large enough quantities to meet their needs to live healthy, active lives. Food security implies both physical and economic access to food (ref
There are different approaches to increasing food security. The Development Fund’s approach depends on the local context, and the methodology we apply is always adapted to the realities and specific conditions in the project area. The interventions are designed and planned in coordination with local partner organizations and representatives from the target group. Development Fund’s strategy to increase food security includes:
Many small-scale farmers depend on one or two crops. This makes them vulnerable to variable climate conditions, pests and diseases. By adopting new crops and testing out different varieties of the same crop, farmers can increase their productivity and output of their land. Combined with the use of locally adapted quality seed, this reduces the impact of yield decline or losses
Building soil quality
Nutritious soils contribute to more and better crop production. Poor soil quality and agricultural practices that deplete soils reduce farmers’ output of the land. To combat this, the Development Fund promote different methods to improve soil quality, such as intercropping, crop rotation, agroforestry and increasing organic matter in the soil using compost/natural manure. Other techniques to prevent soil erosion, such as terraces, barriers and bounds, are also integrated in many projects for farmland rehabilitation.
WaterMost small-scale farmers depend on rain fed agriculture. They receive either too much or too little rain, a situation that is aggravate in recent years with increasing effects of climate changes. Soil moisture remains the most important factor for crop production. Most small-scale farmers have no access to irrigation facilities. In its projects, the Development Fund promotes water harvesting, shallow-wells, sub-surface dams to increase availability of water for several months. Other techniques such as soil cover with crop residues and improved tillage is applied to retain more water in the soil. The overall goal is to increase crop growing season and crop production as well as production stability.
Women’s contribution to agriculture is increasing, and estimates suggest they comprise between 40-60% of agriculture labour force. Nevertheless, women have little or no access to new land properties, technology, credits and training. They have often been neglected in agriculture projects and extension services. Strengthening women’s access and control over technology and resources is efficient ways to increase agricultural production and combat poverty. The Development Fund is developing guidelines and methodologies for gender mainstreaming in agriculture projects, based on project experiences. Women are special target groups in all our projects, and DF focuses on increasing access to credits, technology and training. It is also crucial to increase their participation and influence in decision-making, from household and plot level to international level.
Livestock is important as source of food, manure and animal draft in small scale agriculture. The Development Fund works to improve animal health, increased fodder production and diversification of livestock and breeds. Since improving animal breed to adapted to farmers’ realities is also needed, we have recently initiated a pilot projects on participatory animal breeding.
Strengthening farmers’ organizations and cooperatives
Through cooperatives or other similar organizations, farmers can have access to inputs such as seeds. It is important to get access to credit, transport and improved technology. Cooperatives and other farmer organizations are also important for processing agriculture products, value addition and marketing. The Development Fund supports several cooperatives and unions of cooperatives to strengthen local governance (administrative and financial management) as well as technical capacity. Collective efforts are in this way increasing access to food and food security.
Capacity building and lead farmers
All projects focus on capacity building, increasing local farmers’ knowledge and capacity and skills building on existing local experience and knowledge. In Malawi, the Development Fund has developed a Lead Farmer model that ensures uniformed training of lead farmers. Lead Farmers are trained in different sustainable agriculture methods such as manure making, soil and water conservation, conservation agriculture, and pest and disease management. These methods are transferred to follower farmers through systematic and established methods. . We also apply similar models in other programme countries. The Development Fund also facilitates exchange of experiences between farmers from different regions within the country, or across borders.