Sustainable smallholder development

  • 15th March 2017
  • by secretary

14-15 March 2017. London. How to empower farmers and deliver business solutions at scale: a two-day conference on how business can engage with small farmers to ensure supply security and resilience at scale

This conference addressed the major risks for small farmers across agricultural sectors, and focused on how business can create scalable solutions to tackle future supply chain vulnerabilities. It focused on the top priorities across commodities to provide high-level insight and practical, actionable guidance on how business can implement effective programmes that will boost the resilience of smallholders at scale.

You can view the full list of attendees here. 

  • Sustainable Development Goals: Guidance on how companies can strategically integrate the 17 SDGs into their smallholder policy to raise social and economic development.
  • Capacity building: Addressing the business role in building capacity for farmer resilience, independence and stability.
  • Blended finance: Examples of innovative financial risk-sharing models that can provide long-term finance for smallholder farmers.
  • Economic viability of farming: progressive solutions to securing future supply chains.
  • Pre-competitive collaboration: Active debate around how business can facilitate greater collaboration and knowledge sharing across agri supply chains.
  • Climate-smart agriculture: An analysis of CSA’s potential as a solution to climate risk and examples of successful cases so far.

Capacity building: What is the role of major companies in supporting farmer independence and stability?
This session discussed what journey business must embark on to lay the foundation for a future of sustainable smallholder farming. The panelists explored how business models can align interests of business, government and farmers alike, and how collaborative effort can empower farmers at scale.

  1. What role will business take to build capacity for sustainable smallholders?
  2. How do we take it to scale with the huge number of smallholders spread across geographies?
  3. How do we incentivise local governments?
  4. How do we incentivise smallholders?
  5. Who pays?


  • Alan Johnson, senior operations officer, IFC
  • Mike Warmington(picture) director of microfinance partnerships, One Acre Fund
  • Roberto Vega(picture) head smallholder policy and food chain relations, Syngenta
  • Anna Turrell, (picture) senior public affairs manager – sustainability, Nestlé

Collaborating for finance: How to manage and make partnerships for finance workThis session hosted a multi-perspective discussion from organizations engaging in these blended finance models. The discussion focused on how to best make financial partnerships for shared risk work.

  1. Making shared decision-making work;
  2. Overcoming conflicts of interest;
  3. Deciding appropriate levels of financial commitment;
  4. Overcoming implementation challenges in day-to-day partnership management; and
  5. Avoiding negative reputation impact by association.


  • Hoi-Ming Mak(picture) initiate lead “Impactor”, ING NL
  • Kate Wylie(picture) global sustainability director, MARS
  • Chris Isaac, senior director, investments and business development, AgDevCo
  • Urvi Kelkar(picture) global agriculture policy and partnerships manager, AB InBev

Pre-competitive collaboration: How willing are companies to engage in knowledge-sharing across agriculture supply chains
Following on the previous session, it cannot be disputed that there is tremendous value to greater knowledge sharing, communication and collaboration and across agriculture supply chains. In an ideal world, organisations could come together in honest, pre-competitive space to work on common issues, share critical types of data and experience to find better solutions. Clearly, this is easier said than done.

This discussion assessed the potential of pre-competitive collaboration as means to greater communication and information exchange. The panellists addressed questions such as:

  1. What might pre-competitive collaboration look like and is it realistic?
  2. To what extent are companies truly willing to be fully transparent and disclose information to their competitors?
  3. What are the obstacles to making pre-competitive collaboration work, and how can they be



  • Clare Salter,  (picture) senior communications manager, EMEA, Starbucks
  • John Magnay, head of agriculture, Opportunity International

  • Erinch Sahan,  (picture) head of private sector team, Oxfam
  • Herbert Lust, vice president and managing director, Europe, Conservation International

10/03/2017 Can smallholders count on better data? Data that is shared or reused can have a “far greater value than if it were simply used for its original purpose”, was a key conclusion of a recent Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) working paper.

However, working out how best to deliver on this opportunity is still in its infancy. According to research from ICT, while the opportunities might appear to be plentiful, a lack of reliable and contextualised data is currently working against smallholder farmers.

Currently, open agricultural data in developing countries is thin on the ground. Information must be localised to have the desired effect. As Theo de Jager, president of the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation pointed out to ICT “On a farm – whether it is one thousand hectares or only one hectare – I need real-time information. What does the market want now? What’s my soil like now? What’s the weather like now?’”

Better information means farmers are better equipped to know what to plant and when, yet this type of data remains hard to get hold of.

  • in Uganda, ICT4Ag-enabled Information Service is providing farmers with satellite-based data to help improve agronomic practice as well as financial and index-based insurance services and market intelligence on where and when to sell.
  • FarmSat and FieldLook are among the growing number of service providers offering satellite-based crop monitoring. Such advice-by-satellite is said to increase smallholder productivity by around 40%.

As Zara Rahman, a researcher at tech specialists Engine Room, warns, there is a crucial need to build capacity among smallholder farmers so they can deal with the growing amounts of data as they are becoming accessible. “Simply making data available is not enough … and more needs to be done, potentially through providing low-cost advisory services on data use, or more accessible capacity building options.”