Why Small Scale Farming Matters.
According to studies, large-scale farms account for most of the global food supply, but smallholdings protect species and are just as profitable.
Small farms tend to be more productive and biodiverse than large ones, and are roughly as profitable and resource-efficient.
Small farms face a number of obstacles to sustain their livelihoods. They battle a changing climate, with more spells of drought as well as more intense storms and rain.
They also find difficulties getting regular buyers, especially as the global food system demand a steady stream of robust produce year-round, regardless of seasonality and how far it has to be shipped.
Globally, 84 percent of farms are less than 2 hectares in size. Many policymakers and scientists argue that these smallholdings outperform large industrial operations, which provide the bulk of the world’s food on a range of environmental and socioeconomic measures.
A team of researchers led by Vincent Ricciardi and his colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, analysed 118 studies conducted over 50 years across 51 countries to assess how farm size affects outcomes other than food production.
The team found that small farms have higher yields than large ones do, perhaps owing to the increased availability of family labour.
According to detailed new research by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the world's smallholder farmers produce around a third of the world's food.
By growing heirloom and other non-commercial varieties, small farms bolster biodiversity and increase food security. With only 12 plants and five animal species making up 75 percent of what the world eats, food systems are vulnerable to natural disasters and disease outbreak.
Small farms are an under-appreciated part of the food system, yet they play an important role both in Europe and across the developing world, and could have an even more relevant role in the future.
They produce considerable amounts of food and generate jobs for many people. They are dynamic, diverse and entrepreneurial. People are drawn to small-scale farming by necessity, but also for business, political and lifestyle choices.
Another area where studies have found that small farms had an important role to play was in their ability to generate higher crop yields, with yields actually decreasing by 5 percent for every hectare of additional farm size.
We therefore need to break that monopoly power, build ecologically sound regional food systems, and get progressive funders to invest in research that will boost better agricultural policy that will take a lot more than focusing on large scale farming.