Most farms in developing and least developed countries are small, generally plots of less than two hectares of land. Smallholder farmers manage over 80% of the world’s estimated 500 million small farms and provide over 80% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, contributing significantly to poverty reduction and food security. As much as 75% of global seed diversity in staple food crops is held and actively used by smallholder farms. However, despite their vital role in the global agricultural community, the participation and priorities of smallholder farmers – most of whom are women – are often neglected. Effective mechanisms giving smallholder farmers a voice in policymaking are imperative to address their needs and interests, to promote the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources and more broadly, to ensure food security.
The crucial role of smallholder farmers is acknowledged in myriad international agreements. Most recently, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal 2, commits Member States to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” and includes a comprehensive target on the rights of small-scale food producers.