Parliamentary Roundtable Explores Ways to Empower Smallholder Farming Communities

On Tuesday 24th March, Sarah Roberts, Executive Director, ETP, was invited to the House of Lords to provide evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development’s inquiry into Smallholder Agribusiness Developments. 

The session focused on how corporate buyers can play a positive role in smallholder transformation and covered a range of issues including:

  • How can businesses ensure that their investment is inclusive and meets food security, poverty reduction, and environmental sustainability goals?
  • How can corporate buyers share production and marketing risks fairly with smallholders in outgrower schemes?

The amount of expertise on the panel was remarkable. From Sylva Banda, an entrepreneur from Zambia, who explained how her food processing business and the work it does with smallholders has transformed the lives of many thousands of women, to Kola Basha from Nigeria, whose description of how he was using innovative financial bonds in his work was particularly interesting. There were also fascinating insights from some of the key delivery agents for smallholder development and links to markets such as Technoserve, Farm Africa, and Gorta-Self Help, and companies such as Mars and Diageo.

Sarah outlined the learnings from ETP’s work with smallholders in Kenya, Uganda Rwanda, Malawi, Indonesia, and India, discussing how approaches such as farmer field schools could be effectively used to significantly improve smallholder quality and productivity, and improve a range of other practices from business skills to improving food security and health. Sarah’s conclusions mirrored those of many of the other participants, which was that the best results for smallholders come from combining training with access to affordable finance and a stake in the processing.

Reflecting on the event Sarah said ‘this was one of the most useful and well informed discussions I have been involved in, from the parliamentarians who had direct experience of the issues and made the discussion flow so well to the insights from the other participants. When I shared what we are doing under the Malawi 2020 programme, the comprehensive plan to revitalise the Malawian tea industry including a profitable and sustainable smallholder, the number of people in the room with relevant experience in Malawi was remarkable – and their advice will certainly help to strengthen the programme still further.”

Download Sarah’s presentation: Sourcing from Smallholders – APPG meeting