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This synthesis paper, published in May 2020 by the Dutch Food and Business Knowledge Platform and the Dutch research council NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, considers the ways in which smallholder agriculture contributes to improved food and nutrition security (FNS) in rural contexts. It is based on insights from 19 interdisciplinary research projects covering a wide range of crops (cassava, cocoa, dairy, fish farming and spider plants) in many different countries (Benin, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and Vietnam) but primarily in Africa.
Key insights comprise:
- Smallholders are not all the same. Interventions aiming to improve their productivity, market performance and FNS should acknowledge their heterogeneity.
- Early engagement of smallholders in project design and implementation is key to research uptake and long-term results.
- Building on local knowledge and active farmer engagement in peer-to-peer learning, knowledge cocreation and capacity building are critical for research uptake and long-term results.
- Introducing adapted varieties, practices and technologies that increase yield and/or prevent diseases provides opportunities for increased food availability.
- Business prospects enhance the adoption of new crops and technologies.
- Addressing structural constraints related to, for instance, land tenure and institutional support can be key to improve food and nutrition security.
- Social innovation – and trust in particular – is critical for effective research uptake strategies and scaling up new technologies.
- Higher productivity and market integration do not automatically lead to access to more and healthier food.
- Multi-stakeholder collaboration is challenging, yet supports sustained outcomes.
This paper is part of a thematic synthesis of NWO-WOTRO’s Food & Business research programme focusing on new knowledge, insights and innovations on improved food and nutrition security by smallholder farmers. It has been written by David Betge, Ellen Lammers, Mirjam-Ros Tonen and Daniëlle de Winter.
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