Small-scale soya farming can outperform large-scale agricultural investments
This briefing (PDF) by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) highlights how small- and mediumscale farm models can outperform large-scale operations in terms of monetary return, food security, employment generation, local prosperity and avoiding land conflicts. Agriculture is an important engine for economic growth in Africa, but effective agricultural strategies to support rural development and poverty alleviation are scarce. State investment in the small-scale farming sector is minimal and the entrepreneurial family farm sector remains underrepresented. Meanwhile, large-scale land investments are advocated as means to bring capital to rural areas and stimulate development. However, the investigation of soya production in Central Mozambique presented here suggests small-scale farming can produce similar profits to large-scale operations and better social outcomes. The authors did not find justification for any general condemnation of large-scale land investments as ‘land grabbers’, yet large-scale operations do appear to fail local development aims: they need much better oversight and transparency. Concentrating only on large-scale investments can mean forgoing opportunities for rural development and poverty reduction. With the right support, poorer households can develop market-oriented farming that contributes to local value chains at many levels. Supplying technology, finance and locally adapted extension services are all challenging, yet soya production in Central Mozambique presents a good example of how agricultural advice and support – here provided by various donors and NGOs – can successfully foster the small- and medium-scale commercial farming sector.