It is widely accepted that there is no single cause or circumstance that is responsible for the challenges smallholder farmers face. But, a complex confluence of drivers and trends, policies and institutions, and political and economic factors set in motion several decades ago, are responsible. These challenges require a multidimensional and a multi-stakeholder approach to map out, understand, and enunciate appropriate options for the farmers.
The issues/questions enumerated below will deserve special attention in this research:
- Understanding the production and markets access conditions for smallholder farmers, their productivity, diversity of production methods, and the type of markets –local, national, regional and international –that they serve. What are the challenges to production and market access and development? The issue of inclusiveness in these markets should be central with a focus on gender, the poor and marginalised, etc.
- The voice of the smallholder farmer needs to be heard in every aspect, so that they are not left out by the entire system, i.e. in the area of production, marketing, standards, certification, policy formulation, market access and communication, etc. The research should be able to clarify the kind of approaches that work for empowering smallholder producers to supply to local and regional markets. This should entail the policy framework for smallholders’ empowerment so that they can get to the market better.
- Having mechanisms for smallholder farmers in place to enable them to cope or find a balance between livelihood requirements and market access. How can the capacity of farmer organisations be enhanced to be able to provide crucial services that small farmer organisations need? What are some of these services?
- Should governments, donors, NGOs promote contract farming schemes or not? If yes! What type of contractual arrangements should be there between farmers and markets that ensure that as they produce, their market is guaranteed? How can trust be created between farmers to have them linked together to collectively carry out business?
- Generating and managing information relevant to farmers as far as productivity improvement and access to markets are concerned. What type of information do farmers want and what role should be played by governments, business community, NGOs and producer groups in generating and managing this information?
- How important is the issue of gender mainstreaming in smallholder production and marketing? What are the gender mainstreaming strategies that are practical in the short, medium and long term to ensure that smallholder producers benefit? What is the best structure of farmers’ organisations (at all levels) to ensure that the market/production is sustainable and beneficial to all of them? What information will benefit them?
- Over 70% of the Kenyan populace relies on agriculture as a source of employment, yet agriculture contributes less than a third of the country’s GDP. This is a paradox that needs to be addressed. How can agriculture be made more productive? How can the energy, skills and knowledge of the youth be tapped towards agriculture?