Small farmers in Africa have long been engaged
with markets — for produce, inputs such as
fertiliser, credit, labour, land and information.
Opportunities to do so are increasing with
urbanisation and better roads linking villages
to cities, making questions that arise about
smallholder commercialisation all the more
Some argue that farmers are only partly subject to market forces, that social ties and obligations means that capital has to be redistributed so there is too little to invest. Others expect that only some small farmers, those favoured with more land, labour and capital, will benefit from engagement with markets, leading to wider differentiation. Indeed, the better-off smallholders may then have the means to take over the land of their less fortunate neighbours. In the same vein, some see it as inevitable that smallholdings will soon give way to large-scale commercial farms, since they consider the former to be too small to be technically efficient.
What does the evidence show ? How do small farms commercialise ? What are the outcomes ? Are the fears of undesirable outcomes justified ? And what should policy-makers be doing to encourage better outcomes ? This briefing reports the highlights of an extensive review of the literature on commercialisation of small farms in Africa.