Smallholder and family farming

Smallholder farming family in a cabbage field in Honduras
Small farms produce almost half of the world’s food needs. © SDC/Fritz R. Staehelin

Smallholders and family farms play a key role in feeding the world's growing population and creating and preserving jobs in rural areas. They can also help to stem migration. In order to stay in business, smallholders need access to stable markets, infrastructure adapted to their needs, and access to education, training and financial and information services. The SDC helps them to adapt to change and to boost production in a sustainable way.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations  defines smallholders as small-scale farmers, pastoralists, forest keepers and fishers who manage areas of less than 10 hectares. Smallholder farms are characterised by family-focused motives and it is the families who are responsible for everything from production to farm maintenance. Part of what is produced is consumed by the family itself. Smallholder farming is about a third less productive than large-scale farming. Despite this fact – or indeed because of it – Switzerland is convinced that supporting smallholder and family farming contributes to alleviating world hunger and poverty.

The SDC's support for smallholders and family farms in developing countries mainly consists of assisting them to adapt to climate change, to changing available means and methods of production, as well as to new market demands in order to boost and improve their production.

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Current projects

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CABI PlantwisePlus

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2027

PlantwisePlus is a global programme that is supporting countries and farmers to predict, prevent and prepare themselves for plant health threats in a changing climate. This will allow farmers to reduce their crop losses and produce more and safer food using agroecological and climate-smart practices that safeguard human health and biodiversity. The programme is implemented by CABI, a leading intergovernmental research and development organization in plant health, with research facilities in Switzerland.


Colombia: MIRE+, Assistance to Victims of Violence

01.10.2023 - 31.03.2025

The humanitarian crisis in Colombia continues despite growing efforts towards peace. Armed groups fighting for territory and valuable natural resources inflict extreme harm on rural and ethnic communities. In line with the Swiss interest to respond to humanitarian crises, SDC remains dedicated to supporting these communities, enhancing their individual and collective resilience. The project integrates humanitarian action with a developmental and peace orientation (nexus).


Bangladesh Microinsurance Market Development Programme

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2027

This programme takes forward Switzerland’s global and in-country experience in working on agricultural microinsurance by addressing critical climate risks, hazards and resulting economic shocks for farming people. The programme will sustainably increase resilience of farmers and related micro and small enterprises through climate change adaptation practices, and stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth across multiple agricultural sub-sectors.


Strengthening Civil Society in Myanmar – Paung Ku

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2027

In Myanmar, civic space has considerably shrunk since the military coup. In the absence of a legitimate government, networks of independent civil society organisations (CSOs) are essential actors for basic service provision and promotion of democratic values and human rights. Showing commitment to localisation, Switzerland will enable local CSOs to further support vulnerable communities and to protect the foundations of a pluralistic and inclusive society.  


Building Resilient Communities for Sustainable Development in rural Afghanistan

01.07.2023 - 30.06.2026

Afghanistan is among the most exposed countries to climate change. Prolonged drought and progressive reduction of water reserves put at risk the survival of traditional livelihoods. By integrating innovative agriculture techniques and improving the management of natural resources, this project aims at promoting the resilience of rural communities. Climate change adaptation is key for the food security, and represents an institutional priority for the Swiss international cooperation.


Enhancing Climate Resilience of Vulnerable Communities and Ecosystems in South Sudan

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2026

Local authorities and communities will be strengthened in their technical and managerial capacities to reduce people’s livelihood exposure, vulnerability and resilience to floods and drought thus increasing food production and reduce food insecurity as well as displacement of people and competition over natural resources. This will be achieved through improved communication, coordination and knowledge-sharing, early warning systems and appropriate legislation. 


PASEM 2 - Programme d’Appui au Secteur de l’Elevage au Mali

15.04.2023 - 15.04.2027

L’élevage, adapté à l’écosystème du Sahel, est crucial pour le développement des régions de Mopti, Tombouctou et Gao et ce en dépit des effets du changement climatique, de l’insécurité, de la faible productivité et de l’insuffisance des infrastructures. De par son expérience, la Suisse va renforcer la résilience de 85’000 éleveurs et pasteurs, concourir à l’apaisement des conflits et à la relance économique, et offrir des opportunités aux jeunes et aux femmes dans les filières bétail-viande et lait.


Seed and Knowledge Initiative

01.03.2023 - 28.02.2027

This initiative will address food insecurity and environmental degradation by promoting crop diversification and environment-friendly approaches. It is implemented by a partnership of 15 community-based organizations and their regional partners. The emphasis of the final phase of Swiss funding is on advocacy and movement building, while expanding the number of smallholder farmers, including women and youth, who practice and spread agro-ecology and farmer-led seed systems.


Mercy Corps: Strengthening Resilience in Agriculture, Livelihoods and Markets through Local Institutions in Greater Mundri

01.02.2023 - 31.01.2026

To sustainably move households out of chronic vulnerability, poverty and food insecurity by facilitating economic recovery and support for smallholder farmers and non-farm microenterprises. The support will consist of market system development (MSD), value chain development, vocational skills development and improved methods of agriculture, such as agro-ecology and conservation. The intervention will focus on women and youth and is highly relevant in a post-conflict context like Mundri (South Sudan).


Albania: Sustainable Rural Development

01.02.2023 - 31.12.2026

Large potential for additional value creation exists in the agriculture sector and related activities in Albania. The project will develop innovative, economically viable and inclusive business models for market actors to leverage investment and ultimately increase income and employment for the population in rural areas, especially for women, young people and returnees.


PAIE - Programme d’appui aux initiatives dans le secteur de l’élevage et à la cohésion sociale

01.02.2023 - 31.01.2026

La compétition autour de l’exploitation des ressources naturelles cause des tensions intercommunautaires, à risque d’être instrumentalisées par l’extrémisme violent. Le gouvernement du Bénin a initié des réformes pour améliorer la productivité liée à l’élevage et mieux gérer l’espace pastoral. Cette contribution au programme de promotion de l’élevage du GoB vise à renforcer la cohésion sociale par le renforcement des mécanismes de concertation, et à piloter un modèle de gestion spatiale pour une meilleure productivité et une mobilité pastorale réduite. 


Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Market Systems (PROMAS)

16.01.2023 - 31.12.2027

Agriculture is the main source of income for 70% of the population and is an important means to improve people’s livelihood. The sector suffers from low productivity and an unfavourable business environment. Thanks to better functioning markets and capacity building, smallholder farmers will improve their income and resilience through enhanced productivity, improved access to markets, climate adaptation, financial services and private sector development in northern Mozambique.

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