Impact on Smallholder Farmers

Introduction

AGRA’s overarching vision is to contribute to inclusive agricultural transformation on the African continent, which translates into better livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers. Our strategy, interventions, and investments focus on strengthening the foundational elements of the overall agricultural ecosystem – a capable public sector, strong partnerships, and strong agricultural systems driven by a vibrant private sector. While we do not work directly with smallholder farmers, we work at the national and systems level to improve opportunities that ultimately lead to better outcomes at the farm level.  

Our expectation is that smallholder farmers benefit from our ecosystem investments. As AGRA’s systems-level interventions take effect, we should see positive impact for farmers themselves. A smallholder that is served by better-coordinated, well-functioning systems for inputs, extension services, distribution, and output markets has more knowledge and more choices, and is therefore equipped to improve how they farm. This should be evident in a few key ways:

  • Increased adoption of good agronomic practices as VBAs build awareness, access to agrodealers improves, and as improved inputs and technologies become more affordable and appropriate
  • Higher productivity and output as better inputs and practices help farmers increase yields, grow higher-quality crops, and improve post-harvest management
  • Increased incomes with better production, higher quality, and access to structured markets
  • Greater resilience in crop quality, surplus, and income predictability as farmers benefit from a functioning, profitable private sector that can sustain the improved agricultural systems that serve them

Our Impact on Farmers in AGRA Regions

We conduct regular surveys of farmers in the sub-national geographies that we serve, as well as the VBAs, off-takers, and SMEs that are part of the agricultural systems that AGRA has invested in. Across our 11 focus countries, we can see evidence that our systems investments are translating to positive downstream impact on farmers in the areas reached by AGRA’s consortia or other interventions.

Smallholders report adopting new practices across a range of areas. While many farmers in AGRA countries have already adopted improved hybrid seeds or fertilizer, we are also observing changes in the way farmers plant, apply fertilizer, and protect their crops. 

Figure 1: Adoption of New Farming Practices

These better practices are translating into increases in yields. While there can be significant variability in yields across geographies and seasons, we are starting to see evidence of meaningful gains in average yields across a range of crops for farmers served by our consortia.

Figure 2: Improvement in Productivity

Better productivity is also leading to an increase in incomes for many farmers. Among farmers who have reported increased incomes in 2020 compared to 2017, nearly 60% have experienced income growth of 20% or higher. Multiple factors have contributed to this, most notably increase in total production, better quality, and improved access to structured output markets.

Figure 3: Increases in Income

Finally, there is evidence that this impact is contributing to more resilient farmers. Two-thirds of farmers report that their crops have higher quality – with nearly one-third noting better resilience to drought and pests. The vast majority of farmers had production surpluses in 2020, with 66% reporting that compared to 2017, their surpluses have increased by at least 4 months. We also see evidence that this is gradually translating into a view that incomes are somewhat predictable – an encouraging sign in communities in which subsistence farming is common. 

Figure 4: Improvements in Resilience Factors 

The evidence of progress and impact is encouraging, but we are acutely aware that more progress is needed. Reported productivity, for instance, is still far behind global benchmarks, and a significant share of farmers still produce for on-farm consumption, rather than commercial markets. Use of post-harvest technologies is growing, but remains modest across most markets; we expect these to increase as access to markets improves and the cost-benefit ratio for changing post-harvest management changes. The impact of climate change will only worsen, increasing the urgency of helping smallholder farmers find cost-effective ways to become more adaptive.

AGRA also recognizes the need to adopt a more intentional gender inclusion strategy. Across our focus countries, women farmers reached through our investments are mostly keeping pace with their male counterparts – with similar percentages in most markets reporting improved crop quality, higher incomes, and predictability of income. Yet there remain slight gaps on most metrics, most notably the share of women farmers who adopted new practices over the last few years. Moreover, these gaps are worse in some countries, with women lagging slightly more in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania, for instance. Additional information on AGRA’s work to date is provided in the Gender Inclusivity section.

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