Skip to main content
Engineering LibreTexts

13.1.5: Smallholder Farmer Food Systems

  • Page ID
  • KEnyaLandscape_smallholders_small_0.jpeg

    Figure 10.1.9.: This patchwork landscape of sloped fields and hedgerows with dozens of family farms in western Kenya is typical of smallholder food systems. Credit: Steven Vanek

    Approximately 500 million smallholder farms with areas less than 2 hectares (5 acres) support the nutrition and livelihood of approximately two billion people in smallholder farms globally (IFAD, 2013). As such smallholders form an important sector of the global food system, producing up to 80% of local and regional food supplies in Sub-Saharan Africa, South/Southeast Asia, and China. You saw an example of a smallholder system in the summative assessment for module 1. Livelihood strategies of households in this system attempt to overcome risk and guarantee subsistence as well as cash income. For this reason, these "semi-subsistence" farming systems are often complex, for example integrating agriculture, livestock, and agroforestry food production with off-farm livelihood activities that overlap with consumption from the globalized food system (previous page). Most food is consumed either on the farm where it is produced or locally and regionally, with transport and distribution handled by relatively short-distance networks.


    Figure 10.1.10.: Smallholder systems often include livestock for purposes of economic value (meat, wool) and better use of landscapes that are not optimal for cropping, such as this rugged patchwork of rangeland and cropped fields in Bolivia where goats are being grazed. Credit: Steven Vanek


    Figure 10.1.11.: Hardy, early yielding crops such as barley, pictured here in the Andes, are a good way for smallholders to produce staple grains in difficult environments. Depending on the elevation of a smallholder community in this Andean context, maize and potatoes round out a full range of options for producing carbohydrate staples in this risky mountain environment. Credit: Steven Vanek