This year’s edition of the Rural Development Report 2021 focuses on Transforming food systems for rural prosperity. It was published by the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) in September 2021.
One prominent issue mentioned in the report is the “midstream” of food systems. The midstream includes all the activities that happen after the farm gate – trading, storing, processing, and distributing food to consumers – as well as businesses that supply inputs to farmers. This segment of the food system has strong potential to generate decent employment.
Currently, many developing countries are undergoing a transition in this sector, with their midstreams rapidly growing and encompassing a wider range and complexity of activities. The development of these midstreams should therefore be focused on local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and their potential to generate jobs. These jobs, plus the potential to develop links between midstream SMEs and local small-scale farmers, can help create food systems that work for rural people.
Another closely related priority highlighted in the report is enabling small-scale farmers to earn decent and fair rewards for their work.
The Rural Development Report 2021 shows that small farms are remarkably productive and contribute a greater diversity of food compared to larger farms. Nevertheless, small-scale farmers contend with many constraints – such as lack of access to land, water rights, finance, information, and new technologies – that limit their productivity and keep them poor. An equitable transformation of food systems must therefore have small-scale farmers at its centre, complemented by local midstream SMEs that link them with essential services and markets.
This means supporting these farmers to overcome these constraints. It also means making markets work for them by eliminating systemic sources of bias and inequality. The report describes these systemic issues, along with the manifold ways in which global trade systems are biased against small-scale farmers. It shows that although farmers in some parts of the world benefit from advantageous trade and subsidy arrangements, there is little support for small-scale farming in the countries where needs are greatest.
The report provides detailed analysis and policy recommendations in these areas as well as many others, including nutritious diets, food loss and waste, food processing and the role of animal-based foods.
Visit the Rural Development Report website