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  • Writer's pictureZiggurat Realestatecorp

How to empower small-scale farmers

Small-scale farmers produce up to 70 percent of food in low- and middle-income countries like the Philippines, yet they are often the first to go to bed hungry.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) noted that about 80 percent of the world’s poorest people live in the rural areas of developing countries.

The United Nations Environment Program said small-scale farmers are those with a low asset base and operating in less than two hectares of cropland and are operating under structural constraints, such as access to resources, technology and markets.

Despite their importance in food production, IFAD said small-scale farmers earn a mere $0.06 for every $1 worth of food they produce on average. At an exchange rate of P55 for every greenback, the amount is equivalent to P3.30.

Apart from low income, small-scale farmers are also disadvantaged in terms of global climate finance and official development assistance. IFAD said small-scale farmers receive less than 2 percent of global climate finance, and ODA to agriculture has been stagnant at 4 to 6 percent for at least two decades.

Nowhere is that situation more evident than in the Philippines.

While their incomes have shown incremental improvement in recent years, farmers and fishers remain as the poorest basic sectors in the country, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In a report released in March, the PSA noted that poverty incidence among fishers and farmers in 2021 were at 30.6 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

Not surprisingly, rural areas recorded the highest number of poor population in 2021, according to PSA data.

It appears that rural areas, farmers and the farm sector are not getting enough attention from policymakers. While education is important and infrastructure projects can immediately create jobs, a sluggish agriculture sector will make it more difficult for the Marcos administration to achieve its economic goals.

The President is currently at the helm of the Department of Agriculture, and he has promised to whip it into shape and turn the sector into a significant growth driver.

One of the most significant moves the Marcos administration has done is to enact a measure that condoned the debts of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), most of whom continue to struggle to make their land productive.

The government is optimistic that the amount it condoned will be used as production capital by the ARBs.

Condoning their debt is welcome news for planters, but they need other forms of assistance such as modern farm equipment and an agricultural extension program that will help them improve their productivity. Extension services will allow farmers to get the support they need for their production activities and learn new ideas from research institutes.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the purpose of agricultural extension is to advance not only production knowledge, but also the whole range of agricultural development tasks, such as credit, supplies, marketing and markets.

The government can empower Filipino farmers by providing the necessary inputs and services to support their agricultural production.

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