Small-scale farmers’ decisions in globalised markets

There are some 435 million small-scale farmers in Asia, most of whom cultivate land parcels of less than 2 hectares for subsistence and require other livelihood activities to sustain themselves. However, small-scale producers are subject to the influence of globalised markets for their inputs, choice of crops, quality parameters and price.

This document synthesises the findings and draws lessons from case studies by the Knowledge Programme’s Asia Network Members in India and Indonesia and a commissioned paper on changes in China. It also draws on other material and learning from the programme globally and on a literature review and secondary research relevant to Asia. The document highlights the diversity of situations among small-scale farmers with regard to markets and economic organisations and the disconnects between policies and realities.

The findings challenge conventional wisdom. Far from current views of small-scale farmers as permanent victims or beneficiaries of external interventions, it sheds light on how, despite their many asset constraints, small producers in Asia are dynamic economic actors trying, through innovative methods, to make markets work for them. Looking at where they are rather than where many would like them to be will certainly contribute to better informed policies and interventions.

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