Increasing non-farm employment for small farmers

Bad harvests, the off-season, taking surplus agricultural land out of production, and the application of new technologies contribute to farm unemployment. In addition to the above, small farms and their employees can be additionally vulnerable because they may be forced out of business by more competitive large farms. The employment opportunities for small farmers may be improved by providing them with alternative employment by diversifying local economies.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends creating non-farm employment opportunities through private small-scale agro-processing units, rural service centres and related infrastructural improvements.

Employment and income from non-farm activities are of increasing importance in the rural economy of developing countries. Small forest-based enterprise activities constitute one of the largest sources of such income. They also account for a large part of the total harvest from forests in many areas. Many agriculturalists supplement their income through gathering and trading products such as forest foods, medicinal plants, and fuel wood. Small-scale manufacturing of items such as furniture, baskets, mats and craft goods constitute substantial informal sector industries. Income from these activities tends to be particularly important during seasonal shortfalls in food and cash crop income and in periods of drought or emergencies. Ease of access to forest raw materials means that forest-based activities are particularly important for the poor and for women. However, some of the simpler activities provide very low returns to labour, and may thus provide only minimal and short-lived livelihood contributions. Some of the most important saleable forest products face uncertain markets because of growing competition from industrial or synthetic alternatives or domesticated sources of the materials. As demand grows, some activities are also threatened by depletion of, or reduced access to, forest resources. In developing policies in support of sustainable activities, it is therefore important to be able to distinguish between those that have a potential to grow and those that do not. Policy issues include regulations that discriminate against the informal sector, policies that result in the shift from managed to uncontrolled open access use of forest resources, and restrictions on private production and sale of forest products that impede the development of farm-based sources of these products.
Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth