Small-scale farmers in developing countries struggle with problems of access to credit and finding a secure market to sell their crops in addition to worsening soil erosion and looming climate change.
Increasing agricultural productivity is a priority task for development practitioners in their work of rural transformation. This is particularly true in the developing nations. Limited resource reduced by expanding urban and industrial areas and mounting population pressures make it essential to concentrate in the years and decades ahead on increasing agricultural production. At the same time other forms of income-generation such as village-based industries must be expanded. There is a clear trend towards larger farms. More people in rural areas are being added to the non-landowning category. The present scale of economic activities in rural areas cannot provide productive and gainful employment to this increasing labour force. The resulting migration to urban centres has created problems in the cities and towns which are not able to absorb this influx ant provide the services necessary for human living. The rural areas are becoming depleted of talents skills and resources.
This development has led to other problems. The increasing demands for domestic fuel industrial raw materials and land for the landless are cutting into the forests and marginal lands and disturbing the ecological equilibrium. Soil is being eroded, lakes and rivers are silting up and frequent floods are causing havoc to property, crops and livestock.
Small and marginal farmers, the landless, tribal peoples and others are caught in this process They are losing in the competition with those who have better placed land and other productive assets. They depend for their livelihood on occupations which are risky and not properly serviced and protected. Production of traditional field crops without adequate returns to the soil has made both the people and the soil vulnerable. In this battle for survival these people are compromised for a security with meagre returns. They are hesitant about practising new technologies which hold a promise of a better quality of life until they feel secure in their journey into new realms. In traditional rural societies the power structure has not undergone significant change despite democratization and modernization. This structure operates at a disadvantage for the weaker sections. The large landowner has been able to develop a better rapport with institutions and organizations working for the development of rural people. But the rural poor are still largely unable to assert themselves to gain their share of the fruits of development resulting from the efforts of government and non-government organizations and foundations.
Awakening the rural poor to their rights and to the opportunities available to them through national and state rural development policies is crucial to rural transformation. It is also important that they learn to organize themselves to take advantage of developments in science and technology. Governments have given a very high priority to agricultural development and increasing the agricultural productivity of small farmers and rehabilitating the landless and underprivileged. Technology is available which can increase the income of small farmers and can rehabilitate the landless. Non-governmental organizations are developing strategies to effectively reach the rural people, particularly the poor.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is focusing attention on the need to increase the productivity of both small farmer holdings and the landless. In 2002 FAO estimated that 16 billion dollars were needed annually to mobilize resources to help farmers in developing countries. For the developed countries, the amount of sixteen billion dollars is less than they transfer to their own agriculture every 20 days.
The mission of the European Centre for Ecological and Agricultural Tourism-Poland (ECEAT-Poland) is to use ecological tourism to organic farms as a tool to help small farmers make a sometimes difficult transition from conventional agriculture to ecological agriculture. In this way the farmers benefit financially while environmentally sound practices are spread, and the natural landscape, biodiversity and local culture and traditions are protected and shared with visitors. By working in a cooperative and ecological way small Polish farmers will be able to protect their livelihoods and their traditional way of life in a coming period of difficult economic and social transformation.
Agricultural production is the best safety net against poverty and hunger in most developing countries. But payouts for western food producers are wrecking potential markets in North America, Europe and Japan for small farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Subsidies subsidies to export big grain crops such as wheat and corn can also destroy livelihoods in small countries, because they are sometimes sold at below the local cost price.