Small-scale agriculture remains the majority activity of 70% of the rural sector in the poorest of countries and the major source of rural employment in these regions. Unfortunately, bad practices, falling prices and weak development policies continues to make it unviable.
Small-scale farmers in these regions are best described and identified as owning or tilling 2 ha or less with severely limited assets and capital.
In January 2006 the Us Natural Resources Institute (www.nri.org) released a paper on Global issues written by Junior R. Davis. It identified critical areas for trade, marketing and regulatory reforms that can help small farmers can gain entry to regional and global markets through high value agricultural products.
It cites that the most common problem with small farmers in their abeyance to prevailing technical standards which must be sustained in these markets.
Besides constant research and development to help sway private and government policy intervention for small farmers in gaining access to these markets it his highly imperative that older lessons be remembered.
Oversupply and overdependence caused a lot of traditional commodities to fail due to falling prices. Aiming to supply only supermarket or similar retail chains also is not the most viable option for small farmers as these deals in large bulks and requires higher capital investments.
Of many growing trends in agricultural products, it was cited that horticultural products is one of the driving forces of new opportunities besides fresh fruit, vegetables, livestock, milk, meat, fish and non timber forest products.
These products are scientifically improved fruits, berries, nuts, vegetables, flowers and trees; which hold a significantly higher market yield. Being very well studied and specialized these products can be grown in smaller areas and crops can even be diverse.
Research from africanagriculture.blogspot.com shows that Ethiopia expects to yield USD 600 million annually from 2007 onwards and expects to become the leading flower exporter in Africa. Taken from www.indiaprwire.com, the highly successful Flora Expo and Landscape Expo 2007 continuous to prove the country as a new “Flower Power” and expects to trade USD 1 Billion by 2010.
The main expo speaker continues in saying that floriculture in India is becoming an attractive commercially viable diversification option, predicting a shift of many agri industries into this field which expects to create not only new revenue but also millions of jobs in far flung areas.
The Philippines also looks to this as a sunshine industry according to www.bar.gov.ph, Vol. 9 Issue No.1. Although much smaller in scale of success as compared to Ethiopia and India the government is now said to be intent in pursuing this growth trend. In 1990 the annual cut flower yield was only 8,000 MT but by 2003 it produced over 22,000 MT cultivated only from 1,500 ha.
These high value agricultural commodities particularly floriculture products not only answers new sourcing needs of developing countries but also has gained great acceptance in the middle income segment of developing countries.
With enough organization of small farmers and further infrastructure development coupled extreme policy changes such as tax shields and grants, any country in the area called the “third world” can help alleviate their poverty stricken masses while making good use of the still available arable land.
Technologies such as the Internet and Greenhouse propagation methods have all helped the explosive growth of HVA products as seen in the case of Ethiopia and India. Greenhouses have given new opportunities to control climate and significantly increase crop production and attain consistent quality while the Internet has bound together suppliers from all over the world while increasing the market awareness of floral and landscape products. A keen eye should be kept on this.