Better Together: How Collaboration and Market Access Improves Rural Communities

Better Together: How Collaboration and Market Access Improves Rural Communities
From, by Kathlee Freeman

Rural communities are home to 75 percent of the world’s poorest people, most of whom rely on farming for food and income. For these smallholder farmers, issues like gaining market access, making use of agriculture innovations and research, and understanding their rights, are central to food security and economic stability.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), better access to markets for smallholder farmers will result in higher and more reliable prices for crops, increased productivity, and reduced rural poverty and hunger. However, there are several barriers that prevent farmers from reaching broader markets, using new technologies, and collaborating with one another. Transportation is an important issue because many rural communities lack the necessary funding and infrastructure to maintain roads. Additionally, finding vehicles and proper storage for crops can be difficult. Many developing countries with high rural populations also lack reliable internet access.

There’s also the issue of farmers and indigenous populations understanding their rights. For example, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture not only recognizes the role that indigenous populations and smallholder farmers play in seed development and the protection of biodiversity, but establishes the responsibility of governments to recognize the rights of farmers. However, like Juanita Chaves Posada, working with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), found, many farmers don’t even know these rights exist, let alone how to implement them.

Nevertheless, there are promising advances for rural farmers. Mobile technology, like cell phones, is on the rise in developing countries. A recent World Bank report found that 75 percent of the world has access to a mobile phone, which is being used to find jobs, research, compare prices, and communicate.

There is also a push for international collaboration between researchers, entrepreneurs and farmers. In November of last year, 75 organizations met in the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, as part of the Rural Advisory Services in Central Asia and the Caucasus Conference hosted by the Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (CACAARI), to discuss the missing links between agriculture technology, scientific research, and the implementation of these resources on sustenance farms. Better access to resources and training, “knowledge platforms,” and a more comprehensive understanding of policy and its effect on rural communities were discussed as ways to help farmers foster a better link with outside agencies.

Collaboration and interaction, both between smallholder farmers and with outside organizations, will help farmers realize what rights they have and give them a voice in policy decisions. As Posada explained, “[Farmers] are essential not only for food security but also for reducing hunger and poverty. But often even the farmers do not realize the importance of their role.”

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