International Experiences of Support Policies for Smallholders: A Review and an Exploration of Underlying Rationale and Narratives

This thematic study on International experiences of policies supporting smallholder production is part of the background papers of the ‘GTAC/CBPEP/EU study on employment-intensive rural land reform in South Africa.’ It aims at presenting the existing debates and at drawing possible lessons for South Africa. Specific insights, guidance and advice were required on extension services, access to markets, adaptation to climate change and agro-ecology, and to the adoption of a place-based approach for an employment-intensive rural land reform. Support to smallholders is fully embedded in what has been the evolution of agriculture worldwide over the last 150 years. If major regional differences exist among farming systems, the general adoption of the modernization paradigm has deeply shaped the processes of agricultural development and farm differentiation. It has resulted in mainstream thinking which is challenged today by the limitations and consequences of the growth model, particularly climate change. There is a profusion of references about support policies for smallholders. The choice made for this review is to propose first a historical perspective about the development of these policies, their rationale and related narratives (section 1). This background helps to better understand the existing policy toolkit which is presented in section 2, together with several building blocks central to the current policy architecture, as well as emerging new approaches which could play a larger role in the future. Section 3 is a preliminary discussion about first lessons which could be useful for the collective brainstorming and the completion of the current study on employment-intensive rural land reform.