Posted By in AgriProFocus Netherlands
Posted 11 April 2019 at 09:04

Insight Paper: Farmers! Which farmers?

Strategies to differentiate categories of farmers as ‘target’ group of food security interventions

This insight paper, published by the AgriProFocus network in collaboration with Utrecht University, aims to contribute to a better conceptualization of ‘farmers’ and to an improved understanding of ‘farmers’ who are currently ‘targeted’ in food security interventions. We'd like to inform Dutch Food & Nutrition Security (FNS) Policy as well as to provide recommendations on how to enhance the policy’s results for and with the target groups it intends to reach. The insights from this paper can also serve as background for targeting strategies of development organisations or private companies.

Why this paper? 
In current practice and policy related to international food security and agricultural development, a range of different words and definitions is used to indicate farmers: ‘poor farmers’, ‘farmers with potential’, ‘commercial farmers’, ‘marginalized farmers’, ‘smallholder farmers’, ‘family farms’, ‘entrepreneurial farmers’, etc. while there is also often reference to ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ farms. The number of farms that can be classified in each of these categories, the average or median size of farms in each of these categories, and the relative amount of food produced by each of these categories: these basic data are often not available to development actors. 

In practice this may mean that several implicit choices are made which imply that certain groups benefit more than others without a deliberate policy that underlies this choice. We believe that the effectiveness of FNS policy and practice could be enhanced when objectives, expected results and interventions are (better) differentiated according to target group. This idea closely follows the recommendation of the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB), which conducted an evaluation of Dutch FNS policy, to apply differentiated targeting of farmers.The insight paper provides an extensive overview of the different ways development interventions conceptualize and categorize farmer groups. It also describes a number of targeting strategies applied in food security interventions by international organisations as well as the Netherlands.

Definition of 'farmer'

The findings show that overall, few organisations have published a clear definition of what they perceive by ‘farmers’. In practice, a wide range of criteria and indicators are used to differentiate between farmers when selecting particular groups to be involved in agrofood development interventions or investments. The most commonly used criteria are farm size, market integration, labour input and income, while gender and age, the type of farming system, the capabilities of farmers and the level of organisation are other important aspects often considered.

A common criticism regarding farmer categorisation, is the notion that many farming households have diverse livelihoods strategies, in which only part of the income is generated through farming. People have multiple roles and affinities and their participation in an activity or organisation might change over time and depend on other opportunities. The report also observes that the discourse on farmer targeting is highly influenced by the fierce debate about the roles different categories of farmers have in development and in achieving global food security.


A series of recommendations is included in the paper, addressing both the challenges related to the use of concepts, and the strategies to differentiate between farmer groups and to promote inclusion of specific groups such as youth, women or farmers with little access to assets such as land.

AgriProFocus network memb rs are invited to continue this dialogue, based on their insights from practice and their vision for the future. Particularly the engagement of farmer organisations and their networks in this conversation is most welcome.

In case of questions or for more information please contact Nicole Metz

MUBARAK INUWA Thank you Anne Marie Kortieve.RE-Insight paper:Farmers ! Which Farmers? Indeed, this would likely going to be as how our farmers would be motivated and enhanced, in their real Agricultural practices, of achieving food security and sustainability.But how can these policies reach up to farmers at the grassroot in the sub saharan Africa and south east Asia ?

4 years 5 months ago

Anne Marie Kortleve Please contact Nicole Metz if you have any questions on this topic. Thank you!

4 years 5 months ago

Nicole Metz AgriProFocus Netherlands received the following link in response to the paper, which is worth sharing: 'Are Medium-Scale Farms Driving Agricultural Transformation in Africa'

4 years 4 months ago