Policy and Practice


Agriculture and Food Security

“Our objective is to promote a transition to sustainable systems of agriculture and natural resource management that provide food security and livelihoods for the rural poor”


Key Facts

  • 75% of the global population is fed with food provided locally by small-scale farmers, fishers or herders
  • Providing women with equal access to resources and opportunities has the potential to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 -17% or by 100 to 150 million people.
  • In the least developed countries, the agricultural sector employs over 72% of the population, but has the highest rates of extreme poverty

Agenda for Change

Practical Action wants governments, development agencies and the private sector to use agroecological approaches to improve productivity and resilience, particularly of smallholder farmers, so they become an essential part of national strategies for food security, economic development and poverty reduction.

biodiversity agriculture Bolivia
Farmers demonstrate the diversity of local
potato species in Bolivia

At present most smallholder farmers and the rural poor tend to be excluded, bypassed or further marginalised by the technology transfer and commercial agriculture focus of current agriculture and development policies and strategies.

At the same time, there is a growing body of evidence that shows agroecological approaches have potential for improving both the productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers.  Such approaches use the resources smallholder farmers already have (the land, crops and knowledge) combined with scientific knowledge and information.  They are accessible, innovative and sustainable.

Like many others, we believe that market systems, and the resources and resourcefulness of the private sector are needed to achieve change at scale.  However, agroecological (or low external input) approaches do not align well with conventional strategies to improve markets or private sector investment.  We believe this should not dissuade us from working with markets or the private sector, but rather increases the need for investment in action research and learning on how agroecological approaches can be adopted by the private sector and incentivised through market systems.


Goals for Policy and Practice

Our policy and practice objectives relate to improving the understanding and use of technologies by national governments, donors, development agencies and the private sector.  We use a Technology Justice lens to help ensure agriculture technologies are: accessible for smallholders and the marginalised, make innovative use of existing knowledge and resources and, improve or preserve the environment and future generations.

Specifically, our work is aimed at improving smallholder productivity, in order to improve national food security, rural incomes (livelihoods) and economic growth, and improving smallholder resilience, in order to improve their ability to adapt to a changing climate and overcome other shocks and stresses, such as commodity price fluctuations or extreme weather events.  To achieve this we call for:

  • Agriculture and development policies that purposely include smallholder farmers and the marginalised rural poor, especially women smallholder farmers.
  • Research and investment in agroecological approaches as a means of improving both smallholder productivity and resilience.
  • Governments, donors, development agencies and the private sector to work through market systems and the private sector to provide a means of achieving scale - in particular to incentivise the adoption of agroecological practices in markets by the private sector.
  • Policy coherence, as there are many factors that can undermine inclusive and sustainable agriculture.  Concretely, we ask for coherence between, and within:
    • the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),
    • the emerging new climate change agreement (from the UNFCCC at COP 21),
    • the UN Committee on World Food Security (the principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments),
    • the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA),
    • the G7 New Alliance on Food and Agriculture,
    • and any other on-going international policy processes such as on gender, health, nutrition, trade.

Flagship Projects

Pathways from Poverty (PFP) phase 2

Pathways from Poverty

(PFP) phase 2

Sustainable Agriculture

Food & Livelihood Security
Improving food security

Improving food security

Collana, La Paz, Bolivia

Key Agriculture and Food Security Publications:


Policy Position Paper Agriculture

This paper describes our influencing work on Agriculture. It explains why we are working on this issue, outlines our aims and approaches, and sets out our recommendations.


Agriculture Policy Position Paper for COP 20 Peru December 2014

A paper presented at COP20 to highlight the 'Crucial Role of Smallholder Farmers for Food Security and Eliminating Poverty in a Changing Climate'. It argues that agroecology can be a powerful tool...


Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Africa: A Framework for an Enabling Environment

Smallholder farmers form the backbone of economic activity in most African countries. They have the potential to play a crucial role in supplying food to the continent’s population and bringing...


Climate Smart Agriculture and smallholder farmers: the critical role of Technology Justice in effective adaptation

Agricultural adaptation to climate change is critical for food security and economic development; if it is to be truly ‘climate-smart’ for smallholder farmers, it must be inclusive and protect the...


Scaling up Agroecology through Market Systems

To eradicate extreme poverty means focusing on the 500 million smallholders so they can reliably generate more food and income from their agricultural activities. This paper uses the three pillars...


What Works for Women

Briefing paper on proven approaches for empowering women smallholder farmers. Report by Practical Action and eight other NGOs to share lessons learnt based on their experiences of promoting gender...


Agriculture blog posts

  • Will COP21 deliver a Paris Protocol?
    Have the global negotiations for a new climate agreement switched from a marathon to an egg and spoon race? We are now in the final leg of the marathon negotiations for a new climate agreement. At the last meeting in Bonn, the negotiators were expected to intensify their pace, but by the end of the meeting it was clear no one had sped up, if anything the pace had slowed. We are now entering the final sprint to the line. […]
  • As GMO patents expire, will they be used more by smallholder farmers in LDCs?
    Today 16th October is World Food Day, a day to highlight the hunger and suffering millions of people face throughout the world. One of the responses to hunger in recent years has been to turn to science and technology to help boost yields of ‘staple crops’. One such method has been the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the use of such seeds is controlled by the companies who ‘make’ them. Recently however, the patents protections on some of […]