We need governments and development agencies to give more attention to working effectively with smallholders and the rural poor to enable them to ‘step up’ out of poverty and become a central part of the solution to national food security and rural livelihoods for poverty reduction.

What is food and livelihood security?

Food and livelihood security is achieved when:

  • Households, and all members within them, are able to produce, purchase or obtain sufficient, nutritious and culturally appropriate food at all times of the year.
  • Households are able to pursue a choice of safe and secure livelihood options that allow them to fulfil all their personal, social and economic needs.


Farmers with eggplant plantation supported by Practical Actions agricultural projects
Growing aubergine in Nepal

The crucial role of smallholder farmers

Over seventy per cent of the global population is currently fed with food provided locally by smallholder farmers, fishers or herders. Improving the productivity of smallholder farming is therefore important to ensuring national food security, improved nutrition and equitable growth.

We believe that with innovation in policy and programming to create an enabling environment for the adoption of agroecological practices, smallholder farmers present a ‘small is beautiful’ opportunity to use the assets they already have – local natural resources – to improve productivity, local and national food security, and to steadily ascend out of poverty.

Because of their local knowledge and the small scale of their farms, smallholder farmers can use both traditional knowledge and science to optimise production in relation to local conditions. This enables them to adapt farming practices to the constraints and opportunities presented by climate change. They can also do this in low potential areas where industrial or large-scale commercial agriculture would fail.

Our approach

Practical Action's approach to creating food and livelihood security is to work at all levels to promote system change. This includes learning from projects working directly with communities; building adaptive capacity in rural communities; facilitating dialogue and analysis of agricultural systems (e.g. knowledge and markets); and linking up voices and learning to international policy processes such as the SDGs, Funding For Adaptation, the new Climate Change Agreement, and Responsible Investment in Agriculture.

Whilst we engage in global and regional policy processes to help inform and leverage change at national levels, we believe that it is at national and sub-national levels where change is most likely to have the most profound and sustained impact on poor people’s lives.

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