The next generation of farmers: successes and new opportunities

The global population is on track to surpass 9 billion by 2050 and exceed 11 billion by the end of the century. The world’s 500 million smallholder farms produce around 80% of our food and it is they who will have to carry the burden of increasing food production by over 70%. The information in this document was compiled as background reading material for the 53rd Brussels Briefing on The next generation of farmers: successes and opportunities.

Pro-poor growth goes beyond agriculture. To date, the ongoing wider process of economic development has led in many instances to a reduction

in the number of people engaged in agriculture, with consequent urbanisation. Permanently reducing poverty involves actions that cut across both rural and urban areas, such as providing broad access to good quality education, promoting economic diversification in rural non-farm income-generating activities, supporting economy-wide job creation, increasing the saving and investment potential of the poor, and implementing adequate social protection mechanisms.

The challenges facing food and agriculture are largely interconnected, as highlighted in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and related global agreements.

Making agriculture more profitable and inclusive will require public actions to reduce costs in farm production and address

soil degradation, climate change, land scarcity and concentrated land ownership. Research and innovation in various fields

(agronomy, breeding, vertical farming, zootechnics, biological, technological, digital, organisational and product related) are critical to gain competitivity and transform the agrifood system accompanied by agricultural service delivery and extension systems that facilitate farmers’ access to productivity-enhancing technologies.

While the African continent faces multiple challenges such as demographic expansion, the threats posed by climate change, the intensification of natural disasters and upsurges in transboundary pests and diseases, and the need to adjust to major changes taking place in global food systems, addressing the needs for a generational renewal in agriculture should become a priority in rural policies. Producer Organisations are critical to ensure inter-generation transfer of knowledge and mentoring. Support to their institutional capacity will ensure sustainability and ease the generation renewal and transition towards a modernised agricultural sector. The rural communities should have better access to public services, health care, quality education and connectivity to be able to retain and attract farmers and entrepreneurs.

Rising demand for food, fuelled by population and income growth, will provide new opportunities for agriculture and employment creation across the ACP and especially in Africa. This will require increasing food production in a responsible, inclusive and sustainable way while increasing profitability. The way food is produced and marketed should adapt to consumers expectations, in particular concerning the impact on their health, the environment and the climate.

To effectively harness the emerging opportunities for economic transformation and associated work opportunities, policy-makers will need to anticipate the trends affecting African agriculture and proactively formulate and implement strategies to respond to them.

Integrating community resilience and climate-smart agriculture into broader employment strategies would afford opportunities for African governments to achieve sustainable agricultural intensification and employment objectives.

Programmes to promote access to land for young people will become ever more important as well as favourable inheritance laws to secure enough land to make farming a viable business.

Governments could promote long-term employment and livelihood objectives by mobilising more resources for education and skills development in agriculture and related agri-food systems. Successful agricultural production is increasingly knowledge-intensive.

We see societal expectations regarding food, in particular concerning food safety, food quality, food waste, environmental and animal welfare standards which farmers will need to address together with the other actors in the chain. Citizens are also increasingly valuing access to a wide variety of food that carries broader benefits for society, such as organic produce, products with geographical indications (GIs), local specialities and innovative food.

The most important role for the policy is therefore to help farmers anticipate developments in dietary habits and adjust their production according to market signals and consumers' demands.