36. During the course of the inquiry we heard suggestions
for practical solutions. Not all of them will provide long-term
remedies but many can deliver quick results while the long-term
policy is being formulated. We were told of interventions to deal
with problems of access to inputs and finance. For example,
the DFID-supported inputs for work programmes in Malawi are promising,
and in our view warrant continuing support on an increased scale.
Animal loan schemes (such as those for goats supported
by Farm Africa in Kenya) can be very helpful in building up household
assets, especially those under the control of women. Practice-based
research into creating warehouse receipts systems, also DFID-supported,
could develop the infrastructure of local commodity trade, thereby
improving the competitiveness of local agriculture, and also provide
farmers with tradable instruments which can pay for inputs.
The World Bank and the FAO are currently researching ways
of providing crop insurance to smallholders and of making forward
markets available as a means of reducing risks to producers and
37. Pest management can contribute to raising farmers'
incomes, particularly if techniques require a low level of inputs.
pest management systems and use of biological controls have significant
also emphasised the role of publicly-financed plant breeding,
which has to be followed through with effective seed production
and distribution. Crops must be adapted to local environments
and to the particular needs of smallholders rather than solely
focused on the requirements of commercial farms. This will not
occur without government support. Smallholders need traits in
plants such as drought and weed-resistance, good storage and on-farm
consumption characteristics, as well as higher yields.
Developing these traits will need to be done while minimising
financial outlay. None of the practical solutions mentioned
here are panaceas, but they will prove helpful to different segments
of the smallholder population, and are examples of the kinds of
innovation which should be strongly encouraged by DFID and other