When Baby-Steps Just Won't Work: Small Farmers Are Our Best Hope Reducing Food Insecurity and We are Not Doing Enough
41 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2014 Last revised: 26 Aug 2014
Date Written: February 11, 2014
The concept of "baby steps" is well known among psychologists and movie buffs alike. In the classic movie "What About Bob," Dr. Leo Marvin (played by Richard Dreyfuss) gives to Bob (Bill Murray), a highly dependent and worried individual, a copy of his book: Baby Steps. Dr. Marvin explains: "It means setting small, reasonable goals for yourself. One day at a time, one tiny step at a time — do-able, accomplishable goals." For many, the concept of "baby steps" and methodically working on simple, constrained pieces of a problem is a useful approach in solving complex and difficult problems. Unfortunately, accomplishing large goals through small increments can take considerable time, and in the case of world hunger, time is a scarce commodity. Prior attempts to address the issue of hunger have been based on baby steps, and the time has now come to abandon such incremental approaches and instead focus on large-scale changes. Otherwise, the world will soon see a food crisis like never before.
Since the early 1970s, agriculture has been the focus of development efforts and has been identified as a key to hunger and poverty reduction. By boosting the productivity of smallholder farmers in particular, various goals can presumably be accomplished quickly: greater food security for farm families and their communities (through lower food prices); greater incomes among the poorest of the poor; and the escape from poverty through the commercialization of subsistence agriculture. This paper focuses on large-scale efforts to promote financing for small farmers in low-income countries through the development of useful and efficient legal structures. The first part of the paper, asserts that increased access to financing for smallholder farmers will help boost farm productivity and reduce food scarcity. The second part, describes a new protocol to an existing convention, the Cape Town Convention (defined below) that some argue will benefit agriculture financing. The paper concludes by considering the actual impact the new protocol would have on small farmers’ ability to reduce food insecurity and the need for large scale legal reforms to assist small farms secure financing.
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