FROM SUBSISTENCE TO PROFIT
Smallholder farmers in developing countries play a key role in meeting the future food demands of a growing and increasingly rich and urbanized population.However, smallholders are not a homogeneous group that should be supported at all costs.Whereas some smallholder farmers have the potential to undertake profitable commercial activities in the agricultural sector, others should be supported in exiting agriculture and seeking nonfarm employment opportunities.
For smallholder farmers with profit potential, their ability to be successful is hampered by such challenges as climate change, price shocks, limited financing options, and inadequate access to healthy and nutritious food.By overcoming these challenges, smallholders can move from subsistence to commercially oriented agricultural systems, increase their profits, and operate at an efficient scale—thereby helping to do their part in feeding the world’s hungry.
There are around 4 million farm holdings in Romania, the majority of which are family farms of extensive semi-natural grassland pastoral systems and mixed farming systems.These semi-natural small-sale farmed landscapes are of significant economic importance.For example, the 1 million holdings between 1-10 ha (3.1 m ha, 20% of Romania’s agricultural area ), are classes as semi-subsistence farms producing for home consumption, local sales and for their extended families.
Yet these farms are estimated to produce 25- 30% of national food consumption. They also provide rural vitality, as compared to the largest farms which are associated with rural poverty.
Their importance is not only economic.They are providers of many public goods: sustainable land use; biodiversity conservation; other environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits.The associated concept of HNV(High Nature Value) farmland is used by the Romanian Government as the basis for the main agri-environment measure supporting small-scale farmed landscapes in Romania.The HNV farming concept alsooffers the basis for the further sustainable development of rural areas through promotion of traditional food products, and diversification through sustainable tourism.However, these small-scale farmed landscapes, strongly associated with family farming, are under increasing pressure due to loss of economic viability, failure to provide adequate living conditions for young farmers, and resulting abandonment.
The importance of family farmed landscapes in their provision of public goods merits policy support for the small-scale farming communities which maintain them.Romania is rich in family farms.We hope everybody become aware of the fact that the large number of small-scale holdings is still an important source of economic, cultural, social, and natural strength for Romania.
Prof. Cristea (Stancu) Diana-Mihaela
Colegiul Economic Buzău, România