Is Smaller Better for Sustainable Farming?

The quality of food sold in developed countries and the livelihoods of millions of people in developing countries are becoming more reliant on small-scale farming.  The fair trade movement has grown as a powerful force to support small farmers and their communities.  Some argue that for fair trade to be adopted by mainstream consumers, large scale farms and plantations are needed to produce higher quantities of products.  These articles provide some insight into the impact of small farms on food security and developing communities.

How Small-Scale Farming Fights Poverty

Poverty and malnutrition in Vietnam have dropped dramatically since the country began investing in small-scale farming, transitioning from an overall rice importer to an exporter. Fair trade is uniquely positioned to help small-scale farmers. In Malawi, a fair trade network of cooperatives includes over 30,000 small farms, with fair trade premiums credited with improvements in education, health care, and irrigation. A Haitian association of small farmers has planted one million trees per year and has pooled resources to access credit, training, and improved seeds which have increased crop yields over 40 percent. Support for small farmers also makes good business sense for buyers of agriculture products, as it reduces reliance on a single large supplier.

Farming Cooperatives in Haiti

Little of the foreign aid that poured into Haiti after the 2010 earthquake made its way to help small farmers. 100,000 farmers had their farmland, irrigation systems, seeds, and tools damaged or destroyed. Making matters worse, food aid caused prices to plummet, causing further economic damage to Haitian farmers. describes how agricultural cooperatives have been able to pool resources, help disadvantaged farmers, and assist with reforestation efforts to prevent soil erosion.


Comments For This Post

  1. Lyndsay with Minibulk July 25, 2013, 5:10 pm

    Small scale farms shorten the agricultural supply chain and connect communities to the food they eat. Large suppliers may be easier to co-ordinate, but the flexibility and sustainability care taken by small farmers can be worth the extra time and effort.

  2. Kent Leininger July 25, 2013, 11:35 pm

    That’s a great point, Lyndsay. When we support small-scale and local farmers, we get tastier food, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen communities. It’s better for everyone who eats food!