Documenting
structural changes in
agriculture,
informing policy dialogue

Why WAW?

Agriculture is undergoing rapid transformations which may affect its capacity to respond to global challenges.

These main global challenges are: food insecurity, employment and poverty, increased competition via globalization and related trade agreement, societal changes including demographic transition and urbanization, large-scale investment, increasing competition of land and water, environmental degradation and climate change and related environmental policies. Growing concerns over food security and environmental degradations have increased focus on agriculture and needed investments, which may further impact ongoing transformations.

These challenges have triggered polarized policy debate on the types of holding more able to answer such challenges[1], from family based holding vs. corporate or enterprise types ones, while a more complex continuum exist.

Within a specific set of assets (human, financial, physical, natural and social assets) each type of agricultural holding may be able to respond differently, adopting alternative strategies, for instance in terms of land holding size and tenure, use of hired labour, market insertion, development of non agricultural activities, technological changes etc. Family farms[2] are the largest source of investments in agriculture and have shown an ability to be both competitive and sustainable, but they need adapted enabling environment to do so[3], with adapted investments.

Therefore, such diversity of holdings needs to be taken into account when formulating and implementing public policies and investments, paying specific attention to the most vulnerable ones, including women. Such formulation need to avoid exclusive or ideological positions on the various agricultural development models, with local and complex contexts, with often coexistence of different forms of organization, which compete for resources but may also exchange and collaborate, for instance with contract farming.

There is presently insufficient knowledge about the drivers, scope and consequences of these transformations, to provide science-based evidence to support related policy formulation and planning[4], not only at local to national levels, but also at intergovernmental and global levels. There is notably too little attention about changes and concerns at holding level, and too little involvement of related stakeholders in the process. Some local and regional dynamics of observatory are trying to answer this gap, and are interested in international networks to further facilitate comparable exchanges, capitalization and capacity development. These dynamics are central for the WAW Initiative.


[1]  Zoundi SJ, 2012, Agriculture vivrière : les Africains confrontés à des choix controversés de modèles agricoles. Cah. Agric 21 : 366-73. doi : 10.1684/agr.2012.0582.[https://editorialexpress.com/cgi-bin/conference/download.cgi?db_name=AGRAR2013&paper_id=67]

[2] The relevance of such concerns and rationale has been clearly recognized both through the adoption of the International Year of Family Farming in 2014, the report of the High Level Panel of Experts on Land Investments, as well as ongoing work related to responsible investments

[3] SOFA 2012 “Farmers must be central to any strategy for increasing investment in the sector,. Governments and donors have a special responsibility to help smallholders overcome barriers to savings and investment.”

[4] SOFA 2009 “The rapid increase in the number of hungry[…] reveals the fragility of present food system and […] points to the urgent need to tackle the structural roots causes of hunger.”

Last updated on November 12th, 2014