Challenge 4: Smallholder agriculture within transforming food systems

Last changed: 17 January 2022

Rapid urbanisation and expanding urban food markets provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to engage more with markets. To support an inclusive participation of smallholders, agricultural policies and interventions need to recognise and lower existing barriers to participation. Translating science to inform policy in this development is the overall objective of Challenge 4.

Challenges and opportunities for smallholders in emerging food systems – policy and practice to support rural-urban dynamics.

Several major trends are presently creating both challenges and opportunities for rural and structural transformation of smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia. These include rapid population growth, economic growth, urbanisation, and fragmented and declining farm sizes. Linked to these developments are trends towards modernisation, generational change, and changing patterns of migration in which young people increasingly aspire to leave agriculture. Growing land pressures, poor agricultural policy guidance, insecure land rights, and unsustainable agricultural intensification practices add to problems of land degradation, low farm productivity and profitability.

These trends need to be situated in relation to smallholder livelihoods that historically, but also increasingly, combine rural and urban sources of food and income. However, geographic differences are significant, where areas of rapid urbanisation and growth stand in contrast to depopulating regions with slow growth. Within regions, both dynamic and stagnant ones, social and economic differences between smallholder units are also significant in terms of productivity and profitability.

This AgriFoSe2030 challenge aims to enhance the understanding of social and economic processes in the smallholder communities of contrasting regional and local context and to provide science-based guidance in the design of policies and practices, sensitive to geographic and socioeconomic contexts supporting small scale farmers’ livelihoods. Important focus areas include current trends in farm size distribution patterns as well as questions of gender and generational sensitivity and social inclusiveness in relation to smallholders’ access to land, financial capital, extension services, and input and output markets.

Projects in Challenge 4

  • Transformation of pastoral livelihoods in Kenya: (Challenge 1 & 4)
    Full name: Transformation of pastoral livelihoods through enhanced capacity for adaptation of nutrition and commercialisation policies to local contexts: West Pokot-Kenya
    Location: Kenya
    Start date: June 2021. End date: June 2023
    About: The aim of the project is to support livelihood transformation through:
    a) local decision-maker awareness creation and policy change on the
    concept of food security and the local strategies for its achievement and; b)capacity building of pastoralists and their institutions in order to improve value addition, market access, profitability of livelihood strategies and ensure food and nutrition diversity and security so that poor smallholders can have stable access to and consume safe and nutritious food.

  • Smallholders and the e-commerce of fruits in Vietnam:
    Full name: Mapping knowledge-, practical-, and policy-level challenges toincrease the role of smallholder farmers in e-commerce of fruit products in Vietnam.
    Location: Vietnam
    Start date: July 2021. End date: July 2023
    About: The aim of this project is to; a) generate information on urban
    consumer’s expectations on fruit e-commerce products and; b) identify
    constraints and enabling conditions for smallholder farmers to meet the
    expectations, and; c) assess the socio-economic impacts of e-commerce of fruit products, including through associated non-farm opportunities, on periurban or rural livelihood, and if the impact and opportunities are socially inclusive, and; d) promote gender equality and empowerment including for youth, and potentially contribute to rural economic restructuring.

  • Potential of smallholders for urban food system resilience:
    Full name: Resilient Urban Food Systems in Uganda (RUFS Uganda)
    Location: Uganda
    Start date: June 2021. End date: May 2023
    About: This project aims to contribute to an enhanced understanding by city managers and policymakers of, and an increased role for, the contribution of smallholder farming to local foodshed risk reduction, resilience building and food systems transformation in Mbale City och Kasese Municipality.

  • Food systems governance in Kenya:
    Full name: Governance of food systems for improved food and nutritional security in Nairobi, Kisumu and Nakuru Counties in Kenya
    Location: Kenya
    Start date: March 2021. End date: December 2022
    About: The overall aim of this project is to contribute to the improvement of the governance of food systems (production, value addition, and marketing and waste management in selected food value chains) for enhancement of food and nutrition security in Kisumu, Nakuru and Nairobi, Kenya.

    News story: Handing over of the training manual and cooking demonstrations for traditional leafy vegetables in Kisumu County, Kenya

    News story: Unveiling and handing over of the training manual for traditional leafy vegetables in Nakuru County, Kenya


Magnus Jirström, Professor

Challenge leader of Challenge 4
Department of Human Geography, Lund University
Telephone: +46 46 222 97 97








Heather Mackay

Heather Mackay, Dr. 

Assistant challenge leader of Challenge 4
Department of Human Geography, Lund University