Connecting Smallholders to Markets


CSM Working Group on Connecting Smallholders to Markets


Javier Sanchez – La Via Campesina (LVC)

Nadjirou Sall – Reseau des Organisations Paysanne et de Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA)

Technical facilitators:

Nora McKeon – Terra Nuova

Nico Verhagen – La Via Campesina (LVC)

Shalmali Guttal – Focus on the Global South

Support Persons:

Paola De Meo – Terra Nuova

Asli Öcal – La Via Campesina (LVC)

Jean Blaylock – UK Food Group

Marie Louise Cissé – ROPPA

CSM Resource Person for the CFS Technical Task Team

Andrea Ferrante – AIAB (until 31 March 2016)

Mamadou Goita – ROPPA (from 1 April 2016)

To see the full list of members of the Working Group please click here

To join the Working Group please write to the CSM Secretariat at

Chair of the CFS Open-Ended Working Group on Connecting Smallholders to Markets:

Anna Gebremedhin (Finland)


In October 2013 the 40th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) agreed to hold a High Level Forum (HLF) on Connecting Smallholders to Markets in 2015, building on previous CFS work such as the 2013 HLPE report and policy recommendations on “Investing in smallholder agriculture for food security”. The Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) welcomed this decision because of the importance of this topic for small-scale producers and consumers.

A technical task team (TT) was established to prepare for the Forum, composed of members of the CFS Secretariat and focal points from the relevant technical units in FAO, IFAD and WFP. Under pressure from the CSM, the TT was opened up in December 2014 to include a member for the CSM and one for the Private Sector Mechanism. Despite the difficulties of contrasting the dominant ideas about markets, the experience of small-scale producers’ organizations, consumers and the urban poor were fed into the background document, as well as at the Forum itself through the panel speakers proposed by the CSM. The CSM’s messages were clear:

  • small-scale producers do not need to “be connected” to markets since they all participate in various kinds of market activities already;
  • there is a lack of data on the informal and territorial markets, which are the ones where smallholders are most present and where the bulk of the food consumed in the world is exchanged;
  • not all markets are beneficial for smallholders and food security; specific public policies and programmes are essential to strengthen those that are beneficial and to defend them from negative impacts of international trade and investment rules and agreements.

Given the considerable differences in views existing among different actors within the CFS and the fact that very few governments took the floor during the High Level Forum, it was agreed that the event could not deliver policy recommendations on this issue, as had been originally planned, and that the work would need to continue for another year.

Instead the Task Team was mandated to analyse the Forum’s outcomes “with a view to extrapolating lessons from good practices arising from the background document and during discussions at the High Level Forum itself as well as identifying options for overcoming barriers and maximising opportunities, drawing on additional evidence and research as needed” (CFS Multi-Year Programme of Work 2016-2017). It was agreed that a two day Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) meeting (open to all governments and other CFS participants) would be organized on 8-9 June 2016 to discuss and agree on policy recommendations that would go to the CFS 43rd session in October 2016.

During the CSM Forum in October 2015 a session was dedicated to discussing the outcomes of the High Level Forum and the proposed CSM strategy for the coming year. A dedicated sub-group was established within the CSM agricultural investment working group to follow this workstream.

Members of the CSM sub-group, supported by some academics, have collected case studies and articles documenting the importance of informal, territorial markets and of institutional procurement programmes. These have been collated in a bibliography to back up civil society positions.

Connecting Smallholders to Markets 2016

Extract from the MYPoW endorsed 2016-2017

Follow-up to the High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets – 2016

  1. A High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets was held in 2015 within CFS. It brought together a wide range of concerned stakeholders to discuss issues, challenges and ways to improve the access of smallholders to markets with a view to identifying ways in which CFS can contribute to addressing those challenges and arrive at broad recommendations on areas for priority action to strengthen smallholder access to markets. It represented an opportunity to discuss policy implications based on the realities faced by smallholders as market actors in a globalized food system as well as lessons from concrete examples of how farmers and farm groups have found opportunities to link to markets.
  2. The Task Team that was appointed to prepare the High-Level Forum will analyse the outcomes of the High-Level Forum with a view to extrapolating lessons from good practices arising from the background document and during discussions at the High Level Forum itself as well as identifying options for overcoming barriers and maximising opportunities, drawing on additional evidence and research as needed. The results of the work of the Task Team will inform the discussions of one-off Open-Ended Working Group that will take place before July 2016 and last up to two days according to the needs. The objective of the one-off Open-Ended Working Group would be to agree upon a set of policy recommendations and practices that evidence suggests can strengthen smallholders access to markets.
  3. This agreed set of policy recommendations and practices will be presented for endorsement at CFS 43. These can be broadly disseminated with a view to informing future policy and be the basis for future stocktaking and sharing of lessons.


Process 2016

Deadline for submission of written inputs

Deadline for submission of written inputs to the CFS Zero draft of the Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets
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CSM Prep-Meeting

CSM Preparatory Meeting
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CSM Information Meeting

Invitation to a CSM Information Meeting:  Civil Society Perspectives on Smallholders’ Access to ...
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CFS Informal Consultation

CFS Informal Consultation on the Zero Draft
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OEWG on Smallholders and Markets

8-9 June 2016 CFS OEWG on Connecting Smallholders to Markets
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Connecting Smallholders to Markets. An analytical Guide is now online!

This analytical guide examines how small- scale food producers’ organisations and allied civil society can use the recommendations in their national and international advocacy and how they can work together with their governments to apply them in the context of national and regional policies and programmes. It argues that the policy recommendations illuminate the relationships of smallholders to markets in two main ways: i) they recognize that the bulk of food is channelled through markets linked to local, national and regional food systems (‘territorial markets’), thereby clearly positioning these markets as foremost amongst different kinds of market systems in the context of food security and nutrition; ii) they urge governments to employ public policy to support of these territorial markets, both by strengthening territorial markets where they already exist and by opening up new spaces for these markets to take root and flourish. With such an approach, smallholders would be well equipped to meet global challenges ahead.

December 2016

Proposal for a strategy to promote the use and implementation of the CFS recommendations on ‘Connecting Smallholders to Markets


8 July – CFS Advisory Group and Bureau Meeting

8/9 June – CFS Negotiations 

Please find here the final text agreed on June 9th!

What the CSM is advocating. This note provides a top-line view of the most important substantive concerns of the CSM. Specific wording suggestions will be presented separately.


Read CSM notes on CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets submitted on the 27th of May!

Read CSM Comments to the new Chair’s proposal submitted on the 27th of May!

Read comments of other CFS actors to the Chair’s Proposal: Switzerland, IFAD, Brazil, Cyprus, Private Sector Mechanism (PSM), USA, European Union, Egypt, World Bank, WFO.

Read the letter from the OEWG Chair on Methodology for the upcoming negotiations of 8-9 June.

Read the new Chair’s proposal of 6 May


Informal Consultation on CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets – 28 April 2016

Read CSM additional comments to the zero draft delivered by the CSM WG during the informal consultation and submitted in written on the 29 of April

Zero Draft of the CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets – 15 April 2016

Read the Zero Draft of the CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets

Read the CSM Working Group on Connecting Smallholders to Markets’ Preliminary Comments on the CFS Zero Draft

Timeline of the Process for 2016

  • Technical Task Teams Meetings
  • 28 April 2016 – Informal Consultation on CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets
  • 8/9 June 2016 – A two-days OEWG on Connecting Smallholders to Markets will take place to finalise the CFS Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets
  • CFS 43 – Adoption of the Recommendations on Connecting Smallholders to Markets

Process 2015

  • Technical Task Teams Meetings
  • 24 June 2015 – CSM Preparatory Workshop on the HLF Connecting Smallholders to Farmers
  • 25 June 2015 – High-Level Forum (HLF) on Connecting Smallholders to Markets
  • CFS 42nd Session (October 2015) – Decision Box on the “Follow-up of the High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets”

24 June 2015 – CSM Preparatory Workshop on the High-Level Forum Connecting Smallholders to Farmers

The High Level Forum (HLF) represented an occasion for the CSM to start discussing internally a subject which was never been directly tackled until that moment, and which is a sort of taboo within the CFS itself: the issue of markets, possibly including the impact of trade rules on these markets and on the right to food. Also with this purpose, the CSM planned to hold a one-day workshop, for internal discussion and preparation prior to the HLF. This would allow the constituencies and sub-region representatives to be more deeply informed on what happened so far, to share their points of view and their case studies/work in order to kick-start a CSM internal discussion on the issue of smallholders and markets.

The proposed objectives of the workshop were:

  • to enhance the involvement of CSO from the constituencies most concerned on market issues – especially small-scale food producers organizations, Indigenous Peoples organizations, and consumers – and discuss their major challenges when dealing with markets
  • to reach a common understanding among participants on the opportunities and challenges that the smallholders are facing in diverse contexts, based on the experience of different participants and their views as to what kind of   agriculture production supply and distribution management are beneficial for smallholders
  • to prepare CSO positions for the HLF and strategize for the upcoming months
  • to identify priority areas for action/research and ways in which CFS can contribute to addressing these challenges

The CSM Preparatory Workshop was attended by more than 40 civil society organizations. After a full day of discussions, participants consolidated the main points to be raised during the HLF:

  • Markets cannot be separated from human rights. Right to food, rights of smallholders, rights of the Indigenous Peoples, women’s rights.
  • Smallholders are the one organizing the bulk of the market. 70% of the world’s food feeding is produced by them and reaches the 5 billion people who consume it through the markets controlled by smallholders. Corporate value chains and supermarkets account for a minimum share of food flows.
  • There is a lack of data and statistics on “invisible” markets, although they are the most important way of food providing. It is essential that they be made visible and that they are organized as constituting the basis for food security.
  • There is a lack of solid assessment of the impacts on smallholders, food security and the right to food of the dominant approaches to values chains and the effectiveness of instruments like PPSs and contract farming has to be remedied.
  • The CFS is the space for promoting food security, not economic growth per se.
  • Public policies need to respond to people’s needs: guarantee stable, remunerative and fair prices; defend the vulnerable against the increasing risks deriving from food price volatility and climate change through instruments like public grain reserves and procurement policies; promote investments in small-scale agroecological farming, small scale processing and sales that are under the control of the small-scale producers themselves
  • The CFS 41 report makes a number of suggestions regarding public policies, which should not be forgotten.
  • Smallholders are not farmer entrepreneurs, are social, cultural actors not only economic actors driven by profit motive alone. So the logic of the markets managed is also different.
  • Promoting local food systems as the basis for food sovereignty. There are multiple positive examples of people-controlled markets at local level. It is important working with local authorities and supporting rural-urban linkages.
  • Markets are not only about exchange of money. Local/Indigenous markets are linked to the land, identity, spirituality, culture and territory, among other aspects.
  • Women suffer multiple forms of discrimination and they are often cut off or marginalized in the existing market for several reasons. Women are also disproportionately burdened by unpaid care work. Women need specific targeted interventions and policies to get the space for their participation in the market to ensure their economic, social and political empowerment.
  • Young farers need to be involved through specific policies that incentivize their access to the agricultural sector.

25 June – CFS High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets (Red Room, FAO HQs)

To see the timetable of the CFS HLF of June 25th please click here.

To read the CFS Background Document on Connecting Smallholders to Markets click here.

To read the CFS Chair’s Summary (only available in English) please click here.

Please click here to see a video note from CSM Workshop and CFS HLF on Connecting Smallholders to Markets

The CSM had 4 panelists during the CFS High Level Forum of June 25th. Please click on the following links to listen their video-contribution:

 CFS 42nd Plenary Session (12-15 October 2015) – FAO HQs

Outcomes of the High Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets

Since the 40th CFS Plenary Session the civil society has highlighted the need to further analyse the linkages between smallholders and markets. The background document prepared during this year is good but very incoherent. This feature helps to better understand the plurality of concepts such as markets. As peasants, indigenous peoples, fisherfolks we are the bigger community of researchers in the world and the most innovative one, as we continue to produce new ways to access and handle markets.

The High Level Forum was extremely interesting and reflected the profound nature of the CFS itself. Nevertheless the Chair’s Summary gives an impression of consensus and balance among the different ideas and approaches presented at the HLF rather than acknowledging the deep divergences that exist within the CFS.

Smallholders are already connected to markets, and are those markets that channel the 70% of the food consumed worldwide, yet they are “invisible” because there is no data on them.

Civil society is pleased to have an additional year of work ahead of us. This time has to be used to good advantage if we want to be able to agree on policy recommendations to go to CFS43. This requires the following :

  • The Task Team needs to continue to incorporate additional data and analysis (particularly on “invisible” markets) in order to prepare a discussion document for the OEWG. This document should adequately acknowledge divergent views and address the open questions posed in the HLF background document that will need to be discussed in the OEWG, in which governments will participate actively (which was not the case in the HLF):(1) what are the key issues regarding the relation between smallholder, markets and food security on which further research and policy debate are needed? (2)  How to measure the benefits to smallholders and the real impact on food security of different approaches to linking smallholders and markets?
  • A full two days of debate and discussion in the OEWG will be required.
  • Civil society is mobilizing to document and share our extensive experience with markets that serve people.
To see the CSM video contribution at CFS 42 visit these links: