The future of the AID and the economic development effort for developing countries should among other things depend on the overall effectiveness of the effort. This in turn may depend on how receptive the project development process is to innovations, the extent the underlying hypothesis is accurate, and making certain the process does not become overly committed to the mechanism at the expense of the beneficiaries. For those involved in rural poverty alleviation which implies agriculture development mostly for the multitude of smallholder producers, this may need some serious review. The objective of this presentation is to ask those involved in rural poverty alleviation to take a serious look at the overall effectiveness of the effort and provide some guidelines for such a review. Some of this might be a little provocative and appear as a wolf howling in the wilderness, but if it can stimulate more in-depth, less-superficial thoughts on the needs of smallholders and an appreciation for how the current agriculture development efforts may have only limited impact on the smallholder beneficiaries, the howls will be worth while. Also, while it may appear to be critical of the process, this should not be viewed as a reflection on the people involved, but rather the degree of entrapment in a process that can be a fairly circular and self promotional, rather than fully objective or receptive to innovative approaches. All of which may need some serious review. Most of the people involved are a dedicated and sincere group doing the best they can with the information they have available and people they are in contact with. They also tend to be heavily involved in administrative needs of ongoing projects to the extent it can require nine people to initial-off on a half page memo with a value of less than $1000. However, they may need to recall the remarks of Alexander Pope “A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: Thee shallow draughts intoxicate the brain and drinking largely sobers us again”.
The material is presented in four parts each on a separate webpage and supported by the hyperlinks to other pages on the website www.Smallholderagriculture.com where additional information on the four components including various case studies can be found. The four parts are:
1. The development process with the possible four layers of isolation between those funding projects and the intended beneficiaries and how this can result in the acceptance and institutionalization of concepts well beyond their overall effectiveness at assisting smallholders and poverty alleviation.
2. The basic premise that has guided the agriculture development effort for over 30 years and the oversight it may contain regarding the resources available to the smallholder to implement the technology developed for their benefit from the demonstration fields to the entire holding, and the role hunger may have in hindering the ability of smallholder implementation of innovations.
3. How some of the mechanisms, particularly the reliance on farmer organizations, to funnel assistance to smallholders appear to have become a main emphasis even though they are not particularly effective business models and the smallholder members are effectively walking away from them.
4. An innovative approach to more effectively assist the poverty alleviation of smallholder communities by looking more at the communities composed of a symbiotic association of smallholder producers and service providers than working directly with the “maxed-out” smallholders.
Last Revised: 4 July 2007..