Small-scale family farmers are the unsung heroes of the global food system. They produce over a third of the world’s food and are key to climate adaptation, yet new analysis reveals they only receive around 0.3% of international climate finance. Just 0.3% of international climate finance goes to family farmers who produce a third of the world’s food.
Small-scale family farmers produce a third (32%) of the world’s food yet only 0.3% of international climate finance was spent helping them adapt in 2021, reveals new analysis released today.
The research, from a new alliance of farmer networks representing over 35 million
small-scale producers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific, is being released ahead of COP28 which is set to agree a Global Goal for Adaptation. The UAE Presidency is also urging governments to include food and agriculture in national climate plans for the first time and scale up finance for food system transformation.
Climate Focus conducted the analysis of international public finance for climate mitigation and adaptation. A snapshot of spending in 2021 reveals:
- The agri-food sector received US$8.4billion in international public climate finance – around half the US$16 billion spent on energy – with climate vulnerable and food insecure countries such as Zambia and Sierra Leone getting just US$20 million each.
- Just 2% of international public climate finance (US$2 billion) was directed at
small-scale family farmers and rural communities – equivalent to around 0.3% of total international climate finance from both public and private sources. Smallholders’ finance needs are estimated at US$170 billion per year in Sub-Saharan Africa alone.
- Only a fifth (19%) of international public climate finance spending on food and agriculture was used to support sustainable and resilient practices such as agroecology (US$1.6 billion). A fraction of the estimated US$300 – 350 billion a year required.
Hakim Baliriane, Chair of the Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum said: “Climate change has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019.
Reversing this trend will not be possible if governments continue to tie the hands of millions of family farmers. Together we produce a third of the world’s food yet we receive a fraction of the climate finance we need to adapt.”
The report, Untapped Potential, also shows that 80% of international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector is channelled through recipient governments and donor country NGOs. This makes it harder for family farmer organisations to access because of complex eligibility rules and application processes, and a lack of information on how and where to apply. Family farmers received just a quarter (24%) of finance spent on the agri-food sector in 2021.
Many family farmers lack the infrastructure, technology and resources to adapt to climate impacts with serious implications for global food security and rural economies. Family farms
of less than two hectares produce a third of the world’s food (32%) while farms of 5 hectares or less account for more than half of the global production of 9 staple crops – rice, peanut, cassava, millet, wheat, potato, maize, barley and rye – and grow almost three-quarters of the coffee and 90% of the cocoa. Over 2.5 billion people globally depend on family farms for their livelihoods.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the most effective way to safeguard food security is to shift to more nature friendly and diverse food systems. Family farmers are at the forefront of these efforts. For example, in the Pacific farmers are planting breadfruit trees alongside other crops as it is drought resistant, seldom uprooted by storms and cyclones and produces a nutritious staple food crop.
Alberto Broch, president of the Confederation of Family Producer Organizations of Expanded Mercosur, COPROFAM said: “Our message to governments is clear: More than 600 million family farms are already engaged in building more sustainable and resilient food systems. They have a wealth of knowledge and experience that must be tapped. By including their voices in decision-making and ensuring direct access to more climate finance, we can create a powerful alliance in the fight against climate change.”
Esther Penunia, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers Association said: “Generations of family farming experience and the latest scientific evidence tell us that working with nature and empowering local communities is key to safeguarding food production in a changing climate. There needs to be a major re-think of climate finance to support these tried and tested climate solutions with much more finance targeted at family farmers and sustainable practices such as agroecology.”
Climate change is hitting harvests and driving up food prices across the globe. It has helped push 122 million people into hunger since 2019. We need to create more sustainable and resilient food systems that can feed people in a changing climate, but we can’t do this without family farmers.
Small-scale family farms of less than two hectares produce one-third of the world’s food (32%), while farms of up to five hectares located in developing countries account for more than half of the global production of nine staple crops – rice, peanut, cassava, millet, wheat, potato, maize, barley and rye – and grow almost three-quarters of the coffee and 90% of the cocoa.
Family farms are also the backbone of rural economies. Over 2.5 billion people globally depend on family farms for their livelihoods. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where up to 80% of farming is done by smallholder farmers, agriculture contributes 23% to regional GDP.
Family farmers are also key to climate adaptation. They are at the forefront of the shift to more diverse, nature friendly food systems which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is needed to safeguard food security in a changing climate. Many are already practising climate-resilient agriculture, including approaches such as agroecology: growing a wider variety of crops including traditional crops; mixing crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries, reducing chemical inputs; and building strong connections to local markets.
Yet, new analysis reveals that only a tiny proportion of international public climate finance is spent on family farmers and sustainable agriculture. The research by Climate Focus, on behalf of 10 farmers networks representing over 35 million family farmers from Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific found:
- Since 2012, only 11% of international public climate finance has been targeted at agriculture, forestry and fishing – an average of US$7 billion a year. In 2021, US$8.4 billion was spent on the sector – around half the US$16 billion spent on projects in the energy sector.
- Just 2% of international public climate finance – US$2 billion – was directed at
small-scale family farmers and rural communities in 2021. This amounts to roughly 0.3% of total international climate finance from both public and private sources. In
Sub-Saharan Africa alone, smallholders’ finance needs are estimated at US$170 billion per year.
- Only a fifth (19%) of international public climate finance for agriculture, forestry and fishing was used to support sustainable and resilient practices in 2021 (US$1.6 billion). This is a fraction of the estimated US$300-350 billion a year that is needed.
The analysis also shows that 80% of finance for agriculture, forestry and fishing is channelled through recipient governments and donor country NGOs. This often makes it harder for family farmers’ organisations to access funds because of a lack of information on how and where to apply for finance, and complex eligibility rules and application processes. Small-scale family farmers received just a quarter (24%) of spending on the sector in 2021.
Access to finance is symptomatic of a much larger problem which sees organisations representing family farmers sidelined in decision-making on food and climate. At a national level, family farmers’ concerns and proposals are rarely acted upon by governments, while eligibility and financial constraints make it difficult for them to engage in international fora such as the UN Climate Summits.
There is growing awareness of the urgent need to create more resilient and sustainable food systems. Ahead of the UN Climate Summit in Dubai, the UAE Presidency is urging governments to commit to formally integrate food and agriculture into national climate plans for the first time, and scale up and enhance access to international financing for adaptation and transformation of food systems. COP28 is also expected to agree a Global Adaptation Goal and a process for agreeing new 2030 funding goals that could unlock more support and finance for food and agriculture.
It is vital that governments and funders recognise small-scale family farmers as powerful partners in the transformation of the food system and the fight against climate change. This means ensuring more climate finance goes directly to small-scale family farmers’ organisations and genuinely sustainable climate resilient practices, and that small-scale family farmers have a real say in decision-making on food and climate.
This report presents an analysis of international public climate finance flows by Climate Focus. It is based on climate-related official development assistance (ODA) data made available by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The OECD database includes ODA, other official flows (OOF), private grants and private amounts mobilised and reported by DAC and non-DAC members. The database allows the analysis of climate finance between 2000 and 2021 based on finance flowing from funders (including bilateral flows and contributions to multilateral organisations) and finance flowing to recipients (including bilateral flows and the outflows from multilateral providers). It does not include information on disbursements of finance.
The following steps of analysis were conducted using current US$ as currency:
- Climate finance flowing to different sectors and regions since 2000 was assessed and a snapshot for 2021 – the most recent year for which data is available – was created.
- The database was filtered to build a picture of climate finance flowing to the ‘Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing’ sector.
- The ‘Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing’ sector finance data for 2020-2021 was further analysed to produce a snapshot of the most recent spending on sustainable practices and smallholder farmers and rural communities. Keyword searches of project titles and descriptions were used to identify relevant projects, including:
- Small-scale family farmers and rural communities using the keywords: ‘smallholders’, ‘family farms’ ‘peasants’, ‘Indigenous’, or ‘rural community’ and Spanish ‘Campesino’, ‘agricultor’,’agricultora’,’familiar’ ‘rural’ and ‘indígena’ and French ‘petits exploitants’, ‘rurale’ or ‘indigène’.
- Sustainable practices keywords: ‘sustainable’, and translations in Spanish ‘sostenible’ and French ‘durable’ ‘sustentable’.
- Agroecology keywords: ‘agroecology’, ‘agro-ecology’, ‘agro-ecological’, and ‘agroforestry’, ‘agroecological’, along with Spanish ‘agroecología’ and French ‘agroécologie’.
The analysis provides a conservative estimate of finance flows to the agri-food sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing) and smallholder producers. Previous estimates are significantly higher. For example, analysis by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that the ‘agriculture and land use sector’ received US$18 billion in 2018 – over twice the US$8.4 billion estimated for 2021 by Climate Focus. While a report by Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) estimated that US$10 billion a year went to small-scale family farmers in 2017/2018 compared to the US$2 billion in 2021 estimated by Climate Focus.
The main reason for the difference is that the analysis by Climate Focus uses the OECD categorisation of ODA finance flow by sectors with a focus on ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’ and projects that specifically mention small-scale family farmers and rural communities. This provides an estimate of the finance which is specifically targeted at supporting small-scale family farmers and food production. The FAO and the CPI analyses include finance flowing to a much broader range of sectors, including energy, that may benefit small-scale family farmers but which are not specifically targeted to them or to food production.
It is also likely that there are projects supporting sustainable practices and small-scale family farmers and rural communities that were not picked up in the analysis because the relevant keywords were not included in project titles and descriptions. This underlines the need for detailed information on finance flows to be made publicly available.
Climate finance for agriculture, forestry and fishing
Overseas aid spending on climate action has increased significantly in the last decade, with US$96 billion committed to mitigation and adaptation in 2021 alone. Finance for the agri-food sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing) – has also increased but remains comparatively low:
- Since 2012, the agri-food sector has received just 11% of all international public climate finance – approximately US$7 billion a year.
- In 2021, US$8.4 billion of international public climate finance went to the agri-food sector compared to US$16 billion for energy. This is a fraction of the estimated US$300-350 billion per year needed to create more sustainable and resilient food systems.
The low level of climate finance for agriculture, forestry and fishing is of concern given the impact of climate change on food production and the extent to which food and agriculture is fuelling the climate and biodiversity crisis. Agricultural productivity has already declined by 21% compared to a world without climate change, while the food and agriculture sector as a whole is responsible for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions and 80% of global deforestation.
A snapshot of climate finance flows to agriculture, forestry and fishing in 2021 reveals that the World Bank, Germany, the Green Climate Fund and European Union institutions contributed around half (54%), amounting to US$4 billion collectively. Nigeria, India and Ethiopia were the top recipients, receiving a combined US$1.8 billion for agri-food projects. However, some of the world’s most food insecure countries, including Sudan, Sierra Leone and Zambia, each received less than US$20 million.
Public climate finance channelled to different sectors. Annual finance (US$ billion) between 2012 and 2021.
Main climate finance channels of delivery for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector.
Climate finance for family farmers and sustainable agriculture
The IPCC’s 2022 report on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability concluded that the most effective ways to create more climate resilient and sustainable food systems are to: work with nature; diversification – producing a wider variety of local crops, including native varieties, or mixing crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries; and creating community-based solutions that build on local expertise and experience. Yet climate finance flows for small-scale family farmers and sustainable agriculture are low.
Small-scale family farmers: 2021 snapshot
Just US$2 billion or 2% of international public climate finance was directed to small-scale family farmers and rural communities in 2021 – equivalent to a quarter (24%) of international public climate finance spending on the agri-food sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing).
Given that the vast majority (95%) of climate finance for small-scale family farmers comes from public sources, this equates to roughly 0.3% of the US$653 billion in international climate finance from both public and private sources.
In 2021, the World Bank, African Development Bank, and the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) were the main funders of smallholder agriculture and rural communities. The majority of this finance (90%) focused on adaptation, and almost half was committed to just six countries – the Philippines, Brazil, India, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Morocco – and to regional projects in Africa.
The majority of the finance (80%) was distributed via recipient governments, donor country NGOs, central donor governments, and IFAD. This approach – potentially based on the misconception that grassroots farmers’ organisations lack the organisational capacity to manage
large funds – often acts as a barrier to climate finance. For example, family farmer organisations often find the type of funding available fails to match their needs, that they are not eligible to apply for funds, or they lack information on where and how to apply for funds or the capacity to engage in lengthy and expensive application processes.
Finance flows to smallholders per region compared to total finance to the agri-food sector (agriculture, forestry and fishing) and to overall public climate finance in 2021 (US$ billion).
|Region||Total climate finance US$ billion||Finance for the agri-food sector US$ billion||Finance for smallholders & rural communities US$||Smallholders & rural communities % of total climate finance||Smallholders & rural communities % of agri-food finance|
|Central America & Caribbean||2.1||0.10||0.0||2.24||47.0|
Sustainable agriculture and agroecology: 2021 snapshot
Only a fifth (19%) of the US$8.4 billion in international public climate finance spent on the agri-food sector in 2021 was used to support sustainable practices (US$1.6 billion). This is dwarfed by the estimated US$470 billion a year in government subsidies which support agricultural practices that are harmful to people and the environment.
Only US$183 million of international public climate finance was spent on projects that included agroecology in their description – 2.2% of spending on agriculture, forestry and fishing. The FAO says agroecology – which works with nature and empowers local communities – is one of the most promising approaches in the effort to create more resilient and sustainable food systems.
Africa received more than half the finance for sustainable practices while just 7% was spent in South America and 2% in Central America and the Caribbean. A total of US$1.4 billion was channelled to activities that largely focused on adaptation and US$900 million to activities which largely focused on mitigation. US$680 million went to projects supporting both mitigation and adaptation.
Germany, Norway, the EU, World Bank and the African Development Bank were the largest contributors to sustainable agriculture, spending US$813 million collectively in 2021. However, analysis shows even the EU – one of the biggest funders of sustainable agriculture – directed almost half its climate finance spend for the agri-food sector towards conventional and industrial agriculture from 2016 – 18, and only 2.7% (US$9.16 million) to projects supporting agroecology.
Analysis of OECD climate-related finance flows reveals that the agri-food sector receives a relatively small amount of climate finance. Furthermore, only a fraction of spending in the sector is targeted at small-scale family farmers and sustainable agriculture, despite their critical importance for climate adaptation and mitigation, food security and sustainable development.
As the climate crisis pushes the global food system ever closer to collapse it is vital that governments recognise family farmers as powerful partners in the fight against climate change. They must ensure:
- Climate finance for sustainable climate-resilient practices is increased – including agroecological approaches. This means funds to support diverse, nature friendly approaches and to create community-based solutions that build on traditional expertise and experience.
- Small-scale family farmers have direct access to more climate finance. Financing mechanisms and funds should be developed with farmers’ organisations in order to meet farmers’ needs and to ensure longer-term, flexible funding so that communities can determine their own priorities.
- Small-scale family farmers’ role as powerful catalysts for climate action, food system transformation and the protection of biodiversity is acknowledged and they are given a real say in decision-making on food and climate at the local, national, regional and international level. This includes decisions around climate finance and adaptation planning, land reform and agricultural subsidies.
Notes for back of report
This report is published by family farmer organisations and networks representing over 35 million farmers around the globe and is supported by the Foundation for Farmers Organisations and Restorative Action. The analysis was conducted by Climate Focus.
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The farmers networks include: Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), Confederation of Family Producers’ Organizations of Greater Mercosur (COPROFAM), Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), Eastern and Southern Africa small-scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF), Maghreb and North African Farmers Union (UMNAGRI), Network of West African Farmers’ and Producers’ Organisations (ROPPA), Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON), Regional Rural Dialogue Programme (PDRR), Regional Platform of Farmers‘ Organizations in Central Africa (PROPAC) and the World Rural Forum (WRF).
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