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IAMO Forum 2019: Interview with keynote speaker Sophia Davidova

24 June 2019 - IAMO Forum 2019 is about to begin. This year's international conference is dedicated to small farms. In the run-up to the Forum, IAMO conducted interviews with a number of keynote speakers and asked them about the particular challenges small farms are facing. This time in conversation: Prof. Sophia Davidova from the University of Kent, England.

Prof. Davidova, would you say that small-scale farming plays a particularly dominant role in Central and Eastern European countries today? If yes, in which countries?

Central and Eastern European countries represent a variety of regional contexts, have followed different pathways of structural adjustment of agriculture and possess different degrees of dependence on small-scale farming. Therefore, the importance of the small farms varies from country to country. Often small farms are dominant as numbers but definitely not in regard to agricultural output. Their central importance is in providing food security at household level, particularly in poorer countries, typical examples are Bulgaria and Romania, topping up household incomes and maintaining traditional landscapes populated by small fields. Thus, the importance of small farms is mainly social and to some extent environmental.

Is there any evidence that small farms are most active in some specific sectors across these countries?

Small farms are most of all mixed farms, combining crops with some livestock. They can be viable in high value output, e.g. soft fruit and vegetables, where even small-scale production could generate substantial incomes.

Which farms would be considered as small in these sectors?

In Europe, there is a broad consensus that small farms are those that operate on an agricultural area of 5 ha or less. Looking at economic size, usually very small farms have Standard output below 2,000 Euro and small farms below 5,000 Euro. However, it depends on specialisation – there are farms small in land area but substantially larger in economic size, e.g. in wine production or in the above mentioned soft fruit and vegetables.

What do you think are the three most important challenges for the development of small scale farming in Central and Eastern Europe today?

I think the three most important challenges for the development of small-scale farming are the technological change, factor market imperfections and unequal position in the value chain. Equally, many problems faced by small farms stem from rural underdevelopment (e.g. lack of non-farm jobs, weak local purchasing power).

In this regard, how should the agricultural policies in the region be further adapted to address these challenges? What should be prioritized?

In many countries in the region small farms are still the predominant farm structure and a key to maintaining the rural fabrics. The policies that might be adequate for small farms are supporting capacity-building and advice to small farms, facilitating various types of cooperation between small farmers in order to compensate for their small size and strengthen their position in the value chain, and implementing better tailored simplified packages of policy measures.

Thank you, Prof. Davidova for these interesting insights. See you soon in Halle!