7 Reasons Why Smallholder Vegetable Farmers Need a Business Plan
By Sathiyabama Baskaran, Head of Knowledge Transfer for India
Smallholder farmers play a pivotal role in the world’s quest for food security and sustainable agriculture. Yet these farmers face numerous challenges that impact their livelihoods and farming practices, including limited land holdings, vulnerability to climate change, economic hurdles, production risks, knowledge gaps, and market instabilities. Addressing these challenges is crucial for improving the well-being of small-scale vegetable farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture.
At East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT), we have been successfully demonstrating that vegetable production can indeed be profitable for smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia. We have a dedicated team of agronomists who train smallholder farmers in the latest vegetable production techniques, and it all starts with creating a participatory farm business plan. A business plan reflects the farmer’s goals and provides a roadmap for achieving them. Equipping farmers with the skills to develop such plans helps them understand market dynamics, align production with demand, and ultimately increase their income.
Here’s why farm business plans are essential:
- Shifting Perspective from Subsistence Farming to Business: Many small-scale farmers are accustomed to subsistence farming. We help to change this perspective by demonstrating that vegetable cultivation can be a profitable venture. Farm business plans can create a shift in mindset that encourages farmers to approach farming as a business, focusing on profitability and sustainability.
- Identifying Risk Tolerance: A farmer’s attitude toward risk-taking plays an important role in crop selection. If farmers are highly risk averse, they gravitate toward choosing vegetables that have low but assured returns, with a lower risk of failure. Many first-time vegetable growers belong to this risk-averse category owing to their lack of prior experience. Farmers who are willing to take higher risks, especially young farmers, choose to cultivate crops with the potential for higher profits, even if the risk of failure is also higher. First-time women farmers tend to prefer low-risk crops like hot pepper, which requires less labor and less maintenance and gives a good yield over a period of 6 months.
- Optimizing Limited Resources: Our expert agronomists guide farmers in optimizing limited resources, including land, water, and inputs. Making informed choices for better yields and income is key to farmers’ success. Of course, trade-offs occur between capital availability and input selection. It’s all about making informed choices for a better yield and income.
- Adapting to Climate Change: Climate change poses a significant threat to smallholder farmers. Our business plan training helps farmers to foresee what could go wrong due to climate and to mitigate these risks. During the rainy season, for instance, farmers can plan for raised bed cultivation and choose crops that can withstand water stress. During dry seasons, they can plan to use shade nets to lower heat exposure and organic mulch to conserve soil moisture. By adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques such as crop diversification, intercropping, and integrated pest management, farmers reduce the risk of crop failure and income loss and build greater resilience to the impacts of climate change.
- Maximizing Resource Efficiency and Environmental Benefits: Farm business plans promote regenerative farming practices such as less tillage, border crops, and crop rotation, which benefit soil health. For example, using marigold as a border crop has multiple benefits, including attracting pests away from the main crop, bringing natural predators to control the pests, and helping to control nematodes. These kinds of integrated pest management practices reduce the need for chemical pesticides, thereby lowering investment costs and protecting the environment.
- Utilizing Market Analysis: Understanding market dynamics and demand fluctuations is crucial. Our training helps farmers select crops and varieties that are appropriate for their location and that meet market demands, ensuring they produce crops that are both resilient and marketable.
- Embracing Financial Planning: We train small-scale farmers how to estimate the investment required for vegetable production. By providing financial planning support, we enable farmers to make informed decisions about their agricultural investments and what climate-smart practices they will implement.
At EWS-KT, we’re committed to transforming the lives of smallholder farmers by positioning vegetable production as an attractive business opportunity. Through farm business plans and comprehensive technical training, we empower smallholders to thrive in the face of challenges, ultimately enhancing their livelihoods.