According to the World Bank (2024), there are an estimated 608 million smallholder farmers globally, contributing approximately 35 per cent of the total global food supply. About 80 per cent of these smallholder farms in low- and lower-middle-income countries cover less than two hectares.

Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of the global population. Sustainable food systems can create decent jobs and support the incomes of billions of people around the world. Yet smallholders and farm workers remain among the poorest segments of the population and face the greatest risks from climate change. For too long, farmers have generally been excluded from high-level discussions about issues that directly affect their lives and livelihoods.

Creating opportunities for smallholders boosts productivity and raises incomes while helping meet global food demand. Smallholders produce four-fifths of all food consumed in developing countries. Helping them succeed is important to ensure the sustained production of food for the world’s population. Yet, the voices of smallholder farmers are largely unheard and remain muted in policy and decision-making regarding agriculture and food systems.

A significant, yet underappreciated, attribute of smallholders is their ability to mitigate and manage the risks of a changing agricultural system. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (2021), when it comes to the changes we need to make to our food systems, rural small-scale farmers are our on-the-ground experts. They know what it’s like to navigate challenges like climate change and what it takes to produce good food for all.

The new show titled, “Sustainability Unplugged,” recently launched by the Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA), will include real stories of farmers, focusing on solutions and not just challenges.

The program will also feature leading experts and practitioners from across the world discussing what works and what doesn’t in the effort to make the future of agriculture sustainable, regenerative, and resilient. Farmer-centric design will be key to unlocking the next generation of sustainable agriculture.

In your opinion, how important are farmers to the sustainability of agriculture and food systems? What will it take to amplify the voice of the farmer? What strategies and tactics can be put in place to get farmers, especially women and youth, to be more empowered and involved?