Poverty in many rural African villages is extreme. Up to half of the children in these villages are still suffering from stunting and malnutrition. Soil degradation and poor crop yields are ubiquitous. Fifty years of projects run by donor and government groups aimed at the rural poor in Africa have had very little impact. What is having an impact are some small projects aimed at growing more food for the household.
The reason the majority of projects that deal with food security in rural Africa have been failing is because they are all commercial projects. They follow the idea that subsistence farming must be replaced by commercial farming for development to go ahead.
In reality, on the land available to these villagers, commercial crops are rarely worth much. The most sensible strategy for these smallholder families is to intensify their production of food crops for home consumption and to sell only the surplus that is produced after all their food needs have been met. I call this ‘feeding the farmers first’.