Smallholders, or smallholdings, refer to small farming operations, usually commercial and usually the work of a single family. According to the Guardian UK, some 450 million smallholder households earn their livelihoods from plots of three acres or less; with their families they make up a third of all humanity.
Most of these enterprises are scattered throughout what we commonly refer to as the Third World. As WE now have several generations between us and growing things, that’s simply not the case for many others and there currently exists a burgeoning economy of smallholder farms across the globe – not in the sense that we typically think of burgeoning or economy – but they are, or are nearly, self-sustaining, a term with which we are becoming increasingly familiar. I have a colleague of African descent who has initiated several excellent sustainable development projects there and elsewhere, targeted at seemingly minor technological innovations (solar powered, small-quantity refrigeration, for ex.) to increase the profits of smallholder farms without changing their way of life in ways that alter the social fabric of their community. It’s a tough line but also the essence of the triple bottom-line idea that gives equal consideration to people, planet and profit.
The connection of many of these farms and enterprises to the larger world is the Fair Trade federation, of which many are familiar. I bring all this up because today is the beginning of Fair Trade Fortnight, as good a time as any to familiarize yourself further with the ideas and practices of smallholder farms, their plights, fates, hopes and destiny. Who knows, there could be some overlap with yours.