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May 2015 - February 2017

Project Summary

The studies on small-scale family farming include a regional synthesis (in French, English and Arabic) as well as six national studies in Egypt, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia.

The regional study highlights the importance of small-scale family farming in the development of the region, the essential role of agriculture in demographic and economic development, and the impact of policies on small-scale family farming.

The national studies analyze the existing challenges and propose adapted solutions in all concerned countries.

The studies reveal the need to build capacities in the involved youth-led-organizations and institutions, cooperatives and producers’ organizations. They also demonstrate the importance of improved governance and specific public policies, including in terms of gender equality. The studies recommend: enhancing productivity and efficiency of small-scale family farming; considering rural employment and pluriactivity as fundamental aspects ; improving value chains for a closer link between small-scale family farming and markets; enhancing the resilience of small-scale farming to climate change. The studies also suggest improving the tools, definitions and statistic methods to better understand small-scale family farming by defining it through other criteria than its size.


The study on small-scale and family farming in the regions of North Africa and Middle East aims at making a comparative analysis among the six countries considered (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan and Tunisia) in terms of definitions and situations of small-scale family farming, its contribution to agricultural economy and rural development, its economic and social roles, the public policies and other measures supporting or impacting its.

The ultimate objective is to come up with recommendations and guidelines for actions aiming at supporting and improving the functioning of small-scale farming, reducing its vulnerability and consolidating its economic, social and environmental role in the concerned countries.


  • Workshop for the setting up of the methodology and the identification of focus issues through the collecting of comments from the represented countries;  validation of the proposed approach; selection of the 6 targeted countries for the study; finalization of  the terms of reference.
  • Producing a common framework of analysis based on three main lines:

- Definitions and characteristics of small-scale and family farming, their use in public policies, references, recent evolution;

- Structural change and specific characteristics in the targeted countries (macro approach, the evolution of demography and employment, the role of agriculture in the national economy, etc.);

- Forms and contents of public policies targeting (or not) small farmers.

  • Data collection and analysis, collection of existing and available documents;
  • Individual interviews with the key actors to collect their expert opinions about the adaptation measures of public policies for small-scale farming, their efficiency and levels of support, with the underlying objective of exploring the perspectives for improving the situation of young farmers and women.
  • National case studies revealing the innovations as well as the efficient mechanisms supporting the small-scale farmers.

Results, project impact

The existing agricultural systems in the six studied countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan and Tunisia) are mainly the result of small-scale family farmers. The majority of them are faced with insecurity because of the fragmentation of their intergenerational land heritage. Participating in the development of this small-scale family farming can nowadays no longer be based exclusively on agricultural intensification (because the small size of agricultural farms does not enable to produce enough marketable products),  neither on a strictly agricultural approach (because these small family farms have already diversified their incomes with other resources than agriculture), neither on an exclusive production dimension (social transfers, particularly for the pensions of the senior farmers and the poorest households, are justified in terms of equity and intergenerational solidarity).

Defining  support policies for small-scale farming while struggling against poverty of farm households can thus not exclusively be done through the intensification of their agricultural or livestock farming practices: public policies must also take into consideration (i), the access to resources (water, land), the organization of supply chains (to ensure that a substantial part of the benefits remains in the hands of the producers), (ii) the collective organization of these small family farmers (scale economies in terms of mechanization, supply and processing of agricultural products, better access and management of common resources).

These policies also need to be diversified by considering (iii) social policies (right to retirement for elderly family-based farmers, access to education and to quality health care, gender equity, non-working of children,  access to cultural services), (iv) territorial development policies (emergence of secondary towns ; social, cultural and road infrastructures in rural areas ; safety of people and property).

Main publications

All project reports are available through the following link:



The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - Italy

Source of funding : FAO, CIRAD, CIHEAM-IAMM
Programme and Contact references : Alberto Impiglia – FAO – Coordinator of the Regional Initiative for small-scale family farming in the Middle East and North Africa - Alfredo.Impiglia@fao.org Ana Pizarro – FAO Le Caire – ana.pizarro@fao.org Pascal Bonnet – Cirad – Deputy Director of the Environments and Societies Department - pascal.bonnet@cirad.fr Christine Ton Nu – CIHEAM-IAMM – Deputy Director - christine.tonnu@iamm.fr
Total budget : 286 000,00 €
Partners :
  • Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) - France
  • International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies– Mediterranean Agronomic Instituteof Montpellier (CIHEAM-IAMM) - France