Farmers have the potential to play a key role in helping to reduce global hunger and poverty. Subsistence agriculture remains the dominant economic activity among the global poor, but many small-scale farmers lack the resources, training, or funds to increase productivity: they often lack start-up capital to buy basics such as seeds and fertilize; many live in remote regions that make it difficult to access supplies; they may not be familiar with techniques for optimizing agricultural output; and translating harvests into profit presents an additional hurdle. Pest infestations, rotting crops, lack of storage facilities, and navigating local trade networks are additional issues that prevent farmers from getting the most from their hard work and providing for their families.
Traditional agricultural support programs frequently provide assistance in just one area—for example, by providing a small start-up loan. Despite receiving this cash, rural farmers may still not be able to acquire the seeds and fertilizer required to establish their crops, or they may not have access to markets to sell their final harvests. Rigorous new studies are showing that a much surer path to success is to provide multi-faceted support, including loans, seeds and fertilizer, training, market assistance, and basic business education. The Life You Can Save recommends organizations that are pioneers in this "graduation approach" to small-farmer support and sustained self-sufficiency and escape from hunger.