A lack of access to basic infrastructure is a major obstacle for rural smallholders attempting to improve their livelihoods. More than 620 million people in sub-Saharan Africa (two-thirds of the population) live without electricity and two thirds of rural Africans live more than two kilometres from an all-season road.
Rural smallholders need better access to energy, irrigation, storage and transport infrastructure if they are to increase yields and participate in markets. These issues are all explored in the APPG’s latest report, Rural Infrastructure for Smallholders.
For example, with a reliable, affordable source of energy, they can improve the efficiency of land preparation, planting and harvesting, and engage in on-farm processing to add value to crops. Irrigation can reduce reliance on increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and enable multiple harvests each year. Storage facilities on the farm and in community hubs can prevent crop losses and the forced selling of surpluses at low prices, while better roads reduce transport costs and enable access to urban markets.
Ending poverty and achieving food security depends on smallholder farmers having the opportunity and incentive to participate in markets. Without appropriate infrastructure, that cannot happen. The evidence gathered for the report has suggested that filling the infrastructure gap is particularly urgent for sub- Saharan Africa: it is here that governments and donors need to allocate adequate resources to rural irrigation, energy, roads and transport, and in particular to create an enabling environment for local infrastructural enterprises and farmer-driven investment.