(Jay Kaufman with coffee farmers in St. Catherine, Jamaica, applying a biological control mechanism for the Coffee Berry Borer pest.)
Jay Kaufman is Senior Vice President of Field Operations at Fintrac. He is an expert in market analysis and commercial distribution channels; smallholder and local partner grants administration; and agricultural sector rehabilitation post-disaster. He designs and evaluates field programs, is fluent in Spanish, and holds a master's degree in international business and law.
In your view, what are the most critical problems facing smallholder farmers in developing countries?
There are a range of diverse and complex challenges facing today’s farmers. Climate change is impacting farming communities across the globe and in many ways. At the same time, international food markets are increasingly sophisticated and marked by constantly evolving trends. This is in addition to the higher prices we are seeing for fuel and inputs. In many countries, problems are also compounded by limited access to technologies and markets due to poor physical infrastructure, storage and transportation services.
Perhaps the greatest problem, however, is the poor image that farmers have with governments, the private sector and donor organizations. Across the globe there is a failure to recognize the potential that smallholders in particular hold for unleashing the growth of agricultural industries. Smallholders are the key to economic growth, not the constraint.
What are the solutions to address those problems?
With respect to agricultural growth, many industries are constrained by limited access to high quality and consistent raw material supply. With training and technology transfer, it is possible to raise the production and marketing capacity of small-scale growers in order to upgrade the quality and consistency of their produce. Rather than simply focus on boosting production, training and technology packages should focus on empowering smallholders to meet the product specifications of the marketplace. For crops, this means tailoring production systems to meet requirements for variety, size, weight, coloration, maturity, etc. Postharvest systems are also critical to maintaining quality throughout the supply chain.
There are also opportunities to integrate “smallholder commercialization,” as we call it at Fintrac, with climate change adaptation. This is achieved with practices and technologies that improve resiliency at the farm level in addition to quality and consistency. These include sustainable land practices, low-cost drip irrigation, integrated pest management and a range of other measures that mitigate pressures from floods, droughts and pests and diseases.
You spent time in Jamaica to help farmers recover from major hurricanes. Based on your experiences, what are some immediate challenges that farmers and communities face in the aftermath of disasters?
Recovery programs are under pressure to quickly re-activate farming and other economic activities. Despite this urgency, the process of re-activation needs to incorporate elements of adaptation and resiliency so that communities are not left as vulnerable as before. The Jamaica Business Recovery Program promoted the theme of “building back better,” where integrating grants with technical assistance was aimed not just at re-activating crops and livelihoods, but ensuring that the farming systems and practices put into place were better suited to withstand future shocks.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Ivan was followed less than a year later by Dennis and Emily. Although their impact on Jamaica was not as devastating as Ivan, farmers who incorporated improved practices and technologies saw fewer crop losses following those lesser storms. It was a real eye-opener for many of the grower groups we worked with.