Can private sector R&D reach small farms?
Millions of small farmers are reached commercially every day as they buy seeds and crop protection products, fertiliser, cell phones, machinery and tools, taking advantage of the science and research embodied in these products. The market for agricultural inputs is large, and the role of the private sector as a purveyor of technology and services is growing. It is in the nature of the private sector to bring products to the market and deliver value, including to small farmers. But the private sector goes where there is a commercial incentive. Farmers who are too poor to purchase inputs are not helped, and the technologies they need may not get developed. This is a public policy and societal challenge that cannot be solved by the public or the private sector alone. The solution requires the creative complementarities of public-private cooperation that – in addition to the farm population – must include the ‘third’ or not-for-profit sector (foundations, NGOs, civil society). This pathway can develop and deliver solutions to large numbers of small farmers. (From the proceedings of the Crawford Fund 2009 Conference on world food security.)
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