The Capacities And Resources Required By Smallholder Farmers Commerce Essay


Market liberalisation and globalisation have brought about many benefits for developing countries. This has enhanced economic growth in certain areas in the developing world and has increased their average living standards. However, these benefits and growth remains limited particularly in the poorer rural areas of the developing world, with some areas being left worst off than before. In order to reduce the poverty rate and increase the food supply, many governments have acknowledged the need to revive agriculture in order to promote development and sustainability.

In Sierra Leone where this research is focused, the agriculture sector provides produce such as rice, coffee, cocoa, palm kernels, palm oil, peanut, poultry, cattle, sheep, pigs and fish for trade nationally and internationally. (CIA world fact book 2010).

The government of Sierra Leone is presently promoting smallholder farmers by helping them to make their produce more commercially viable through building their capacities and resources with the aims of reducing poverty, stimulating employment, increasing development and the food supply.

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The researcher has been invited by the Ministry of Agriculture in Sierra Leone to undertake a field/participatory study that will involve identifying the capacities required by smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone in order for them to become better connected to the national and international markets.


A literature review of smallholder farmers is necessary, where the author will discuss the challenges faced by farmers, the past and current approaches used to develop the capacity of farmers in rural areas and the characteristics of a successful approach to connect farmers produce to the market.

Key words: Development and sustainability, smallholder farmers and challenges, smallholder farmer capacities, the roles of smallholder farmers in developing countries, smallholder farmer's supportive programs.


Introduction - Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a developing country situated on the west coast of Africa. It has just over six million occupants and achieved a GDP of £1 billion pound in 2009, an improvement on the previous years. The economy compromises of three main sectors namely agriculture, mining and trade.

Between the years of 1991 and 2001, Sierra Leone suffered immensely from a brutal civil war, which severely wreaked the country's economy, thus leading to the fall in business infrastructures, educational standards, social dissatisfactions, increased unemployment, increased poverty and general hunger among the population. Rural areas were particularly affected during the decade of war as many lost their home and farming businesses.

Nonetheless, Sierra Leone is now slowly recovering and in 2008, the country showed signs of market development as its purchasing power purity was rated 147, an increase compared to the period of the war. This has been due to immense transformation both politically and socially.

The World Bank also rated Sierra Leone as one of the most improved in terms of "ease in doing business".

Since coming into power in 2007, All People's Congress (APC), vowed to tackle poverty, stimulate development, encourage entrepreneurships, employment, fairness in the distribution of wealth and increase the food supply within rural communities. To do this, the APC lead government have decided to revive the agricultural sector as part of their strategy to improve the lives of many in the rural areas. Agriculture now contributes 49% of the country's GDP, which emphasises the importance of the sector. (CIA world fact 2009).

Stimulating entrepreneurship through agriculture is recognised by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and that smallholding farming is central to rural lively hoods, and therefore vital to food security and poverty reduction in rural areas particularly in Africa.

The literature review will look at the historic and current challenges that need to be overcome by resources poor farmers and extensionists in rural areas particularly in developing countries.

Research problems and statement

In spite of development in certain areas and the progress in GDP, which stands at an increased rate of 4%, an astonishing 70.2% of the Sierra Leonean population still live in poverty. (CIA fact book 2010). Sierra Leone continues to face persistent challenges in feeding its six million populations against the present background of climate uncertainties.

Visiting Sierra Leone in 2008, I observed that there are highly noticeable inequalities in the income distribution and while the country possesses substantial minerals, agricultural, and fishery resources, its physical and social infrastructures are far from well developed and poorly managed. Also, serious social disorders continue to hinder economic development. Nearly half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture. The CIA world fact book (2010) noted that 61% of the Sierra Leonean population live in the rural areas and diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings, accounting for nearly half of Sierra Leone's exports.

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Previous governments have always focused predominantly on the mining industry in order to lure Multinational Corporations. However such approach requires time and money. Also Sierra Leone lacks the necessary physical and social infrastructures, and faces stiff competition from other well established developing countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal who have more attractive offers for Multinational Corporations. Credit must be given to the current government for its continuing efforts towards developing the country's infrastructures such as roads, electricity and educational standards.

Another issue is that commodity prices in the agricultural sector have continued to increase in Sierra Leone and around the globe. (FAO 2010). This has further escalated the hunger amongst the world's poorest leading to demonstrations in many developing countries. (FAO 2010).

Amongst the advantages of stimulating development through promoting smallholder farmers in rural areas of Sierra Leone are:

Increased employment within the local communities

Reduced poverty within the local communities

Fairness in the distribution of wealth

It will stimulate entrepreneurships and innovation

Sierra Leone can better utilise its resources

Increased food supply and reduced hunger

Increase the competitiveness of Sierra Leone's agricultural products both nationally and internationally

The questions this research seeks to answer are as follows

To identify the challenges faced by smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone in regards to capacities and market commercialisation?

To perform a gap analysis in order to identify the capacities and resources required by smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone to achieve sustainability and make their produce more commercially viable?

To develop a recommendation and a framework that will fulfil the identified gaps?

 Purpose of this research

The goals of this research is to provide an understanding to both national and international extortionists of how best to assists smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone in terms of capacities and making their product commercially viable. Furthermore, to equip smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone with the knowledge and knowhow of adding value to their produce thereby increasing their competitiveness and making their products more commercially viable with the aim of stimulating employment and reducing poverty whilst facilitating the process of fairness in wealth distribution.

To perform a gap analysis in order to identify the distinction between the theoretical concepts of smallholder farmer's resources, and capabilities in Sierra Leone, whilst drawing examples from other developed and developing countries.

To better understand the market and to develop a conclusion, recommendation and a framework that will fulfil the gap identified.

Importance of the Research

According to the Global Conference on Agriculture Research for Development (2010) (GCARD), there are over three billion people living in rural areas, all over the world and around 2.5 billion of these individuals are involved in agriculture. Nearly 1.5 billion are lacking the necessary capabilities and resources needed in agriculture. The GCARD (2010) report indicated that 1.5 billion of the individuals are smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers are mainly found in the rural areas and mountains, which make up the majority (85%) of farmers in the developing world. These small holder farmers are among the poorest groups of farmers and as a result have become an important focal point in eliminating poverty and hunger from the developing world.

There is a lack in systematic studies on smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone and rarely any study has been completed on smallholder farmer resources and capabilities in Sierra Leone. The very few studies that do exist are very descriptive but this research will follow a participatory approach.

Understanding the needs for sustainable agriculture will provide national and international institutions with the knowhow of how best to stimulate entrepreneurships through the use of smallholder farmers in rural areas which will substantially reduce poverty and hunger.

The research and its findings will be valuable to academics as it will provide relevant information of how to develop smallholder farmer's capacities for development.

Most developing countries have a larger population of smallholder farmers.  Moreover 75% of poor people in developing countries live in rural areas of which 2.1 billion live on less than $2 a day and 880 million on less than $1 a day, with most people depending on agriculture as their livelihoods. As a result, promoting and helping smallholder farmers to achieve sustainability by providing them with the necessary capacities and resources is imperative for the reduction in poverty and hunger.

Literature review

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The literature review start with a quote from the Commission on Environmental Law of the World Conservation. The Union (1993) reported that, "by the year 2024, they expected that 83% of the expected global population of 8.5 billion will be living in developing countries. The capacity of available resources an

d technologies to satisfy the demands of this growing population for food and other agricultural commodities remains uncertain." If this prediction is correct, it emphasises the importance of this research and why it is empirical that the needs of poor resources farmers are understood and adhered to by governments and institutions.


This literature review is divided into four main areas of focus which are the Historic and current events which attempted to address the issues surrounding the capacities and the resources of farmers, the challenges farmers in developing countries are facing, approaches used to connect rural agricultural produce to international markets and finally the characteristic of successful approaches that align with rural development.

Historic events and recent events which attempted to address the issues surrounding the capacities and resources of farmers

There have been many efforts by governments around the world towards promoting development in rural areas. The world conference that took place in 1979 on Agrarian reform and rural development (WCARRD) held in Italy aimed to do just that. The WCARRD focused on the need for institutions and governments to involve smallholder farmers from the very beginning in agricultural development. This has acted as a pathway and reinforcement for agricultural extensions. This global action has been enacted for over 30 years as a means for refocusing agricultural, extension efforts toward improving quality, production and general services for farmers.

The WCARRD stressed on the need for smallholder farmers and development workers to collaborate and work closely together. The WCARRD called for additional efforts towards the goal of increasing production and quality (FAO,1990, p.1), and that "farmers with low resources value increased attention from additional efforts because many operate on marginal land that is undergoing serious environmental degradation therefore working with these farmers to build their capacities and resources is paramount to broad-based sustainable agriculture" (FAO, 1990). 

 In March 2010, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) published a report which focused on improving the livelihood of the resources-poor farmers and producers in developing countries. The report emphasised on the need for urgent action in order to meet agriculture extensions and to ensure that farmers are able to harvest and cultivate crops throughout the years.

The report indicates that the agricultural sector is presently facing many problems and challenges that have been caused by many factors including the inability of development officers, and institutions such as the National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) to deliver as it is their task to address the needs of smallholder farmers in poor rural areas, improve their livelihoods and meet the Agricultural Development goals of these countries and their regions. They are also given the task of making these countries agriculture sectors more responsive to the needs of smallholder farmers. (GCARD, 2010).

The GCARD review process in each regions of the developing world has helped in providing important feedback and identifying the priority needs for GCARD and also stressed on the need for investments in training and education so as to improve the existing infrastructures and that all efforts must be made to drum up political support if these objectives are to be achieved.

The report also emphasised on the need for increased investment in agriculture as it is a key player in the livelihood and development of the rural areas as well as it being a major contributor to national GDP's. Another point was the need for capacity development in order to effectively carry out and achieve the set objectives agreed by GCARD. This involves developing good infrastructures (e.g. buildings, facilities and equipments) for action research on successful farmer fields and building local capacity. The areas that need further development and adaptation are market policies, farmer's management skills and competitiveness.

Continuing challenges of farmers in developing countries

There are many challenges which need to be overcome by the farming industry particularly so in the rural areas. Whyte, (1981) reported that 85% of farmers have not benefited from the innovation designed for cultivating the land or many other programs which has been design for farmers. In support of this statement is the report that extension programs designed to help the agriculture sector have failed to benefit millions of farmers in the developing world, which represented the largest segment of the farming population. (FAO 1990). Two out of three farmers have no contact with extension services.

As noted by the Global Conference on Agriculture Research and Development (2010) (GCARD). These challenges have continued to exist due to the shortfalls in extension strategies and services, ineffectiveness of development/extortionist personnel, misaligned and inadequate technology development and misperceptions between extortionist, researchers and smallholder farmers. 

Shortfalls in extension strategies and services

A FAO (1996) report stated that rural development efforts had failed to deliver on their promises and that poverty oriented projects worldwide showed that the poor resources farmers were excluded from activities and benefits.

Despite the increasing criticism on extension strategies, there have been little adjustments in strategies in the past years. Conventional approaches have seen changes in the area of technical transfers aimed at boosting production and generating wealth. However, the FAO (1996) report states that, in practice, conventional projects usually target medium to large scale producers, helping them with technology, credit and extension advice in the hope that improvements will gradually extend to more backwards rural society. Nevertheless, this means of channelling development has led to the concentration of land and capital marginalisation of smallholder farmers.

 The FAO (1996) report further stated that, the fundamental shortfall in the conventional approach is that poor rural farmers are rarely consulted and have no active roles in development. The system itself has been highly centralised and as a result, important decisions are being made from the top to bottom with less input from officers or the farmers. (Shanner et al, 1982).  Many extension services have emphasised only on the higher potential areas with well of farmers and therefore lack the necessary links with smallholder farmers. (Chambers, 1985 and FAO, 1990).

The International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) examined the development of farm research and extension in the Instituto de Ciencia Technologia Agricolas (ICTA) in Guatemala, reporting that in a pioneering effort to develop and implement a five year national strategy for generating technology and transferring it directly to farmers through on farm client oriented research, the ICTA was successful in meeting the needs of the domestic seed industry, produced primarily by the commercial sector, nevertheless, the needs for smallholder farmers remain unfulfilled.

The ICTA found that it had been successful in an area whereby farmers were already operating under favourable conditions. With resources poor farmers mainly located in the coastal plains and inland valleys and farmers in more densely populated areas had less favourable conditions and had not been successfully researched. As noted by Schwartz and Kampen (1992), the effect of agricultural extension in East Africa is that often this strategy has failed to research resources poor farmers who lack access to land, water and financial aids.  These farmers are usually located in the remote areas that are not well served by infrastructures such as roads, electricity, storage facilities and access to the markets.

Ineffectiveness of extortionist or development workers

A report by the FAO (1990) suggested that extortionist workers lacked the necessary regular contact with the resources poor farmer due to inadequate facilities, transportation and equipment. (FAO, 1990). In many cases, extensionists also lacked the necessary technical support and administrative control needed to effectively carry out their duties.

The lack of resources meant that, extensionists tend to focus on larger farmers because they could not reach all farmers in their area and large farmers could often provide extensionists with accommodation and other amenities. (Benor and Harrison, 1977).

Misaligned and Inadequate technology development

Bunch (1982) suggested that the gap between agricultural research, and the developing nation's resources poor smallholder farmers had increased due to a decline in the technology generated which could actually be put to practical use by the poor farmer. Shanner et al (1982), noted that, farmers with limited resources often do not adopt new technologies due to their financial conditions as opposed to those whom the technology was not actually developed for. In addition to the lack of financial support to purchase and adopt the new technologies and the necessary input that goes with it, it was clear that in most cases, particularly for smallholder farmers in rural developing countries, the technologies did not apply to the crops and livestock raised on their farms, the ways they operate or they simply were not aware of the new technologies available.

Much of the technology developed over the last few decades can be described as somehow inappropriate and failing to benefit poor farmers, but has in fact benefited the moderately wealthy or those farmers in better environments.


Misperceptions between the extensionists, researcher and smallholder farmers

The international agricultural extension strategies has formed the primary pathway for agricultural education and development, however these strategies tend to favour producers who are already in relatively advantageous agricultural environments, male, educated, established, and generally farmers who have the capacities to survive if they lose their production and income. (Whyte, 1981).

In many countries women farmers are the primary producers of local staple food. Nevertheless, women farmers are often not approached by male extensionist or field workers and therefore do not receive the extension services and messages due to too much cultural barriers. For example, FAO (1995) indicated that although rural women of the Near East were major contributors to the farming household, and were involved in crop production and certain aspects of farm animal productions, extension services especially designed to target women farmers were limited. The FAO also described the extension service as consisting mainly of male extension officers, who dealt with almost utterly male farmers because tradition often constrained interaction between women and outsiders. (FAO, 1995).

Alike, a World Bank Zambia Project reported that the extension workers were selecting the contact farmers with failure to represent the farming communities, that is to say, they tend to leave out women farmers. The representation of women farmers as contacts was reported as insignificant. (FAO, 1995). In such environments, culture acts as a barrier to technology being developed and distributed and as a result of this, the technology fails to meet the needs of those farmers who are actually in need of the technology.

There are also the misperception from international agriculture researchers and extensionists that the smallholder farmers are too illiterate to understand the technology and are resistant to change. (Bunch, 1982).  As noted by Cleaver (1993), one reason for farmer's failure to adopt new technology could be due to "farmers being treated like ignorant recipients of information rather than knowledgeable partners in technology transfer." Such challenges within the international agriculture research are contributing elements towards poor development of poor resources farmers in rural areas.

According to International Fund For Agricultural Development (2010) (IFAD), the additional challenges for smallholder farmers in rural areas are climate change, increased food insecurity, land degradation, rising food prices, rising prices in agricultural products, continued decline in resources and the lack of a good policies framework.

Approaches used to connect poor resources farmers in rural areas and their produce to the market

There are many approaches used in connecting farmer's produce to the markets. The International Agricultural Extension Approach which stimulates and guides the system, its resources and its linkages defines and explains how farmers should interact and link themselves with extensionists and researchers.

The General Agricultural Extension Approach

This approach assumes that the capabilities and resources are there but are not being utilised by the farmers. The primary purpose of this approach is to help farmers increase their produce through central planned programs. (Axinn, 1988). It is based upon the top-down model of communication, which suggests that ideas and messages are developed by governments or researchers who know how best to help the farmers with their produce. These idea and messages are then channelled down to the targeted populations, who in this case are the poor resources farmers.

The ideology behind this approach is that, the ministry knows what is best in terms of scientific knowledge, while at the same time suggesting that the farmers do not have this knowledge or lack the knowhow.

With such approaches, governments maintain maximum control and they make the changes in program planning, usually on a national basis with limited freedom for local adaptation by the farmers. (Axinn, 1988).

The Training and Visit System approach

The training and visit system (T&V) is perhaps the most used approach by extensionists around the world since the 1980s. This approach was developed by Daniel Benor (FAO, 1990), and was designed to deliver selected and timely technical messages to farmers with strict regularity.

The T&V approach was first initiated in Turkey and has since been used in many World Bank projects around the globe. (Purcell, 1994). Since introduced, it accelerated the adoption of new technology through intensive and regular interaction between government extensionists and selected contact farmers to spread agricultural messages. (Anholt and Zijp, 1995).

Purcell (1994) noted that, T&V systems had been developed to address the perceived limiting effectiveness and competences of public extension services. The problem with this approach is that often extensionists are usually allocated with non-extension tasks which limited extension to technology transfer and often had to report to more than one poorly trained authority.

Entrepreneur Focused Approach

In previous approaches, smallholder farmers are usually left somewhere in the value chain and production process which in hindsight causes them to lose most of the value of their produce and services to intermediaries who have the opportunity to access the technology needed, credit and expert advice to add value to the products.

The Entrepreneur focused approach to development helps smallholder farmers create businesses that help to capture more value of their products. For example, this approach provides access to credit, training and new technologies such as parasite baths and improved management.


Participatory Approach to Agricultural Extension

According to Axinn (1988), nothing can be achieved in terms of building smallholder farmers capacities without the farmers themselves actively participating. The participatory approach however presumes that farmers are knowledgeable about the production of food from their land and that much more can be learnt and achieved from collaborative efforts between the researchers and the farmers.

A participatory approach actively involves the farmers and farming community at various levels, in their own agricultural development. Participatory approaches involve farmer's co-participation in a participatory action process. (Lev and Acker, 1994).

The extensionists within the participatory approach may have the role of a facilitator and stimulator working together with the farmers, stimulating the farmers in order to organize group efforts. (Axinn, 1988).

According to Anholt and Zilp (1995), with the participatory approach, extensionists are not just agents for technology transfer but are also there to ensure an effective two way flow of communication, aimed at empowering farmers through knowledge sharing rather than issuing technical prescriptions. This approach involves meeting and working directly with farmer groups within their respective communities in order to effectively identify the relevant needs and solutions.

Successful approaches used to connect rural agricultural produce to the international markets

This section of the literature review examines the characteristics of a successful program with the poor smallholder farmers.

The people participation in Rural Development was introduced in 1980 (FAO, 1991) as part of the WCARRD progression. A report of the sixth session (ROME), indicated that, people participation should ensure the active involvement of the rural people together with disadvantaged (women and poor resources farmers) groups who have been excluded from the development process.

The action plan suggests that the participatory approach should be followed by the design, implementation and evaluation of a large-scale project. This is to ensure the active participation of the people the programme aims to benefit in achieving sustainable rural development.

Farmers have continued to be at the forefront of international agricultural development for the past few years in an increasing effort to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to maintain and sustain the natural resources, while integrating participation and collaboration from research organisations.

In 1992, the United Nation (UN) put forward a hypothesis for sustainable development which focused on a new global environmental and development ethics and plan of action otherwise known as the agenda 21 document. This was supported by most nations, offering those involved in development a comprehensive guide for sustainable development into the 21st century (El Ashry, 1993).

The Agenda 21 document addresses the participation and capacity building of farmers in rural and indigenous communities through the partnership with governments and non governmental institutions, local agricultural strategies, improved added services and the relevant technology development for smallholder farmers. This approach focuses on engaging, mobilising scientists and communities in support of a framework for agriculture focused on reducing poverty, improved food supply and facilitating the sustainable use of the natural resources.

Characteristic of successful approach

According to Chambers (1985) and Bunch (1982), the characteristics of the successful program should include certain issues of sustainability in particular characteristics that will strengthen the sustainability of the farmers, the communities and the program.

The primary focus of farmer capacity building is the needs of those farmers and that an important feature of successful programs includes the development of farmer participation in community development and relevancy of extension methods used to support the continuance of farmer participation after the completion of the project.  The benefits of such approach will include increased improvements in yield, produce quality, health and other indicators for better quality of life.

There are several methods which can be applied to examine the approach of agricultural extensions. For example, Peterson (1989) developed a model which examined information collected from surveys focused on policy, technology development and technology transfer, and technology utilisation, adoption of the technology, extension farmer ratios and linkages. Indicators were used as tools which helped in making a general appraisal of the system and its functional components.


The literature review revealed that there are continued challenges faced by farmers in rural areas particularly in developing countries and despite many efforts made, the challenges still remain the same. New challenges are the increased hunger and rural area populations, poverty and climate change. These challenges further increase the tasks for development institutions and governments. It will require synergy between institution, and a joint collaboration between farmers, extensionists, institutions and governments to effectively manage these challenges in order to reduce poverty and hunger particularly so in the rural areas of developing countries.


The researcher has formed the following hypothesis based on the literatures from Chambers 1985, Bunch 1982, Lev and Acker, 1994, El Ashry, 1993, Anholt and Zilp 1995, Schwartz and Kampen 1992.

H1: There is a considerable positive relationship between smallholder farmer's resources and capabilities.

H2: Smallholder farmer's resources and capabilities positively impact its quality, innovation and cost reduction capability.

H3: Smallholder farmer's resources, capabilities and innovation are related to growth and sustainability.

H4: Government support programs for smallholder farmers and their businesses will stimulate entrepreneurships when the right approach is followed.


Scandura and Williams (2002) noted that, the impact and validity of management studies depend upon the appropriateness of the research methods used, this further emphasised on the need to select the right research method in order to have strong validity and meaningful end results from the management perspective.

After evaluating several research methods (see appendix for other methodologies considered), for the suitability of this research, the researcher will use a deductive field approach including field work, questionnaires, interviews and observation. This approach is necessary for this research as it provides the researcher with the following advantages:

It provides the researcher with the opportunity to test the hypothesis and experience a real-life research, developing communicative, investigative and participatory skills, it will improve the researchers observation skills and understanding of the processes in the development of smallholder farmers capacities

It provides the researcher with the opportunity to learn through direct, concrete experience, enhancing the understanding that comes from observing and participating in real world processes, it will increase the researchers geographical interest through interaction with the environment

It requires the researcher to plan and carryout learning in an independent manner, thus enhancing the responsibility in learning

The researcher will have the opportunity to apply analytical skills already attained from previous learning experiences and also learn new skills.

The field experience will provide the researcher with important teamwork elements, with social benefits derived from working cooperatively with others in settings outside the classroom

The researcher will use models and frameworks such as the resources based view (RBV), seven capacities of interaction, balance score card, likert chart, fishbone analysis, porter's five forces, value chain analysis and some aspect of the DMAIC framework in order to systematically gather enough reliable information about smallholder farmer's resources and capacities in the rural areas of Sierra Leone, diagnose the problems they are facing in terms of capacities, structure the primary data collected and to develop a framework using the value chain analysis that will fulfil the gaps between the primary finding and the literature review.

The study will also consist of several selected documents from the ministry of Agriculture in Sierra Leone, World Bank, food and agricultural organisation, world neighbour organisation and the international agricultural research centres that directly address the needs of poor smallholder resources farmers in rural areas.

The researcher is aware of the imitating factors of using the deductive approach such as costs and time. To overcome these problems, the researcher has developed a project plan indicating what needs to be done, when, how and who is involved.

The researcher has also built contacts in Sierra Leone who have major influence over agricultural development in Sierra Leone and has accepted to act as a second facilitator as well as assigning a field facilitator that will work closely with the researcher.

The secondary data gathering commenced in December 2009, however the collection of the primary data will start from July 28th 2010 to October 12th 2010.

The target groups of this research are the ministry of agriculture in Sierra Leone, smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone, World Bank, the world conference on agrarian and reform and World Food Organisation (WFO).