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SCALE: Securing change through agriculture, livelihoods & empowerment

Farming in Niger, Oxfam Novib

At a glance

A holistic approach to creating sustainable solutions for smallholders in poor communities in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.


Smallholder agriculture feeds a large proportion of the global population, is a driver of economic growth, reduces poverty and contributes to political stability. The SCALE global programme aims to capture this potential and deliver sustainable local food systems that guarantee the food security of smallholder farmers, particularly women in developing countries.

This programme is a collaboration between four Oxfam affiliates. It will initially focus on existing Oxfam agricultural programmes in four countries in Sub Saharan Africa, before expanding to other countries where smallholder food production is important.

  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Burkina Faso
  • Ethiopia


The programme aims to develop sustainable national food systems. We define national food systems as including the following:

  • All  activities from food production to food consumption.
  • The outcomes of these activities (food security, environmental sustainability, and social welfare).
  • The interactions of these with the physical and human environment.  

Sustainable food systems can be created by improving the productivity of food producing smallholder farmers, reducing food losses, enhancing storage, building reserves, increasing access to markets and creating an enabling policy environment. 

Supportive policies must recognise the rights of smallholder farmers to land and resources, respond to food production challenges, overturn access barriers to; markets, information, inputs, technology and external support and nurture a positive enabling environment.  

Smallholder producers would then become a functional component of the national food system, catalysing more resilient rural markets that stimulate the redistribution of food from areas of surplus to areas of deficiency, strengthening rural development through revenue sharing and rural employment.

Smallholder producers would then become a functional component of the national food system, catalysing more resilient  rural markets that stimulate aid the redistribution of food from areas of surplus to areas of deficiency, strengthening rural development through revenue sharing and rural employment.

Vision and Solutions

The SCALE vision

The SCALE programme proposes to strengthen the food security of smallholder farmers. The vision of success is that by 2021, three million vulnerable smallholder farmers (at least 50% women) will have improved food security, increased incomes and reduced their exposure to climate threats. SCALE will operate at four distinct levels, farm, national, regional and global.

  1. Farm level - the food security of small-scale farmers is increased. This will be achieved by supporting farmers access to input support and access appropriate technology to  improve the production and management of food crops.
  2. National level - smallholder agriculture is recognised as part of a sustainable national food system. This will be achieved by focusing on supporting relevant policies that focus on SHA producer associations and other forms of collective action and increased rights to land, access to seeds and other inputs.
  3. Farm, regional, national and global level -the role of smallholder agriculture in climate adaptation, mitigation and environmental stewardship is acknowledged and supported. This will be achieved through governance systems that address the needs of those living in poverty, with win-win mitigation and environmental stewardship recognised by reward and/or payment systems.

The SCALE solution

SCALE combines lessons and approaches from five areas of our smallholder work: rights to resources, cooperative approaches, adaptation to changing climates, making markets work for the poor and creating an enabling policy environment for smallholders.

The programme addresses existing challenges and reduces the environmental and economic risks faced by smallholders by integrating these critical areas to provide the opportunity for smallholder focused sustainable solutions to poverty.

It consists of several integrated components:

  • Supporting improved practice on the ground.
  • Strengthening farmer-to-farmer extension.
  • A toolkit for sustainable livelihoods practitioners.
  • A global action learning process and community of practice to share knowledge and encourage investment and a gallery.

SCALE will build on existing Oxfam programmes in West Africa and the Horn of Africa to focus on delivering food security in the most challenging production environments. This will enable us to learn from recurrent food shortages to build resilient national food systems.

The programme will identify and mainstream any promising and successful pilots to put in place the underlying conditions for robust national food systems in each country. SCALE will then build on the lessons learned to expand into countries in Asia and Latin America in which national food systems are dependent on smallholder production.