Special Issue "Smallholder Agriculture: Where We Are and Pathways Towards the Future"

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Farming Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2021.

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Freyer
Guest Editor
Department of Sustainable Agricultural Systems, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, 1180 Vienna, Austria
Interests: organic farming systems; societal discourse on food systems and their differentiation; smallholder farming in low income countries

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue focuses on worldwide challenges to, and future perspectives for smallholder farming. It argues that ecological food print of smallholder farms, and contributions to food security and sovereignty and regional economy provide the potential for high resilience, thereby making regional food systems less vulnerable and increasing their adaptive capacity to ecological, social, and economic crises, and finally strengthening the global food system as a whole. Nevertheless, the excellence of smallholder farming is controversial (Ju et al., 2016).

Smallholder farmers still grow the largest share to meet global food demand (Lanka et al., 2017). Using ecological methods, there is a significant potential for smallholder farms to double or even triple their production. But the challenges they face are enormous. On the one hand, smallholder farmers confront the loss of land for several reasons; access to regional and global markets is controlled via middlemen, juridical hurdles, and unjust trade conditions; support via policies is limited and when subsidies are available, they are channeled primarily to large farms. On the other hand, the youth/children of smallholder farmers are no longer interested in a lifestyle that appears neither to be attractive nor provide a decent income and are leaving rural areas.

This Special Issue sheds light on the multiple dimensions and challenges of smallholder farmers and discusses their future perspectives and roles in light of the great challenges in a world confronted with dramatic changes. Specifically, the chapters raise questions about the future of smallholder farmers and the kinds, characteristics, and environments of transformation pathways in the light of global commitments (SDGs, biodiversity conventions, food security, etc.) and policy conditions for marketing and distribution, to keep smallholder farms vital and to increase their ecological, social, and economic performance, i.e., contributions towards the resilience of local and the global food system under expected future challenges. Contributions offer perspectives on multiple facets of smallholder farming from recent empirical research, but also from reflective papers on the conditions in different continents with different environments and enabling different livelihoods for smallholder farming.

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Freyer
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agronomy is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Smallholder farming
  • Productivity potential
  • Income combinations
  • Generations and gender
  • Societal discourse
  • Transformation
  • Global commitments (SDG, biodiversity convention, etc.)
  • Policy goals and targets

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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