Embedding an entrepreneurial vision in the living income discourse

By Nico Roozen, Honorary President, Solidaridad Network

For the past decade the living income ambition for smallholder farmers has been the talk of the town; but the impact of this talk remains limited in rural villages. The truth is that market prices remain low and ‘true pricing’ targets are often insufficient and rarely achieved. We need to redouble our commitment to a living income, but also set our sights higher on an entrepreneurial income that allows farmers to grow their business out of poverty.

money counting moving towards entrepeneurial income

Current sustainability trends are focused on making the living income approach more successful, but these superficial judgements deceive. It’s true, a living income represents a big step forward for farmers. At Solidaridad we celebrate every effort to improve farmer livelihoods, but we need to set our ambition higher. We need to move towards an entrepreneurial income.

The urgency is clear from the fact that the poorest 60 percent of humanity receives only 5 percent of all income generated by global growth. From a business perspective, an entrepreneurial income should be seen as a precondition for the structural changes needed to effectively end rural poverty. 

Once farmers surpass the stage of survival, it’s obvious that a profit margin is crucial for direct investments and for becoming bankable. Only then can we move from farming by default to entrepreneurial farming that strengthens the entire supply chain. 

Solving these issues revolves around in-depth knowledge of system characteristics, understanding of roles of different actors, and the time horizons for solutions. It is about defining a comprehensive strategy, bringing stakeholders together, and holding them accountable for each part of the solution.

There is a growing common understanding of the structural reforms needed. We have defined seven interventions that offer an integrated approach combining issues related to good agricultural, purchasing and governance practices. These interventions are not sequential, every stakeholder must contribute in their own way and find synergies where we maximize our impacts.