The evidence is that the highest productivity per acre comes from smaller farms, even in the absence of sustainable access to markets and finance.
This is probably true. It\’s also irrelevant.
We don\’t normally care what the productivity of one specific input is, unless that input is the constraining one. Unless, of course, we are talking about labour: for labour productivity is, by very definition, the thing that determines the income and lifestyle of those doing the labouring.
We can all well believe that intensively farmed acre or two plots, perhaps even smaller, allotments say, will provide more food per acre than thousands of acres of barley in Norfolk. But each of those acres intensively farmed will require (just for the sake of argument) one full time worker. Norfolk requires 1 per thousand acres (just to use another entirely made up number).
Which leads us to two refinements of the productivity per acre. We don\’t in fact care very much how much food is grown per acre: we care how much surplus food is grown after the farmer has eaten. That might be a very different number.
The second is that if someone is needed to work full time on one acre then their income will be whatever they can get from that one acre. Given that they are working as peasants their income will be that of a peasant.
Upsize it to a smallholding of perhaps 10 or 20 acres. Their income will be that of a small holder. ie, pretty much fuck all.
By insisting upon the point that intensive small scale farming is the most productive per acre the Christian Aid bods might be right. But by ignoring the labour input required for such farming they\’re also condemning hundreds of millions, if not billions, to a continuation of the miserably poor peasant lifestyle.
Well done lads, well done indeed.