With a different emphasis in developing and industrialized countries, the main target of agricultural policy is the small farmer. Although he has hardly been exactly defined, he is supposed to be poor he is, invariably and, with the help of a great variety of instruments extending from strengthening supporting services to price subsidies, governments have been trying to improve the lot of the smallholder in agriculture. For some countries, this may be lip service, but in many others, it really is the goal of governments to improve the situation of this target group.

While this policy has been pursued with different instruments and intensity for more than 30 years, over the same period, we have experienced that, in spite of official declarations, it is not the smallholder but the big farmer who reaps most of the benefit from all measures. The latter's prosperity increased while the small farmer still is a poor man, and not a few peasants had to give up and lost their means of existence, if not during their lifetime, at the time of change of generation.

This long lasting experience in many countries leads to the question : Is the theory, which is guiding our policy, correct? Or do we have a wrong theory of agriculture?