It seems in December there is always a surge of announcements that the next year will be dedicated to one cause or another. For 2014, it’s now supposedly the Year of the Brain, the Year of Crystallography, the EU-Russia Year of Science, but also…
The FAO launched a big new campaign in the end of November to draw attention to the importance of family farming – as opposed to agribusiness – with the following key messages (taken from their website):
“Family Farming is the predominant form of agriculture both in developed and developing countries
There are over 500 million family farms in the world.
Their rural activities are managed and operated by a family and rely predominantly on family labour.
They range from smallholders and medium scale farmers, to peasants, indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisherfolk, pastoralists and many other groups in any region and biome of the world.
Family farmers are an important part of the solution for a world free from poverty and hunger
In many regions, they are the main producers of the foodstuff consumed every day in our meals.
Over 70 percent of the food insecure population lives in rural areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Near East. They too are family farmers, especially smallholders, with poor access to natural resources, policies and technologies.
All kind of evidence shows that poor family farmers can quickly deploy their productivity potential when the appropriate policy environment is effectively put in place.
Facilitating access to land, water and other natural resources and implementing specific public policies for family farmers (credit, technical assistance, insurance, market access, public purchases, appropriate technologies) are key components for increasing agricultural productivity, eradicating poverty and achieving world food security.
Family Farming supports sustainable development
Family Farmers run crop-diversification based agricultural systems and preserve traditional food products, contributing both to a balanced diet and the safeguard of the world’s agro-biodiversity.
Family farmers are embedded in territorial networks and local cultures, and spend their incomes mostly within local and regional markets, generating many agricultural and non-agricultural jobs.
Local production and consumption circuits based on family farming have a major part to play in fighting hunger especially when linked to social protection policies that address the needs of vulnerable peoples.
The International Year of Family Farming
All the characteristics above make family farmers hold the unique potential to move towards more productive and sustainable food systems if policy environments support them in this path.
The IYFF gives us a clear opportunity to further highlight the strategic role of family farmers in agricultural and rural development and strengthen their capacities.
Governments may show their political commitment building juridical framework, institutions and policies for family farmers.”
While I find the campaign compelling and so so important, I believe it’s also vital to look at family farms not as a unit, but as an interplay of actors – most importantly, men, women and children. The IYFF was kicked off in Uganda, where there are significant differences in how men and women farmers are perceived, as I detailed in this post. Furthermore, the role of children in working on the farm is tricky – while the video above speaks of “age-appropriate tasks after school”, which is the general line accepted to differentiate between children helping out and child labor, the reality gets more messy a lot of times, especially in highly labor-intensive crops such as cocoa or coffee.
There are a lot of events and information material on the FAO website, so check it out!