Editorial – A wake-up call

20 June 2014

Half way through the International Year of Family Farming, in many parts of the world, family farmers are celebrating and discussing their future with policy makers and civil society. But most poor rural communities struggling for their daily survival continue to be unaware of even the existence of such a year.

The IYFF is intended to put resilient, innovative, multifunctional, creative, and productive family farmers in the spotlight – because they need more recognition. Most are small scale producers for whom farming is a way of life, with qualities well described by Jan Douwe van der Ploeg in the January issue of Farming Matters. This year aims to give long overdue credit to the 400 million producer families who feed 70% of the global population including themselves.

True appreciation of resilient family farmers should not just be a symbolic gesture of a few romantics. This year must be a wake-up call for the world’s policy makers, the entire agricultural research establishment, the private sector from village processors to multinational agribusiness, and in fact, for everyone who eats and produces food.

We need to think differently. A deeper understanding will result in mainstreaming effective strategies that address today’s major global challenges – poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and the negative impacts of climate change. How do we ensure that millions of farming families get out of the vicious trap of hunger and poverty? How can they (re)build their resilience? Turning them into vulnerable migrants filling urban slums cannot be an option. Further neglect and inaction will be far reaching, not only for farmers, fisherfolk, pastoralists and forest dwellers, but for all of us.

This issue of Farming Matters presents some reflections on vulnerabilities and poverty in smallholder agriculture, and building resilience.

Edith van Walsum
director ILEIA