Towards stronger family farms – the close of the IYFF

Towards stronger family farms – the close of the IYFF

24 December 2014

New report by FAO and ILEIA synthesises main recommendations of the International Year of Family Farming.

When 2014 was proclaimed the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), the United Nations shone a spotlight on the essential contributions of family farmers to food security, community well being, the economy, conservation, biodiversity, sustainable resource use, and climate resilience.

However, the trend in recent decades has been for governments to focus on agricultural commodities and free markets, while the majority of the world’s 500 million farming families lack the investments and policies that would allow them to grow. Family farmers and their organisations are often excluded from decision making processes, and they are finding it increasingly difficult to access land to farm and the resources to be able to so, including local seeds and breeds. Combined with climate change, this leads to increased rural poverty, chronic hunger, resource degradation, and an unprecedented outflow of people to urban area, especially the young.

Throughout 2014, regional dialogues, civil society consultations, regional conferences and other events explored issues related to family farming. Many of these were (co-)organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the lead agency for the International Year of Family Farming.

Across the regions, a set of key, common building blocks were identified to better support family farmers, raised by representatives of farmer organisations, governments, academia, international institutions and NGOs, amongst others. These are summarised in the publication ‘Towards stronger family farms. Voices in the International Year of Family Farming’. It was presented at the October 2014 Global Dialogue on Family Farming in Rome.

The main recommendations include:

  • Cross-sectoral approaches: family farming policies must be developed and implemented in a cross-sectoral, territorial manner, for example through integrated rural development programmes and through the promotion of agroecological, diversified practices. This is especially pertinent in a context of climate change.
  • Access to natural resources should be prioritized in special programmes as well as in general land use and water management plans, and by implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. It should be complemented by programmes for farmer-led experimentation and water harvesting and soil conservation practices.
  • Improving trade and building markets: trade agreements should be reformed so they better serve the needs of family farmers and guarantee their economic, social and cultural rights. Access to markets and fair prices can be enhanced through the promotion of local markets, public purchases from family farmers, which can also contribute to food security.
  • Access to credit and finance can be achieved through instruments that respond to the needs and realities of family farmers such as simplified lending procedures, governmental lines of credit, insurance and guarantee facilities and farmer-centered financial institutions.
  • Gender equity: facilitating the participation of women in decision making and in labour markets, positive discrimination regarding access to natural resources and capital.
  • Stronger farmer organisations are important to balance the economic and political power of other actors and in consolidating the voice of family farmers. Capacity building needs to be ‘family farmer centred, owned and led’. Farmer organizations must be involved in more inclusive decision making processes.
  • Farmer-led research and extension is especially relevant as farmers are actively adapting to the impact of climate change. Research and extension can be helpful in strengthening these initiatives.
  • Attracting youth is key, and vocational training should be geared more towards agriculture while policies must support youth access to productive resources. A holistic view of young people’s needs is required.

Towards stronger family farms. Voices in the International Year of Family Farming is co-produced by ILEIA and FAO.

This is what leading women farmers said during the IYFF

“To produce food for the world, for humanity, is one of the noblest occupations. An international year dedicated to family farmers profoundly honours our work.”
Francisca Rodriquez of CLOC-La Via Campesina in a video produced by FAO

“Africa can feed itself because we have enough arable land and fresh water. What is lacking is the commitment of our governments to work hand-in-hand with all stakeholders. The voices of food producers are crucial.”
Elisabeth Atangana of the Pan African Farmer Organization, at the Africa civil society consultation

“We are not seeking subsidies, we are seeking legislation that facilitates the lives of small scale farmers and fisherfolk.”

Natalia Laiño of the World Forum of Fisher People, at the Europe and Central Asia civil society consultation

“We want to uplift the conditions of family farmers so that they can have real dignity and be proud to be family farmers… and that the young generation will continue to go to family farming, and thereby reduce poverty and increase food security and nutrition.”

Esther Penunia of the Asian Farmers Association and IYFF Ambassador at the Asia Pacific Regional Dialogue