The International Year of Family Farming

2014_IYFFAt the heart of One Billion Hungry is an understanding that small-scale farmers are central to global food security. Approximately one third of the world’s population depends on small farms. In developing countries smallholders form the backbone of food production, and, given that agriculture often employs the majority of the population, their ability to prosper from farming enterprises plays a part in broader economic transformation.

Of the 450 million or so small farms in the world, an estimated 60% of these are largely subsistence farms and often achieve yields much lower than their potential. A large part of this is down to limited access to knowledge, technology, markets, extension and financial services. Building an enabling environment in which smallholder farmers have access to opportunities to increase their yields and sell surpluses in fair and efficient markets is a key recommendation from One Billion Hungry and Agriculture for Impact’s work.

So it’s great news that 2014 has been named the International Year of Family Farming. The aims of the year are to boost the profile of family farming and smallholder farming and to emphasise the significant role these farmers can and do play in reducing hunger and poverty. Farming families, which are the dominant form of agriculture in developed and developing countries alike, have a vital role to play in providing food and nutrition to their households and communities but also in managing natural resources, protecting the environment and rural cultures, and achieving sustainable development.

Launched on 22nd November at the United Nations headquarters in New York, the International Year of Family Farming will see efforts to mainstream smallholder needs in policy and national agendas to guide a more balanced and fair development pathway. Throughout the year discussions at national, regional and global levels will aim “to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers”.

The four objectives of the year are:

  1. To support the development of policies conducive to sustainable family farming
  2. To increase knowledge, communication and public awareness
  3. To attain better understanding of family farming needs, potential and constraints and ensure technical support
  4. To create synergies for sustainability

The Master Plan for achieving these objectives can be found here.

As a first step the Family farming: A dialogue towards more sustainable and resilient farming in Europe and the world conference, organised by the European Commission’s Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate-General was held on the 29th November 2013 in Brussels. The conference emphasised the critical role of family farming, the main challenges faced by family farms and best practices in supporting them. Details of the conference can be found here and outputs will contribute to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation European Regional Conference (ERC) on the 1st to the 4th April 2014 in Bucharest, Romania. For a list of other planned events click here.

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