Rachel Cheng

This year 2014 was named the “International Year of Family Farming” (IYFF) by the UN highlighting the important role of family-managed small-scale farming in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, as well as allowing a sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. Family farmers often grow for themselves as well as produce farmed products for sale to obtain other essential items for livelihoods. Their activities include agriculture, forestry, animal-rearing, including aquaculture and fisheries production.

Communicated by General Director of Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) earlier this year, “Family farming plays a crucial role in local circuits of production, marketing and consumption that are so important not just for the fight against hunger, but also for job creation, income generation and to stimulate and diversify local economies. In developed countries, such as those in the developing world, the family farmers are the main producers of food consumed locally, the main keepers of food availability”.
FAO has highlighted four key objectives of 2014 as a facilitator for family farming:
1. Support the development of policies conducive to sustainable family farming by encouraging governments to establish the enabling environment (conducive policies, adequate legislation, participatory planning for a policy dialogue, investments) for the sustainable development of family farming.
2. Increase knowledge, communication and public awareness
3. Attain better understanding of family farming needs, potential and constraints and ensure technical support
4. Create synergies for sustainability with other International Years in particular Cooperatives and other International processes.

Society can help, in particular, with the second and third objectives by increasing farmers’ knowledge and communication as well as finding out farmers’ needs and provide them with technical supports. Noodles.Onlus is also focusing on communicating and giving technical supports on animal farming and dairy production with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-like procedures to ensure wholesomeness and safety of the dairy products. Another example is the AgriCultures Network, a 30 year-old organisation that co-creates and shares farming knowledge by publishing ‘Farming matters’, a series of reading materials to help farmers to improve their farming techniques all over the world including Brazil, China, India, the Netherlands, Peru and Senegal. An interesting article from ‘Farming matters’ tells about a Sahel farmer who managed to increase the yield of maize, sorghum and millets from 1900kg to 3900 kg merely putting stone contours to keep the soil moist to prevent from dryness and making compost with cow manure and crop residues to replenish the soil. He also managed to assist others who were short of food with the crops he successfully harvested using this gained knowledge. This small case study shows that small changes in agricultural practice can actually help farmers to increase their yield of production by sharing knowledge. However, yield is not the only important focus in food security but also nutrition of the people since having a healthy and balanced diet is crucial for infants to grow healthily and for adults to stay strong and live wholeheartedly.

Lessons can be taught to family farmers to diversify the types of agricultural crops they grow in order to get a sustainable and fruitful exploitation of their land resources. Bartering is also a good way exchanging goods with other family farmers, with the right farming and nutritional knowledge they can benefit from each other’s produces. November the 19th till the 21st 2014, the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) will be held at FAO Rome drawing special attention to the problem of malnutrition, a significant contributor to child morbidity and mortality. There are different types of malnutrition including under-nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and over-weight, and this link from World Food Program (WPF) defines them well http://www.wfp.org/hunger/glossary.

A single or a few family farms might seem ininfluential, but the collective power of family farming cannot be ignored to help with the long-term world food security and nutrition issues.

First input:
12th September 2014

Rachel Cheng

PhD student. Department of Agriculture, Forestry, Nature and Energy (DAFNE), Università degli Studi della Tuscia.

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