What are we reading?
There is increasing evidence which shows that "business-as-usual" for the food system is no longer an option. Agro-technologies, such as high-yielding crop varieties, agrochemical inputs and mechanization have mainly benefited large land owners and transnational corporations, at the expense of small businesses, the most vulnerable and the environment. Unless challenged, the already-significant ecological footprint of industrial agriculture is expected to increase as a result of future global environmental change.
Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2014. ESA Working Paper No. 14-02. Rome, FAO. / The agricultural economics literature provides various estimates of the number of farms and small farms in the world. This paper is an effort to provide a more complete and up to date as well as carefully documented estimate of the total number of farms in the world, as well as by region and level of income. It uses data from numerous rounds of the World Census of Agriculture, the only dataset available which allows the user to gain a complete picture of the total number of farms globally and at the country level. The paper provides estimates of the number of family farms, the number of farms by size as well as the distibution of farmland by farm size.
No ordinary matter: Conserving, restoring and rnhancing Africa’s soils - A Montpellier Panel Report, December 2014
Soil is a resource that has for too long been neglected in the policy realm. This report is a strong plea to donors and governments, to adopt a long-term vision and backed by adequate financial support, to help farmers nurture, conserve and restore their soils. This book looks at the extent of soil degradation in Africa and the role of traditional and ecological approaches to building up soil organic matter and biota. Climate change, and the need for both mitigation and adaptation, is highlighted as an urgent reason why agricultural management must aim to build soil carbon and resilient systems. Recommendations range from the grassroots, building on existing local and traditional knowledge, to higher level policy decisions such as attributing values to land degradation, and securing land rights that create incentives to invest in the soil.
Permaculture seeks to create systems where natural soil fertility is fostered and describes a healthy soil as having three main characteristics; rich and diverse biological life, good structure and available nutrients. This handbook outlines how to conduct ‘farmer-friendly’ soil tests requiring no special training or equipment, and focuses on the first two characteristics of a healthy soil. The tests cover a range of soil properties including, drainage, earthworm population, pH, soil texture, topsoil depth and soil compaction. Instructions for carrying out the tests are clear and easy to follow. It is accompanied by the ‘soil advice handbook’ which helps to interpret test results. This is a practical resource for farmers who want to learn more about soil testing, and the Permaculture Association welcomes feedback from farmers around the world so that they can keep improving them.
As the facilitating agency of the IYFF, FAO contributed to this worldwide campaign by setting in motion a policy dialogue process, including six Regional Dialogues on Family Farming, civil society consultations at the FAO Regional Conferences - all of which focused attention on the challenges facing family farming and the actions that need to be taken to foster their role as key drivers of food production and stewards of natural resources, territories and landscapes in all regions of the world. This year-long process culminated with the Global Dialogue on Family Farming which proved to be a phenomenal representation of the energy and action that characterized the entire Year.
Final report for the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition (18 and 19 September 2014, Rome, Italy)
FAO held the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome on 18 and 19 September 2014 and a side-event on the Symposium during COAG on 30 September 2014. This report provides an overview of the Symposium and the COAG side-event.
Results-Based Management for sustaining rural poverty reduction: Lessons from IFAD 7th regional forum
Results-Based Management is no longer just an option. It actually is opting for performance. Projects must produce the best results possible through capacity-building and existing instruments, based on best management practices that have been proven to be effective. This special edition of AGRIDAPE, published by IED Afrique, falls within this context. The goal is to help document and share the forum’s main results and lessons on a larger scale.
Soils are the basis of our food production and much more, and this book explains much and in an easily readable way. Short pieces of text and infographics make the messages clear. For example, in explaining the global picture of the rate at which we are losing soil to erosion, contamination and declining soil fertility. But this book also covers the role of soils in land policy, tenure, mining, urbanisation, ‘green’ cities and traditional systems. Although there is an emphasis on where we are going wrong, the Soil Atlas does also showcase positive experiences. From innovative grazing techniques keeping pastoralists on their land, cooperation between farmers to stop soil erosion, and to urban design that includes food production – the message is clear. Whether a farmer or not, soils concern us all, and soil conservation deserves global attention.
Handbook on capitalisation of experiences 2012: Knowledge management and adaptation to climate change
This manual, developed by IED Afrique, provides guidance on how to draw lessons from farmers’ experiences in climate change adaptation. The enormous challenge of adaptating to climate change requires the systematisation and sharing of these lessons, so that new and ongoing initiatives can be improved. The manual builds on Learning from experience. It offers a refresher on key concepts in systematisation, and outlines practical steps and tools.
French version of the manual: Handbook on capitalisation of experiences 2012: Knowledge management and adaptation to climate change
Spécialisation ou diversification? Perspectives divergentes sur la riziculture irriguée par trois grands barrages dans le Sahel
French version of the report: Specialisation or diversification? Divergent perspectives on rice farming in three large dam-irrigated areas in the Sahel
In order to combat hunger and malnutrition, we need to ensure that the human right to food of vulnerable groups is protected and realized in a way that gives them control over their food and farming systems. There are real opportunities to do so through agroecological farming practices, in which farmers work with nature instead of with chemical inputs, and through producer-consumer initiatives which increase people’s food sovereignty. This information brief was published by ILEIA in collaboration with FIAN and OtherWise.
Tropenbos International, the AgriCultures Network and the Forest and Farm Facility, created a space so voices from the fields and forests could be heard at the Global Landscapes Forum, Lima, Peru, (6-7 December 2014).
“Why do we spend time and money documenting stories, when so many people still go hungry?” This valid question was asked in April 2014 in a documentation workshop conducted by ILEIA in Rwanda. Shouldn’t our resources be better used to directly support poor family farmers, as do many IFAD-funded projects in East and Southern Africa? Perhaps. But if we don’t put effort into analysing, sharing and learning from our own experiences and from others, will we be able to develop our work in the most efficient way? Perhaps not. Emerging practical knowledge and experience is rarely documented, analysed, synthesised and shared beyond the immediate sphere of the project. As a result, information that proves to be very valuable to others is not made available and opportunities for upscaling and outscaling are missed. In response to this gap, IFAD, IFADAfrica and ILEIA engaged in a process to bring out lessons from selected projects. ILEIA and the documentation team looked at seven experiences that took place in Rwanda, Madagascar and Uganda, ranging from biogas systems to household mentoring approaches. In all cases, the initial ideas for the implemented activities came from other countries in the global South, and after local adaptations, knowledge then also spread to other countries. This focus on international processes of sharing and learning between countries of the South, as well as on local and national levels, falls within IFAD’s focus on South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC).
Spanish version of the 'Towards stronger family farms: Voices in the International Year of Family Farming'
Vers une agriculture familiale plus forte: Points de vue au cœur de l’Année internationale de l’agriculture familiale
French version of of the 'Towards stronger family farms: Voices in the International Year of Family Farming'
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.
The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (G8NA), was inaugurated in 2012 as a commitment by the governments of the G8, African countries and corporate sector partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty in ten years by “unleashing the power of the private sector.” Ten African countries have signed cooperation agreements and several domestic and international companies have pledged to invest in areas relevant to food security and nutrition, amounting to more than US$7 billion. The G8NA has been heavily criticized, however, and this report adds to the discussion. Core problems with the initiative are highlighted, including governance of the alliance, the dominance of large corporate actors, and that it is poorly integrated into existing international processes and agreements. It concludes with a call halting the G8NA altogether unless radical changes are implemented, such as greater transparency, more civil society participation, and framing options within Committee on World Food Security principles and guidelines.
To celebrate the International Year of family Farming, FAO produced this extensive tome dedicated to stories surrounding the actual and potential future benefits of family farming. Deep Roots contains some 70 specially commissioned articles on diverse aspects of family farming from around the world, including regional overview papers that summarise the current situation and recent developments in each. ILEIA also contributed with an agroecological perspective in ‘Unlocking the potential of family farmers with agroecology’ (pages 42-45), followed by articles on gender and youth. FAO’S Director General Jose Graziano da Silva tells us that “out of 570 million farms in the world, 500 million are family owned, making the well-being of farm families inextricably woven into the overall wellbeing of societies, with tremendous implications for food production and sustainability.” He also confirms the organisation’s commitment to supporting FAO member states in shaping enabling policies and the knowledge environment for family farming in the years to come. Many photos in the book, including the cover photo, are entries in the AgriCultures Network’s Family Farming Photo Competition.
For most of the last 50 years, food production has increased ahead of population growth, with much of this coming from small scale family farms. Why then are such households still disproportionately vulnerable to undernutrition? The report does not address this question, as the real answer would indicate that more extreme actions are needed than the general recommendations put forward. These are that smallholder agricultural development can be an excellent way to reduce poverty and tackle hunger, that patterns of agricultural development need steering towards more diversified food production, and that smallholder agricultural programmes need backing up with primary health care, clean water and sanitation, female empowerment and other interventions. No-one may disagree with any of these, but it appears that much more is required, and that would involve a radical change in mindset regarding a rebalancing of power between family farms and local food systems, and the farming for profit agri-business model that currently dominates.