The International Year of Family Farming comes at a time when the majority of agricultural policies do not meet the needs of family farmers, particularly of women. Yet, family farmers deserve to be supported for many different reasons. Fatou Batta, in her last column of 2013, gives some suggestions for appropriate measures for supporting family farmers.
2014 has been declared the International Year of Family Farming by the UN. The preparations for the IYFF are already causing an unprecedented movement. José Antonio Osaba and Laura Lorenzo of the World Rural Forum share their visions on the potential of this year.
The UN’s decade of education for sustainable development (2005-2014) has brought few benefits for the rural population in the Sahel. Most of the region’s education programmes are inadequate, discriminating against girls and not taking into account the differing social, cultural and economic contexts. Yet it is also possible to find many effective strategies. Fatou Batta looks at some of these inspiring forms of education.
When the focus is on group learning and innovation, and building on what participants know and wish to learn and apply, field-based education can be relatively low-cost and yield rapid improvements in production. Peter Ton argues for farming-oriented education, presenting the positive results seen with Farmer Field Schools (FFS).
(June 2013) In today’s globalised world it is often hard for small-scale producers to access such markets on equitable terms. Development agencies need to make sure that the concerns of these farmers are taken into account in national policies, argues Fatou Batta.
(June 2013) Female entrepreneurs are a formidable force in Zimbabwe's rural areas. Shiela Chikulo argues for public policies and private support. This will help them continue supporting their families, while simultaneously contributing to economic recovery and growth.
(March 2013) Fatou Batta looks at the key role women play in African agriculture.They do more than 70% of the work on the land, and are responsible for almost all processing activities. But do we understand clearly enough the roles of rural women farmers? How can we provide women with strategic support that can enable them to influence agriculture policies?
(March 2013) The System of Rice Intensification is a very good example of agro-ecology in action, argues Rik Thijssen.Some thirty years ago, near the town of Nagua in the Dominican Republic, small-scale rice farmers were experimenting with transplanting seedlings.Today, just like back then, farmers are taking the lead.
(December 2012) David Millar looks at some of the obstacles to tree-planting in northern Ghana and identifies other strategies for combating climate change.Better grassland management provides an opportunity for northern Ghana to participate in the global efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, benefit from the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), provide income generation opportunities and efficiently contribute to the fight against desertification.
(December 2012) Eric Holt-Gimenez argues the need for a pro-active movement based on land sovereignty to fight land grabbing.Farmers’ organisations, social movements and development NGOs need to find “common ground” to protect peasant farmers, forest dwellers, indigenous communities, family farmers and urban agriculture from the devastation of dispossession.
(September 2012) There is a difference between producing more food and ending hunger, says Eric Holt-Giménez. To end hunger we must end poverty and inequality. Conventional agriculture’s record on these issues is abysmal. To end hunger we need agro-ecological approaches and structural reforms that ensure that resource-poor farmers have the land and resources they need for sustainable livelihoods.
(september 2012) Farmer organisations represent the social capital needed in the rural areas, says Thomas Mupetesi. National policy makers should pay attention to the role that farmers’ organisations can play in tackling environmental issues, building on what organisations like ours are doing. What we need to do is to share the lessons learnt and show what these organisations are already doing to respond to climate change.
Farmers need to participate in the processes that shape all rules and regulations, argues Christian Gouët.An approach such as the Participatory Generation of Positions and Proposals (PGPP) can help link these organisations with policy makers.
The world's different food movements need to work together, argues Eric Holt-Giménez. The question facing them is “How can we, in all our diversity, converge to become powerful enough to transform the world’s food systems?” The answer is being forged daily, on the ground, as political alliances grow between producers, workers and consumers, and as social movements begin bridging North-South and urban-rural divides: “convergence in diversity”.
Honey bees are amazing creatures, but they are dying by the millions. John Wightman looks at our slow reaction to their disappearance, calling for someone to apply slow response thought processes so as to search for a global solutions. Quoting Einstein, if the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left.
“Investments” in southern India have very negative consequences, says Suprabha Seshan. "In my immediate neighbourhood, a tea farm sells at 1 million rupees an acre. A few years ago it would have been a fifth of this price. Of course this means that rural people are leaving the countryside. They are leaving independent and stable (though, not easy) lives to become consumers in the shanty towns around cities."
Eric Holt-Gimenez argues that “Wall Street has been occupying our food system”, and this has had disastrous results. In 2008 and again in 2010, prices for staple crops like rice, wheat, and corn doubled and tripled, extending the grip of poverty and deprivation to hundreds of millions of people.
While at the start of 2011 "a dangerous conspiracy of silence on the subject of land grabbing" seemed to be in place, more and more organisations are showing what’s really happening, says Robin Palmer. More and more information is coming from the ILC, GRAIN, ActionAid, ...
Peter Gubbels looks at the potential of food reserves. In the Sahel, increased food reserves and buffer stocks at the regional, national and local levels can be a valuable tool for improving access to food and for stabilising food prices. Purchasing locally produced foodstuffs when prices are low, and selling when prices are high, can keep prices in check, protect farmers’ incomes and mitigate the effect of steep price rises.
FAO’s new Director General won’t have an easy job, but still “we have hope”, says Francisco Caporal. Since FAO’s mandate is “to achieve food security for all and ensure that people have regular access to good quality food”, it would be great to see if José Graziano da Silva has read the reports of his future colleague at the UN, Olivier De Schutter, who recommends a profound shift in agricultural policies in order to ensure food security worldwide.