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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition Family farming: a way of life

Family farming: a way of life

last modified Jan 16, 2015 10:11 AM

The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, recognising the multiple social, economic, environmental and cultural functions of family farmers. Many family farmers have proven to be innovative and resilient under the right socio-political framework and conditions – especially when supported by the right policies.

Using agro-ecological practices, family farmers can exert a large degree of autonomy and still be part of the global economy – working with, rather than against nature. They pool their labour and resources, and increase their yields. They organise themselves and make their voices heard. They build their own educational spaces where they learn from each other and teach others. Women play a key role in these strategies.

This issue of Farming Matters highlights inspiring experiences of strengthening family farming, while maintaining the values and knowledge that characterise this particular and resilient type of agriculture.

Farming Matters | 29.4 | December 2013

Featured articles

Table of contents:

  • 2 - 2
    Deadline: March 1st, 2014.
  • 3 - 3
    Holly Whitesides and her husband are trying to go “against the grain” of industrial agriculture in the United States. They use their family farm and their work on saving seed to convince other farmers and groups of the importance of a sovereign seed stock.
  • 5 - 5
    The year 2014 has been proclaimed by the UN as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). As several articles in this issue of Farming Matters point out, it makes a great deal of sense to strengthen family farming. Yet there are powerful forces pulling agriculture into a very different direction, as can be seen in the focus on agribusiness in rural policy and practice.
  • 7 - 7
    Farming Matters welcomes comments, ideas and suggestions from its readers. Please contact us via e-mail at or write to P.O Box 90, 6700 AB Wageningen, the Netherlands.
  • 8 - 11
    Even in the International Year of Family Farming there is confusion about family farming. What is it, and what distinguishes it from entrepreneurial farming or family agribusiness? The confusion tends to be highest in places where the modernisation of agriculture has led society further away from farming. Jan Douwe van der Ploeg takes us into the world of family farming, which he says is considered to be “both archaic and anarchic, and attractive and seductive”.
  • 12 - 15
    In the westernmost region of the Caroline Islands of Micronesia lies the Republic of Palau. Palauan traditional farming shows how agriculture, family values and culture are interconnected. Despite these connections, family farms are facing challenges. By joining forces, the small-scale family farms of these islands are standing up for their rights and calling for support for maintaining important (agri)cultural customs.
  • 16 - 18
    Interview > Deo Sumaj - About 23 years ago, in Santiago del Estero, a province in the north of Argentina, the Peasant Movement of Santiago del Estero Via Campesina (MOCASE -VC) was established. One of its leaders is Deo Sumaj, an impressive peasant woman of the Vilela indigenous people. “Peasant family farming could provide many answers to the crises that humanity faces.”
  • 19 - 19
    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.
  • 20 - 21
    The area around Wum in the Northwest Province of Cameroon is notorious as a conflict hotspot. As pressure increases on available land, conflicts occur more frequently between sedentary family farmers and pastoral communities. Farmer-pastoralist alliances are helping to resolve the conflicts by transforming the relationships between these families.
  • 22 - 24
    The organisations working together in the Agricultural Biodiversity Knowledge Programme (agrobiodiversity@knowledged) initiated by Oxfam Novib and Hivos all work with family farmers who make a living by using, conserving and regenerating the agricultural biodiversity they have as a base. The possibility of reversing high dependence on agrichemical inputs on a large scale, particularly among family farmers who work in close-knit networks, is illustrated by the experiences of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) in Andhra Pradesh, India.
  • 25 - 25
    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.
  • 26 - 28
    In rural Valencia, Spain, youth unemployment exceeds 50 percent. However, young people are not waiting for outsiders to come and solve their problems. An excursion to local initiatives in the region proved to be a wonderful opportunity to learn from new, young peasants about self-organised development.
  • 29 - 29
    Agricultural professionals are increasingly looking for new developments in training methods. We hear many theories about “what works”, but how do we translate these into an effective ways of developing knowledge? The expert meeting “Beyond Knowledge Sharing” aimed to facilitate this transition from knowledge to practice.
  • 30 - 31
    Some may view indigenous communities as being conservative and backwards. However, the Kabekwa in Costa Rica show that such communities can be adaptable and innovative. In response to changing circumstances, this community has been adapting its farming practices constantly, benefiting from it in multiple ways.
  • 32 - 33
    Realising farmers’ rights to crop genetic resources / Towards co-creation of sciences / Women’s rights and the right to food / The future of agriculture / Trade and environment review 2013 / Right to food and nutrition watch 2013
  • 34 - 35
    Family farmers and the many ways in which they contribute to food security, healthy landscapes and thriving rural communities can be supported in a number of ways. These are some initiatives from around the world.
  • 36 - 38
    Steven Kiranga Gichanga is a family farmer in Mugaari, a village in Kenya. He was trained in goat rearing but could not afford a goat to get started. He was also trained in bee keeping but could not afford a bee hive either. After a community reflection forum in 2012, Steven became aware of his own creative capacities and his ability to think outside the box. Then he came up with a brilliant idea.
  • 39 - 39
    Family farming matters. In Africa, 60 to 70% of producers live in rural areas and they produce most of what Africa’s people consume. However, despite this contribution, family farming is often sidelined in academic discussions and in agricultural policies.
  • 40 - 41
    ILEIA offers capacity building support on documentation and systematisation to a number of organisations around the world. From 2011 to 2013, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) invited ILEIA to guide a documentation trajectory in Eastern and Southern Africa, to enable reflection on experiences working with smallholders.
  • 42 - 43
    In the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), the AgriCultures Network will be buzzing with activity. The magazines within our network will be exploring aspects of family farming, such as their role in promoting biodiversity and nutrition.
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