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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition The many faces of resilience

The many faces of resilience

last modified Jan 16, 2015 10:11 AM

Poverty and vulnerability combine in a vicious circle for many family farmers. To break that and turn it into a virtuous cycle, resilience must be built into farming and the systems in which farmers operate. There is an urgent need for a change in mindset regarding family farming, agriculture and food systems in general, and resilience must be the central concept in this new thinking.

Shocks to agricultural systems come in multiple forms, as do the ways that can be used to resist them. These are the many faces of resilience - resilience to changing climates, land degradation and other environmental factors; resilience to economic shocks from volatile markets and financial crises; and resilience to social pressures such as outmigration.

Farming Matters issue 30.2 shows how farmers have experimented, adapted, and improved their resilience to one or more of these shocks. Examples include the development of informal markets for farm produce, making better use of traditional knowledge, and diversifying farming systems with bees and trees. Governments can also assist by providing social safety nets. But governments can do much more, and one significant way would be to correct the imbalances in the global food system that work against the ability of family farmers to break out of the vicious circle.

Farming Matters | 30.2 | June 2014

Featured articles

Table of contents:

  • 2 - 2
    Deadline: 1 September 2014.
  • 3 - 3
    Lower rainfall in Burkina Faso meant that Souobou Tiguidanla and his family could not produce enough food to feed themselves. Then they adopted agroecological practices, and now they have enough to share with their neighbours.
  • 5 - 5
    Half way through the International Year of Family Farming, in many parts of the world, family farmers are celebrating and discussing their future with policy makers and civil society. But most poor rural communities struggling for their daily survival continue to be unaware of even the existence of such a year.
  • 6 - 7
    At the start of 2014, we asked you to give us feedback on Farming Matters, and we thank all those hundreds of you who responded. You have helped by providing us with findings that are a useful resource for both reflection and action. To inform our future strategies and keep satisfying your needs, we asked how to encourage you to contribute, best manage the transition towards greater online content, improve outreach through social media, and how to better engage women and youth.
  • 8 - 11
    In August 2012, the Seidu family had to cope with the bad harvest. Like many farming families in northern Ghana, they had to adopt the ‘one-zero-one’ strategy for the children and the ‘zero-zero-one’ strategy for themselves. ‘One’ represents a meal, ‘zero’ is no meal. So during the lean season, their four children had breakfast in the morning, nothing at midday, and a meal in the evening.
  • 12 - 15
    The Alentejo is the largest and poorest region of Portugal. Cooperatives and other social initiatives that arose after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 were later closed under pressure from the European Union. It was hoped that massive investments would make Portugal a role model for economic development, but the financial crisis has revealed the flaws in those dreams. And more complex legal regulations make life even harder for traditional small scale producers. However, they continue to use and defend local markets even in the face of criminalisation.
  • 16 - 18
    Interview > Cantave Jean-Baptiste is a Haitian agronomist and rural development practitioner with more than three decades of experience supporting sustainable agriculture and strengthening peasant organisations. He is Executive Director of Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL) in Haiti, and a founding member of Groundswell International. Farming Matters asked Mr Jean-Baptiste how family farmers can build resilience in Haiti, a country where an estimated 80% of the population lives in poverty.
  • 19 - 19
    Why is poverty deepening in Africa even when millions of dollars continue to be poured in to alleviate it?, asks Million Belay. He answers by highlighting how we need to promote agroecology, treat agriculture as a system, and move away from green revolution approaches.
  • 20 - 23
    Dealing with the uncertainties of changing climates is a challenge faced by farmers around the world. Near Cochabamba in Bolivia’s Andean high plateau, a group of agroecological farmers are leading the way by developing and sharing innovative practices that help their communities break out of the vicious cycle of increased poverty and vulnerability. But challenges remain...
  • 24 - 25
    India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the largest public-works based employment programme in the world. Unanimously enacted by the Indian parliament in 2005, implementation began in February 2006. With an annual budget of six billion US dollars, it now supports some fifty million rural people – larger than the population of Senegal, Mali and Niger combined. This article focuses on the successes, issues and potential of the Act to improve the well being of workers and family farmers.
  • 26 - 28
    One way that family farmers improve their resilience to both climatic and economic shocks is to diversify what is produced. More and different crops and livestock, particularly local varieties and breeds are being promoted. Two other options stand out too – bees and trees. These have the added advantages of complementing the production of agricultural crops and enhancing the agroecosystem. In Zimbabwe, the Ruzivo Trust has been promoting beekeeping, and the results are showing the sweet taste of success. Bees can help farmers break out of poverty.
  • 29 - 29
    ‘Land grabbing’ has grabbed people’s attention in recent years, but this phenomenon is not restricted to developing countries. In the heart of Europe, young German farmers like Paula Giola are also struggling to retain and regain access to farmland.
  • 30 - 33
    Butana is a dry plateau in northern Sudan, east of the river Nile. Covering 65,000 square kilometres, less than 10% can be described as ‘woodland’ in the vaguest sense of the word, and even these trees are disappearing rapidly. The Butana Integrated Rural Development Project began in 2008 with the aim of supporting the livelihoods of poor family farmers by strengthening their resilience in the face of recurrent droughts. And improving tree cover was a key means of achieving this.
  • 34 - 35
    Who Wants to Farm? / State of the World 2014 / Feeding Frenzy / The transformative potential of the right to food / More on resilience
  • 36 - 37
    After the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990, former land owners returned to Nicaragua from the USA. They began to take back their former estates through legal and less than legal manoeuvering, driving many rural people off the land they had been cultivating. This ‘agrarian counter-reform’ as it became known, left many hundreds of people landless in its wake during the 1990s and early 2000s. Now a national union has adopted agroecology and is leading the way for peasant farmers to collectively work their way out of poverty and towards a more resilient model of agriculture.
  • 38 - 39
    Cultivating resilience is a practice that we see arising in many corners of the world. A seed is sown, it is watered and tended, and a stronger farming system emerges. Here, from four different continents, we see diverse examples of such development and how they are helping family farmers.
  • 40 - 42
    Interview > Olivier De Schutter - “Agroecology is really common sense. It means understanding how nature works, to replicate the natural workings of nature on farms in order to reduce dependency on external inputs. Agroecology preserves the ability for future generations to feed themselves. I believe we should teach more about agroecology and encourage exchanges between farmers. We cannot continue in this impasse of an oil dependent food production system.”
  • 43 - 43
    Navina Khanna introduces the food justice movement in the USA, and how from the corner shop to Capitol Hill, communities are making waves, and fighting for fairer policies in both corporate and governmental sectors.
  • 44 - 45
    We have read about poverty, vulnerability and resilience of family farming. The articles in this issue of Farming Matters have shown that there is an urgent need for a change in mindset regarding family farming, agriculture and food systems. And resilience must be the central concept in this new thinking.
  • 46 - 47
    Members of the AgriCultures Network are working together to advance family farming and agroecology by drawing lessons from farmers’ fields, sharing knowledge and working with social movements for policy change. Read our latest news.
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