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You are here: Home Resources Further reading News Family farmers need recognition... but what type of agriculture do they want?

Family farmers need recognition... but what type of agriculture do they want?

last modified Mar 15, 2012 01:57 PM
Mar 15, 2012: During the combined Fourth Global Meeting of the Farmers' Forum and the 35th Session of the IFAD’s Governing Council in February in Rome there was a consensus that family farmers need more policy recognition. But, when listening carefully one could hear different and sometimes opposed interpretations of what sustainable family farming is all about.

Sustainable agriculture and the contribution of small-scale farmers’ organisations to global food security were thoroughly discussed last month in Rome. From 20 to 23th February two important events took place in the capital of Italy: the Fourth Global Meeting of the Farmers' Forum and the 35th Session of the IFAD’s Governing Council.

Both events purposefully overlapped: the final plenary session of the Farmers’ Forum was open to IFAD governors and the participants of the Farmer’s Forum were invited to the session of the Governing Council with observer’s status.

Moreover the Synthesis of Deliberations of the Farmers’ Forum was delivered to the Governing Council on the first day of its meeting. Prior to these meetings there was a specific event with young farmers, culminating in a powerful statement on the future of agriculture.

The Farmer’s Forum was attended by about 95 delegates from farmers’ and fishermen’s networks and an equal number of observers attended the forum. They represented a range of perspectives, from mainstream to radical and various colours of green in between.

Family farmers deserve a greater acknowledgement for the contribution they make to feeding and maintaining the planet.

The focus of the meeting was on institutional strengthening of the farmer’s organisations and on building strategies to ensure greater participation of those organisations in policy processes. Involvement of youth and women in agriculture also received much attention.

The IFAD Governing Council meeting was a high profile event. Among the participants were: President of the Republic of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, Prime Minister of the Italian Republic, Mario Moti, the Italian Minister for International Cooperation, Andrea Riccardi and Bill Gates.

These events were an opportunity to reflect on the involvement of the farmers’ organisations in IFAD activities and in national policy-making processes. IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze speaking at the opening session highlighted the importance of collaboration. "Partnerships are central to IFAD’s work. And farmers from developing countries are our most important partner of all. They are the experts and the agents of change in ensuring enough food for an ever-growing population. We need them and their knowledge to do our job – to help grow more food and increase the resilience of smallholder farmers worldwide who currently feed one-third of the global population."

President Nwanze explained that 90 per cent of IFAD’s projects have benefitted from the input of producers’ organizations since the last meeting of the Farmers’ Forum two years ago. “But we are well aware that there is still more to do in terms of inclusiveness and consistency in these partnerships” he added. Speaking about recent climate shocks and the run up to the Rio+20 conference in June he emphasised that IFAD and its grassroots partners including youth organisations must strengthen their collaboration.

Several speakers stressed the need for more direct involvement of small-scale producers in the design and implementation of rural development plans at all levels.

Estrella Penunia Banzuela of the Asian Farmers’ Association asserted that the UN Year of Family Farming scheduled for 2014 will be meaningful only if it involves smallholders in policy advocacy.

The West African producers’ network ROPPA listed a series of specific policy questions that must be answered as a prerequisite for rural transformation. For example, how will smallholders gain access to credit and markets? And how can we empower rural women and youth, and build the capacities of producers’ organizations?

Jean-Philippe Audinet, who leads IFAD’s work with the Farmers’ Forum, stated that climate change solutions require technological, policy and behavioural responses and stressed that farmers' organisations play an important role in representing smallholders in policy development. “Solutions to climate-related challenges and the enhancement of environmental sustainability is not only a question of technology, but also one of the right policies. Farmers’ organisations play a central role in representing smallholders in policy dialogues to ensure that policies respond to their needs and realities.”

In his presentation, Bill Gates made a plea for sustainable intensification based on technological approaches. He expressed his strong believe, that ‘there is a chance for another revolution in agricultural productivity’ and that ‘sustainable yield increase can lead to better life for farmer’s families’. He also explained that ‘to meet ambitious productivity targets we have to think hard about how to start taking advantage of the digital revolution that is driving innovation in many places’. In particular, he mentioned genomic science and information technology emphasizing that ‘a huge part of the job we share is bringing today’s breakthrough agriculture science and technology to help the farmers’.

Sustainable agriculture and small-scale farmers were the main focus of the session of IFAD’s Governing Council, entitled ‘Sustainable smallholder agriculture: feeding the world, protecting the planet’. The session focused on ‘sustainable intensification’ of the food production with the view of the growing demand for food in the future. Taking the idea of ‘using natural processes and mix of new and traditional technologies’ as a starting point, different approaches to sustainable agriculture were discussed.

Those included: conservation agriculture, Integrated Pest Management, organic agriculture, sustainable forest management, improved crop varieties, balanced fertilization and bio fertilization. Ways to scale-up sustainable approaches were another important and related topic of the session. Here, several options were considered: creating s level playing field for sustainable agriculture, providing financing, ensuring clear land rights, investing in building resilience of the small-scale farmers, engaging private investments, enhancing cooperation and providing small-scale framers possibilities to acquire new skills and knowledge.

The Farmers’ Forum has several sessions with a specific focus on sustainable and organic agriculture. Discussions were lively and showed that many farmers’ organisations give a growing importance to agroecological approaches.

Another side event focused on the Rio+20 Conference. It was an opportunity for the participants to share their views on the Zero Draft document. The discussions revealed a strong and shared discontent with the fact that the document pays no attention to family farming and the importance of agroecological approaches in the context of a green economy.

This side event was an opportunity to discuss different strategies to approach the Rio+20 conference. It became clear that there are many roads leading to Rio, but there was a clear consensus about the key message to be taken to Rio: Family farmers deserve a greater acknowledgement for the contribution they make to feeding and maintaining the planet.

These two events in Rome showed once more that there are two ways of thinking about the future of the agriculture and the gap between them is difficult to bridge.

As Roger Leakney from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia phrased it: “Agriculture suffers from widely polarized views of how to go forward from ‘agribusiness and GMOs are the magic bullet’ to the most extreme civil society and organic viewpoints”.

Formal and informal discussions that took place in Rome demonstrated that the latter is also true for the UN system where views concerning what actually is sustainable agriculture can be radically different.

As one UN worker said: “People in my organisation call me partial. Yes I am, because I am pro-people and pro-environment”. It would be a positive step forward if farmers’ organisations took the lead and showed the rest of the world how the gap between different ways of thinking about agriculture can be bridged, without compromising the future of millions of family farmers.

Text: Ellen Naughton and Marta Dabrowska

The Farmers’ Forum was initiated in 2005, with the first meeting taking place in 2006, to institutionalize the continuous dialogue between smallholders and rural producers, IFAD and governments of its Member States. The Forum is an on-going, bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between small farmers’ and rural producers’ organisations (FOs), IFAD and governments, focused on agricultural and rural development and poverty reduction.

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Prof.Dr. Erkan REHBER
Prof.Dr. Erkan REHBER says:
Apr 01, 2012 10:18 PM

Food for Thought: “Four Ss with one F”
Security, Safety, Sovereignty, and Shareability of Food (1)

Erkan REHBER (2)

Access to adequate and safe food is a fundamental human need, and a basic human right. Food is also a strategic subject as well as a basic need. In fact, a worldwide hunger and malnutrition problem, called by United Nations (UN) as “food crisis” still exists. It seems a dilemma that while some people in developed countries suffer from an excess of food leading to obesity and other food born problems, people in many developing countries are hungry and undernourished.
To explain food related problems, there is three S’s; security or insecurity, safety, and sovereignty that have been major topics in the public agenda for a long time. When the basic idea “food for all” is considered, these concepts are not inclusive enough. The fourth concept can be described. Hunger does not result from a shortage in the food supply as generally argued. The food problem is related to poverty and the inability to purchase food. It is not possible to solve hunger and nutrition problems and maintain a permanent social peace without equality and justice in income distribution throughout the world in such a way that poor people have enough income to access vital basic food needs. The worldwide injustice and disparity of access to adequate and safe food among people has to be emphasized. It must be realized that all humanity is in the same boat and that all people in the world will sink or sail together. It is a fact that despite many efforts in this field for several decades, present free market oriented approaches have not led to solutions to the problem of food security and providing safe food to all people. A new the fourth concept beside security or insecurity, safety, and sovereignty can be named as shareability. The four concepts are not competitive but rather complementary, even overlapping to some extent. It can be argued that the concept of shareability is not new, included in others. It is truth, but to express its importance it needs to be stated separately. As indicated at the General Assembly Interactive Thematic Dialogue on the Global Food Crisis and the Right to Food meeting held in New York, 6 April 2009, “There is a growing awareness about the fact that the “haves” of this world must change their way of life and the patterns of consumption that show little or no regard for the disastrous impact of their lifestyle on the wellbeing of their neighbors, all world citizens, and our shared home, the planet Earth”. This is called in here “food shareability”.
I hopefully expecting that the main issues of the food problem will be examined under a new concepts and this provide a stimulus for thinking food problems through a simple formula coined as “Four Ss with one F” for getting the "full" story at a glance like five Ws and one H as in used in journalism. The first two; security and safety just simply reveal the availability of enough and safe food while food sovereignty and shareability are opposing concepts to the available free-market based approaches in the efforts to bring all people food security and food safety.

(1) Rehber, E., Food for thought: “four Ss with one F”: Security, safety, sovereignty, and shareability of food", British Food Journal, Vol. 114(3), pp.353 – 371 (2012)

(2) Prof. Dr. Economist & Author,

Dr Rajesh
Dr Rajesh says:
Apr 02, 2012 09:24 AM


Steven Earl Salmony
Steven Earl Salmony says:
Jun 06, 2012 02:43 PM

If we agree to “think globally”, it becomes evident that riveting attention on GROWTH could be a grave mistake because we are denying how economic and population growth in the communities in which we live cannot continue as it has until now. Each village's resources are being dissipated, each town's environment degraded and every city's fitness as place for our children to inhabit is being threatened. To proclaim something like, 'the meat of any community plan for the future is, of course, growth' fails to acknowledge that many villages, towns and cities are already ‘built out’, and also ‘filled in’ with people. If the quality of life we enjoy now is to be maintained for the children, then limits on economic and population growth will have to be set. By so doing, we choose to “act locally" and sustainably.

More economic and population growth are no longer sustainable in many too many places on the surface of Earth because biological constraints and physical limitations are immutably imposed upon ever increasing human consumption, production and population activities of people in many communities where most of us reside. Inasmuch as the Earth is finite with frangible environs, there comes a point at which GROWTH is unsustainable. There is much work to done locally. But that effort cannot reasonably begin without sensibly limiting economic and population growth.

To quote another source, “We face a wide-open opportunity to break with the old ways of doing the town’s business…..” That is a true statement. But the necessary “break with the old ways” of continous economic and population growth is not what is occurring. There is a call for a break with the old ways, but the required changes in behavior are not what is being proposed as we plan for the future. What is being proposed and continues to occur is more of the same, old business-as-usual overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities, the very activities that appear to be growing unsustainbly. More business-as-usual could soon become patently unsustainable, both locally and globally. A finite planet with the size, composition and environs of the Earth and a community with the boundaries, limited resources and wondrous climate of villages, towns and cities where we live may not be able to sustain much longer the economic and population growth that is occurring on our watch. Perhaps necessary changes away from UNSUSTAINABLE GROWTH and toward sustainable lifestyles and right-sized corporate enterprises are in the offing.

Think globally while there is still time and act locally before it is too late for human action to make any difference in the clear and presently dangerous course of unfolding human-induced ecological events, both in our planetary home and in our villages, towns and cities.

martha says:
Aug 05, 2012 05:07 AM

The farmers and peasants are the biggest contributors to the production chains of the countries, since they are constantly feeding the entire operation of a country. The effects of industrial expansion policies are undermining the expanding agricultural frontier and the massification of higher crop economic conversion, forgetting or ignoring traditional and rotating crops, which allow better diversification of crops and better treatment on the land where they are planted. Touch support a proactive recognition for farmers seeking to improve the tax conditions, legislative and economic enabling them to maneuver in a world ever more industrial and more problems because of climate change, a phenomenon by which have suffered constantly for intestabilidad of climate on crops, causing major losses. In are information tools that allows Colombian farmers stay informed about natural phenomena and practical and economic methods to counter this type of industrial change and climate.

Rylee says:
Aug 24, 2012 12:22 PM

Local Nourishment Now that's truly interesting. Sounds like you're alrlgeic to processed or refined corns. As with most allergies, there is a tolerance threshold. So, if enough of the allergen builds up in your system, you'll react. Also, your whole corn my be GMO-free (assuming you buy organic)? If that's the case, you're probably alrlgeic to the GMO corn and not authentic, real corn.

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