'This is the beginning of a process'
After months of campaigning led by the World Rural Forum (WRF), 2014 was proclaimed the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the General Assembly of the UN in July 2011. The IYFF is supported by several NGOs as well as by 350 farmers and rural organisations from 60 countries worldwide.
The entire year, explains José Osaba, general advisor at the WRF, one of the co-ordinating organisations, will be dedicated to stressing the importance of family farmers. "This represents a step forward in getting family farmers' role recognised as efficient and knowledgeable food producers, and protectors of biodiversity. In this manner, the International Year is not seen as an end in itself but as the beginning of a process which will help empower farmers' organisations and earn them recognition as primary agents of their own development."
Better policies and better food
The IYFF was established to facilitate the adoption of favourable agricultural policies, with aim to address farmers and rural workers' specific needs. Farmers and the organisations they work with in the Global South are demanding better and greater infrastructure and services in rural areas and in family agriculture, more research and training, the adoption of measures to increase rural employment and rural development as well as better access to markets, financial resources and protection against climate change.
One of the aims of the IYFF is to raise awareness on the importance of family farming, the products and traditions that have fed people for generations. Amongst other activities, contact will be established with internationally renowned chefs and media professionals to promote, through various initiatives, traditional cuisine and local products.
Starting in 2012, the WRF will co-ordinate with family farmers organisations a process to collect scientific data about family farmers' work and will work at identifying regional facilitators to give advice and guidance at the national scale.
Making it a milestone
For Osaba, 2014 comes at a relevant time with 2015 being the deadline and year of assessment of the Millennium Development Goals. "Most people who are going hungry are located in rural areas", he explains. "Therefore, the IYFF initiative will help to better reflect on the achievements and failures of the MDGs."
"In order to make 2014 a great milestone in solving problems and finding solutions, we now have to confront the great challenge of going deeper into the many crucial issues and aspirations of the hundreds of millions of women and men farmers, at national and world levels", according to the World Rural Forum.
Text: Geneviève Lavoie-Mathieu