Decade of Family Farming has begun

60 million women and men work in family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean. ({hptp via Jorge Luis Baños_IPS)
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With an international meeting in Rome, the United Nations launched the Decade of Family Farming, a sector that employs more than 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean


Santiago, Chile – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched the United Nations Decade for Family Farming on Wednesday at FAO headquarters in Rome, and a Global Plan of Action to boost this sector, particularly in developing countries.

The two UN agencies will lead the Decade of Family Farming declared by the United Nations in late 2017, in recognition of its fundamental importance: more than 90% of all farms worldwide are family farms and they produce 80% of the world’s food, in terms of value.

Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Representative at the launch

“Family farming is a fundamental ally to promote sustainable development, eliminate hunger, obesity and all forms of malnutrition. Latin America and the Caribbean has been one of the pioneer regions in recognizing this potential, and many countries have put family farming at the center of their food security and rural development policies. But we need to advance much more. We hope that this decade will give us the necessary impetus for this,” said Julio Berdegué, FAO Regional Representative.

Family farmers are important drivers of sustainable development

The Decade of Family Farming aims to create a conducive environment that strengthens their position, and maximizes their contributions to global food security and nutrition, and a healthy, resilient and sustainable future.

The Global Action Plan provides detailed guidance for the international community on collective and coherent actions that can be taken during 2019-2028.

For this reason, it is important to increase, among other factors, the access of family farmers to social protection systems, financing, markets, training and income generation opportunities.

Family farming encompasses the production of all food – be that plant-based, meat, including fish, other animal products such as eggs or dairy, and food grown on agricultural lands, in forests, in the mountains, or on fish farms – that is managed and operated by a family, and is predominantly reliant on the family labour of both women and men.

Family farmers provide healthy, diversified and culturally appropriate foods, and grow most of the food in both developing and developed countries.

They generate on- and off-farm employment opportunities, and help rural economies grow.

They preserve and restore biodiversity and ecosystems, and use production methods that can help reduce or avert the risks of climate change.

They ensure the succession of knowledge and tradition from generation to generation, and promote social equity and community well-being.

They are the vast majority

There are more 16.5 million family farms throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and eight out of ten farms in the region are part of the sector.

56% of them (9.6 million) are in South America; 35% in Central America and Mexico (5.8%); and 9% (1.5 million) in the Caribbean.

The weight and importance of family farming with respect to the entire agricultural sector varies from country to country, but its primacy is undeniable: more than 90% of all agricultural holdings in Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Paraguay and Suriname are part of family farming.

In other countries, although with a lower percentage, it remains the majority sector of agriculture: more than 80% of the agricultural holdings in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama and Saint Lucia are part of the family agriculture.

A great source of work

60 million women and men work in family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean, which means that the life of about 1 in every 11 people in the region is intimately linked to this sector, which gives work in rural areas, where the highest poverty rates are to be found.

There are more people dedicated to family farming than those who live throughout the entire Caribbean, and we all benefit from their work: they produce most of the fresh and locally available food in a sustainable way.

Despite its importance, only 23% of agricultural land in Latin America and the Caribbean is in the hands of family farmers. In the Andean countries this percentage is even lower: just 13%.

The average size of family farms in the region is 13 hectares, but if the Southern Cone is excluded, the average size falls to just 2.5 hectares.

A regional priority for FAO

Family farming is one of the three priorities of FAO’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean. FAO seeks to improve the sector’s access to resources, strengthen producer organizations and promote the participation of rural communities in sustainable rural development strategies.

In addition, FAO works to ensure that productive programs are linked to comprehensive social protection policies, fostered productive enterprises and promoting decent employment.

FAO’s fieldwork includes low-tech solutions – within the reach of small producers – such as rainwater harvesting systems that allow farmers to cope with drought and extend their growing cycles; but also cutting-edge technology solutions, such as water sensors located in the field connected to the Internet in three countries Colombia, El Salvador and Peru, in crops of potatoes, bananas, and even cotton, which allow extremely efficient water management.

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