Family farmers are agents of change on the ground

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8 July 2021, Rome - The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today stressed the important role played by family farmers in the much needed transformation of agri-food systems, to make them more efficient, resilient, inclusive and sustainable. . 

 Speaking at the Global Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogue of Farmers’ Organizations, he noted that family farmers produce around 80 percent of the food that the world needs. At the same time, small-scale family farmers and their communities often face the highest levels of poverty, food insecurity and vulnerability, and experience many difficulties accessing productive resources, opportunities and markets.  

“Family farmers are agents of change on the ground,” Qu said. “They are key to end hunger and poverty and to boost sustainable agri-food systems.” Therefore, their voices must be heard and respected, the Director-General further pointed out.

There are around 608 million farms in the world, of which more than 90 percent are run by an individual or a family and rely primarily on family labour. Family farms are mostly operated at a small-scale level. Around 95 percent of existing farm units are less than 5 hectares in size and about 98 percent of farms are less than 20 hectares in size. 
The importance of family farmers – including pastoralists, fishers, foresters and indigenous peoples – goes much beyond food production. They also fulfill key environmental, social and cultural roles, and are the custodians of biodiversity, preserving landscapes and maintaining local community and cultural heritage, Qu said. 

FAO’s work 

The Director-General highlighted that the new FAO Strategic Framework assigns an important role to Family Farmers in achieving the Four Betters: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life, leaving no one behind. In particular, some FAO Programme Priority Areas such asSmall-scale Producers’ Equitable Access to Resources and Inclusive Rural Transformation  focus on the role of small-scale producers and family farmers.

FAO is  also the UN’s leading agency for the implementation of the UN Decade of Family Farming 2019 – 2028, together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  

This has allowed the Organization to support its Members in the implementation of effective national frameworks for action. FAO is currently working with 53 countries on the implementation of the Decade’s actions and goals. Nine of these have already developed their National Action Plans for Family Farming. In the first 2 years of the Decade, 85 laws, policies and regulations have been developed and approved. Most of these focus on mitigating the impacts of COVID-19 on family farmers and on promoting family farming-centered approaches. 

“Let us make sure that the solutions provided by family farming contribute to the transformation towards more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems for this generation and beyond,” said the Director-General, who also stressed the role of producer organizations for family farmers to have better access to agriculture inputs, machinery, technologies and markets.  

“Strengthening and supporting well-functioning organizations, with the involvement of youth and women is therefore critical for sustainable agri-food systems,” he added. 

 The event 

The Global Food Systems Summit Independent Dialogue of Farmers’ Organizations was jointly convened by the World Farmer’s Organisation (WFO), Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and Pan African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO).  

Martin Frick, Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, gave a presentation on the organization of the Summit in September, as well as the Pre-Summit, which will take place at FAO Headquarters on 26-28 July.  

IFAD President, Gilbert Houngbo; PAFO President, Elizabeth Nsimadala; AFA Secretary-General, Esther Penunia, and WFO President, Theo de Jager, also spoke at the event.


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