The United Nations has declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. The Year of Family Farming seeks to promote and develop small scale agriculture and agricultural policies around the world in order to help countries be more socially and environmentally responsible. This means protecting small scale farmers while promoting international collaboration to help them meet the demands of the 21st century. Family farming will also be a central theme at this years Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in October. In this article we will take a closer look at some of the key institutions that Slow Food is working alongside to try and improve conditions for family farmers and protect biodiversity, as well as some key figures that help underscore the important role that family farming plays around the world.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
IFAD is a specialized agency of the United Nations that works to eliminate food insecurity by addressing structural problems related to poverty. Three quarters of the people living in extreme poverty worldwide live in rural areas. Family farmers make up a large proportion of the 842 million people who suffer from starvation around the world. IFAD recognizes the importance of family farmers in food security and works to ensure they can meet the challenges of the 21st century.
According to IFAD’s president Kanayo F. Nwanze, the idea behind International Year of Family Farming is to get people thinking about ways of developing agricultural systems sustainably, basing them on family farmers, indigenous peoples, and rural communities. It is thanks to the work of IFAD, among others that the female farmers are Gran Chaco are able to live and work with dignity. In Gran Chaco female farmers belonging to different ethnic backgrounds work together to pick wild fruit and transform it into various traditional products from their native cultures. These wild fruits are one of Slow Food’s Presidia. You can read the fascinating story behind them here.
Within the EU 12 million agricultural businesses cultivate 172 million hectares of land across 28 different nations. The make up of agriculture and agricultural practices in Europe is massively varied and differs according to climate, soil conditions, farm size and the different practices and traditions of each region. The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloș has underscored the importance of family farming within the varied landscape of EU agriculture. “Family farming shapes our agriculture from an economic and social point of view. Over centuries European agriculture was formed by family farming and today is still the case. The concept of family farming is linked to its greater resilience ability to adapt to changes and developments.” Obviously not all of Europe’s agricultural output is linked to family farming. However, Slow Food can bring you examples from all over Europe. Examples such as these Austrian cattle farmers, whose level of husbandry and care for the welfare of their animals is producing meat that is good, clean and fair.
The FAO has carried out a study in 93 different countries that shows that family farming accounts for more than 80% of all the global structures dedicated to agriculture. In the words of the Director General of the FAO, Josè Graziano da Silva: “The preservation and sustainable use of natural resources is rooted in the productive logic of family farms. It sets them apart from large-scale specialized farming, although large-scale farming also plays an important role in ensuring the global food supply. The highly diversified nature of family agricultural activities gives them a central role in promoting environmental sustainability, safeguarding biodiversity, and contributing to healthier, more balanced diets.”
Slow Food’s project 10,000 Gardens in Africa shares this vision. It is the best response to intensive agriculture based on monocultures grown for exportation, chemical fertilizers and GM crops. Across the continent of Africa, in our garden communities, men women and children go to school to learn about food and farming practices and learn the value of their traditional foods. 10,000 gardens are a drop in the ocean, but they are improving the lives of many people and we want to improve the lives of many more by aiding family farmers as much as possible. To discover more examples of what Slow Food is doing around the world, why not take a look a our 2013 Almanac here?