“Governments can empower family farmers, especially women and youth, by creating policies conducive to equitable and sustainable rural development,” UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said.
“This includes better infrastructure to reduce the amount of food lost after harvest when small-scale producers are unable to store, process and transport their goods.”
Ban also also encouraged public and private lenders to provide vital financial services such as credit and insurance, though warned that small-scale family farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change events such as extreme weather, droughts and floods.
Pro-family farming policies
José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, echoed Ban in urging governments to adopt explicitly pro-family farming policies.
He underlined that family farmers, fishermen, forest-dependent people, pastoralists and traditional and indigenous communities are key for food security in most countries but at the same time are among the world’s most vulnerable populations.
A recent study of 93 countries has shown that family farms account for over 90% of all farm holdings, he said, adding that family farmers also manage most of the world’s farm land.
“Apart from producing a high proportion of the food we eat, family farmers are by far the biggest source of employment in the world,” Graziano da Silva stressed, adding that they are also the guardians of the world’s agro-biodiversity and natural resources.
Land grab threats
Graziano da Silva also underlined the importance of protecting family farmers from rising threats to their traditional access to land posed by insecurity and land grabbing.
The Committee on World Food Security’s approved voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure as well as its Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investments currently being negotiated are of great importance to keep these threats in check, he said.
“Large private sector investments in agriculture exist and will continue, whether we like it or not,” he explained. “So it is paramount that there is a common understanding on how to invest in ways that are sustainable and protect the rights of family farmers and poor communities.”
Secretary-general of the Asian farmers association Esther Penunia, president of the southern area of the artisanal section of the National Federation of Fisheries of Mauritania Mohammed Ould Saleck, and president of the European Farmers Association Gerd Sonnleitner have formally been appointed as FAO special ambassadors on family farming.