Chennai, India, 07 Aug 2014 -- Family farms and small holder farmers, the backbone of agriculture production in Asia and the Pacific, need help urgently in order to meet the demand for increased food production in the region of the world where the most hungry and under nourished people live, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)announced today
Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 842 million undernourished people live in Asia and the Pacific. While the region has made gains in reducing hunger, an increasing population means Asia’s food production – the vast majority produced by small holder family farmers, the region’s agricultural bulwark – would need to increase by at least 60 percent in some countries and up to 77 percent in others by 2050. Yet family and small holder farmers havehad to deal with a bewildering series of converging challenges including a decrease in the amount of water and arable land, threats from pests and diseases, changing weather patterns compounded by the effects of climate change and difficulty in attracting younger generations to remain on the farm
“These challenges are far too much for small, resource-poor, farmers to cope with on their own,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative.“Together we must extend successful policies, good agricultural practices and a favourable environment, together with sensible solutions to support the family farmer and to address the problems of agriculture and food security.
Konuma emphasized the importance of supporting family farms and small holder farmers but reminded that they should also be protected from losses through social protection measures and insurance schemes such as crop insurance
“The IYFF should be institutionalized with country level creation of a national IYFF committee to promote multi-stakeholder dialogue and concentrated efforts by all,” Konuma added
Konuma made these remarks at the opening of the Asia Pacific Regional Consultation on the role of family farming in the 21st century. The consultation was co-organized by FAO and MSSRF, together with other partners, and was opened by Prof MS Swaminathan who outlined a new deal for family farmers. Other keynote speakers and participants includeKanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD, Etharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP, LiseGrande the United Nations Resident Coordinator in India, Dr Rebecca Tavares the regional representative of UN Women, Madhura Swaminathan, Chairperson of MSSRF and ParveshSharma, SFAC Managing Directo
Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Agriculture from six countries are in attendance and willshare their insights. Civil society organizations representing the interests of farmers are also participating. It is anticipated that the four day consultation will result in a Chennai Declaration.
The United Nations has declared 2014 as International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) in order to raise the profile of family farming and increase the world’s awareness about the importance of family farming in all our daily lives. Three quarters of the world’s rural population rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.
“Together we must recognize the key role family farming plays in alleviating hunger and poverty, ensuring food security and nutrition and promoting sustainable natural resource management,” said Konuma. “There is an urgent need to examine family farming in the region in an inclusive way to understand the situation of marginalized small-scale family farmers and the context of power relations, structures and equity within the family farms and specific to each country,” he added
Konuma pointed out that support to family farmers should be looked at from a holistic point of view. “It is therefore imperative and crucial to understanding the cultural context, social relationship, traditional agricultural practices, local knowledge and linkages established with off-farm and non-farm income generating activities their relationship to family farming.”
“Understanding gender and gender roles, traditional self-help mechanism of farming society as defined by the local and village culture are also very important when proposing practical solutions,” he said. “Changes in population structures such as ageing, loss of youth or youth retention in farms, and left-behind elders and women in farms, are factors to be considered when we speak about family farming in Asia and the Pacific."
Family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities, and it is linked to several areas of the rural development. Family farming is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production which is managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour, including both women’s and men’s. It also has an important socio-economic, environmental and cultural role.