Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

International Year of Family Farming

Bangkok, Thailand, 22 Nov 2013 -- Small family farms have great capacity for quick production expansion and are key to sustainable food production if appropriate policies are put in place, FAO asserted during an Asia-Pacific multi-stakeholders consultation preparing for the launch of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).  

The proclamation by the Un General Assembly of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming is a recognition of the important role small farmers play. Smallholding farms are part of the solution for a world free from hunger and poverty. 

“The IYFF is a window of opportunity to further raise awareness, advocate relevant policies and establish multi-stakeholder platforms for policy dialogue”, stated Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s representative for Asia and the Pacific.

In the agricultural sector, small farmers constitute 90 percent of the total agricultural labour in this region, producing 80 percent of regional food on landholdings which are far below average agricultural land sizes in other regions of the world, said FAO.

These small farmers face enormous challenges posed by the rapid globalization of the food sector as well as newly emerging environmental changes.

”We need to position family farming with a focus to small-scale farmers within this global context and identify as well as formulate the right responses to support this crucial sector”, added Mr Konuma. 

Since 2006, the World Rural Forum – a global network of civil society organizations with 11 members in the Asia region – has spearheaded the campaign for the adoption by the UN General Assembly of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming.

“We hope that the IYFF will stimulate the urgent development of policies that address the problems and challenges of family farmers so that we can achieve the goals of poverty reduction, food security and safe food for all”, said Esther Penunia, secretary general of the Asian Farmers Association, representing the WRF.

Offering a unique and extraordinary opportunity for mobilizing global recognition for small farming, “IFAD trusts that the IYFF will mobilize political support for small farmers, and in particular women farmers, who are most often the poorest segment of rural populations”, said IFAD representative Jean-Philippe Audinet.

Investment is key if family farming is to be the agriculture of tomorrow, IFAD added, and that 2014 will not only be a year of celebration but more importantly a year of change, of concrete progress in eradicating rural poverty and achieving the right to food for all.

“Family farmers and smallholders are vital to food security and democratization of opportunities for women and the young”, said Kim Sung Ryun from the International Cooperative Agricultural Organization, representing the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

Cooperatives pool resources that allow purchase of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and machinery, and they give farmers a voice in food markets securing better prices and thus higher incomes for family farms, the ICA statement added.    

The Bangkok meeting preceeds by one day the official ITFF launch at UN headquarters in New York by the FAO Director-General today 22 November.

The first of a round of several regional meetings, the 21-22 November 2013 Bangkok consultation is attended by some 70 participants coming from 20 Asia-Pacific countries and representing diverse stakeholders such as governments, farmer organizations, civil society and non-governmental organizations as well as development partners and international organizations.

In July 2014, FAO will be organizing the main regional IYFF event in India.