Farming Systems
and Poverty

IMPROVING FARMERS' LIVELIHOODS IN A CHANGING WORLD

John Dixon and Aidan Gulliver with David Gibbon Principal Editor: Malcolm Hall


Table of Contents


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ISBN 92-5-104627-1

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FAO 2001


An estimated 500 million small farmers - men and women - produce most of the developing world's food. Yet their families suffer more hunger than even the urban poor, have higher rates of poverty and enjoy less access to basic social services. Meeting international commitments to halve hunger and poverty in the developing world by 2015 means reaching these farm households. However, traditional approaches have not worked. In order to provide the conditions that will permit poor farm households to improve their own lives, governments, non-governmental organizations and international agencies must understand more clearly the agro-ecological, physical, economic and cultural environment within which farmers and their families live - their farming systems. Only in this way can realistic policies, investments and technical assistance programmes be developed and implemented, and the latent capacity of the farming population fully released.

Through an examination of a wide variety of farming systems across the developing world, this book shows how the farming systems approach can be used to identify key local, regional and international priorities for the reduction of hunger and poverty. It examines the various strategies open to poor farm families seeking better lives, and shows how such strategies differ in relative importance from one farming system to another. Finally, the book discusses how an effective response to these priorities and strategies will require a rethinking of the roles of key stakeholders in the development process - farmers themselves, their communities, civil society, governments and the international community.