Community Family Farming: an ally for food sovereignty and the fight against hunger

Crispim Moreira, FAO Representative in Bolivia - 

The International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) was launched in New York on 22 November 2013 by the United Nations to highlight the enormous potential family farmers can play in the eradication of hunger and conservation of natural resources. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more than 500 million family farms - defined as those that rely primarily on family members for management and labour - produced foods that nourish thousands of millions of people.

In fact, in many developing countries family farms account for approximately 80% of all farms. In Bolivia, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE) nearly 770.000 productive units are family and small-scale, with an average size of five acres per farm.

FAO data shows that over 70% of the population exposed to food insecurity live in rural areas of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In Bolivia, four in ten people living in rural areas are poor (according to data presented by the planning unit of the presidential delegation Patriotic Agenda Bicentenary 2025 with information from the 2012 INE Household Survey).

In his speech during the IYFF launch in New York, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO, said "nothing is closer to the paradigm of sustainable food production than family farming. Family farmers generally develop non-specialized and diversified agricultural activities by which they play a key role in ensuring sustainability of the environment and in the conservation of biodiversity’."

Golden opportunity for Bolivia

2014 IYFF global, regional and national activities are a golden opportunity to promote a broad debate in Bolivia. This discussion should lead to partnerships between state and society in the consolidation of a nation with production and food sovereignty that recognizes the various types of family farmers: indigenous, peasant farmers ‘campesinos’, community, intercultural and Afro-Bolivian throughout the national territory.

In Bolivia, the International Year of Family Farming coincides with structural changes in the political and social dimension of the country which were endorsed by the legal framework of the State Constitution, its development plans and its strategic planning called “Patriotic Agenda” (the initiatives linked with agricultural and productive development include: Law No. 144 Productive Revolution; Law No. 3525 Ecological Agroforestry Production; Law No. 300 Mother Earth and the strengthening of farmer’s economic and community organizations- OECAS and OECON Laws).

Since the proclamation of Act 338, the Department of Rural Development has established an intensive agenda of participatory building called PRONAGRIFS  (National Programme for Sustainable Family Farming). This agenda, with the technical cooperation of FAO, is promoting: a) the National Register of Farmers (RUNPA), a fundamental tool for rural development public policy planning to achieve the country’s goals of food security and sovereignty and b) mapping of the various Bolivian community family farms that allows the state to plan their physical and financial targets to deliver goods and services to the recipients of Act 338. This will generate the "socio-territorial mapping" of Bolivian family farming, which will provide visual answers to the following questions: who? How many? And where?

Why does family farming play a central and strategic role in ensuring food sovereignty and the fight against poverty?

Sustainable and inclusive agricultural and food systems are inextricably linked to the family farming/small-scale way of life and their means of production since they generate productive work for young people in rural communities. In turn, if the economic endeavours of family farmers develop according to Fairtrade standards, it is possible to find the key to eradicating rural poverty.  Family farming is an opportunity to boost local economies, especially when combined with specific policies for social protection and the welfare of communities.

In general, the 2014 IYFF should contribute to the current dialogue between government and society, in the context of the Patriotic Agenda 2025, with contributions from researchers, academics, managers of government public policy at central, departmental and municipal levels and supervisory bodies as well as social participation from national food security policy councils (CONAN), organic production (CNAPE) and productive development (CODEP), among others. The aim is to highlight the theme in 2014 for all involved - state, community rural economic organizations, the private sector and cooperative social economy – to achieve national strategies to integrate and realize the constitutional concept of food sovereignty on the ground, in rural communities and in the lives of Bolivian families.