Family farming is the backbone of Africa - FAO and AMARC release audio interviews

In conjunction with the Regional Conference for Africa (Tunis, 24-28 March 2014), the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) and FAO have released four audio interviews in English on the topic of family farming in the region.

In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 239 million people face serious consequences related to food security and nutrition. Family farming is an effective model that can provide solutions to overcome this challenge. During the African Regional Dialogue on family farming (6-7 November 2013, Cape Town, South Africa), participants identified specific actions for effective and sustainable collaboration in order to achieve food and nutrition security in the continent. They also recognized family farming as a way of life that contributes to the intergenerational transmission of knowledge, preservation of the environment, natural resources and cultural heritage. However, sustainable investments to fund agriculture and agricultural policies in favour of family farmers are still needed. The following interviews encompass participants’ opinions and recommendations during the dialogue.

Audio interviews (English only) and speakers

Audio1 - Modernizing family farming and engaging youth
Lily Musaya, Women in Agribusiness in Sub-Sahara Africa Alliance (WASAA) and Project Officer of the Liu Lathu Programme (Malawi)

Family farming-Ms Musaya describes family farming as a traditional method of farming with a long history. She explains that originally family farming was solely a means to provide food for families but more recently African families are using it as a source of income.  According to Ms Musaya the traditional concept of family farming needs to be modernized, family farming is not just a way to feed one's immediate family but has the potential to be a successful business that can have a much wider impact.

Gender issue - Women farmers in Africa should be empowered to take on more responsibilities at a higher 'entrepreneurial ' level.  However, Ms Musaya underlines that it is fundamental for farmer organizations to analyse the existing gender issues in the communities where projects are going to be implemented. Traditionally African women and men have different roles in family farming; it is crucial to take these into consideration in order to use resources effectively.  Projects should be tailor made according to community needs and structures.

Engaging youth- The future of family farming depends on youth. Making family farming more attractive to young people is crucial. With the appropriate enabling environments in place, family farming can be a successful and attractive business.  The modernization and mechanization of family farming may also make it more appealing to younger generations.

Audio 2 - Promotion of agricultural cooperatives and the role of women
Veronica Vries, Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa 

In this interview Ms Vries underlines the importance of unlocking every family's potential to farm their land, she refers to the "one family, one food garden" initiative in South Africa. (Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries).  Ms Vries talks about a time when most families could get food from their back gardens and how this has now been "outsourced to supermarkets".   She mentions that countries have been working on how to recognize and enhance family farming, and the African Regional Dialogue is an opportunity to extract the key lessons and formulate a strong message that ultimately enables Africa to feed itself. Ms Vries gives two examples of how the potential of family farming can be maximized:

  • Agricultural cooperatives - if households began forming cooperatives, these could play an important role in achieving food security. 
  • Women - if women had the same resources as men (access to the land, land ownership and other inputs) they would be able to produce enough food to take millions of people out of hunger.

Audio 3 - Challenges facing African family farmers
Series of short interviews with participants (farmers and civil society representatives) during the FAO Regional Dialogue in Africa

According to participants attending the Regional Dialogue, family farmers face many challenges including:

  • Lack of financial investment and support - Despite farmers accounting for over 55% of the population in Africa, support and investment remain low. The inputs from governments often benefit commercial farmers over small scale and family farmers. Additionally, it would be beneficial to provide all family farmers with a sort of "kick start kit".
  • Incoherent agricultural policies
  • Unfair prices and access to markets
  • Lack of cooperation and participation - Most farmers are unaware of national agricultural policies. Family and small-scale farmers should be more involved in the formulation of policies as they are fully conscious of their needs and the challenges they face.
  • Lack of technology and knowledge- More investments should to be made in technology and access to the latest machinery to help farmers reach their full potential. Additionally, farmers need to keep up to date on new methods especially in light of climate change.
  • Climate change- Farming systems need to adapt to changes in climate.
  • Urban migration- Invest in youth by making family farming more attractive to younger generations.

Audio 4 - Making family farming profitable in sub-Saharan Africa
Professor Wale Adekunle, Director of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa

In this interview Professor Wale Adekunle describes family farming as a system where the farm unit is owned by a family and passed from generation to generation. In most cases labour is sourced directly from the family although it can also be external.  Mr Adekunle points out that family farming is practiced all over the world and in some cases can be very profitable. However, this is not the case in Africa where family farming is often associated with poverty. One of the main challenges in sub-Saharan Africa is engaging youth by making family farming more profitable in the region.