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Family Farming Knowledge Platform

Forest Farming & Family Farming

More than a billion of the world’s poorest people rely on forests and trees to provide food, fuel and cash income (FAO, 2012). Forest communities are also family farmers. For these people, forests and trees overlap directly with family farming.  Indeed, it is the unique combination of forest and farm resources that has created complex agro-ecological and natural resource management systems all over the world. These systems have been the reservoirs of nutrition, genetic materials, fuel and energy, fodder and building materials, water retention and recharge, pollination and pest control, green manure and biological and cultural diversity. Forests are particularly important for food security and nutrition, as well as supplying fuel for cooking. Many components of the daily diet of rural families come directly from forest fruits, tubers, vines, mushrooms and leafy legumes, insects and animals harvested from forests. These provide important nutritional supplements that are a vital for food security.

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By combining products from forests and fields, family farmers avoid the cost of purchasing essential building materials, mats, flooring materials, baskets, tools and farming implements. The combination of forest and farms also allows family farmers to collect, process and market a wider variety of products, from timber to an astonishing array of non-wood forest products such as medicinal and ornamental plants, forest fruits, mushrooms, honey, edible insects, fish, bush meat and many other crops and horticultural farm products.

Considering that smallholders produce 70 percent of the world’s food, family foresters and family farmers may be the largest private sector actors – at least in the rural portion of the world’s population. Yet forest communities, small forest owners and family farmers face the threat of land conversion in the face of large-scale industrial projects, whether for timber, bio fuels, crops or agricultural land leases. They also often face challenges in gaining access to markets, fair prices for products and compensation for the ecosystem services they may be responsible for maintaining.

As families join forest and farm producer organizations they are able to gain many more benefits. Joining together in traditional, informal and formal organizations helps forest and farm producers to: share knowledge and experience; engage in policy advocacy; secure tenure and access rights to forest, land and natural resources; improve sustainable forest and farm management; expand markets; build enterprises; and increase income and well-being.
Assisting producers from forest communities, family forests and farms to gain access to financial and other business development services can help them to attain economic, social and environmental sustainability.


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