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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Urbanization, Rural Transformation and Implications for Food Security - Online consultation on the background document to the CFS Forum

John Weatherhogg
John WeatherhoggFAO (retired)Italy

My comment relates to around page 11 of the zero draft where there is a discussion of "pull" and "push" factors in off-farm employment.

UN studies some 20 years ago in Sri Lanka showed that about two-thirds of farm family income was derived off-farm. Where farmers have small land-holdings it is obviously the only way to support a family.

The fact that people who are perceived as "farmers" have other more important interests often seems to be not adequately appreciated in development planning. Initiatives such as Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI) always expect intensification in order to get better production and allow water saving.

In situations where the "farmer" is only on the farm for planting and harvest he may well not be interested in increasing his labour input, and certainly not in saving water. Similarly he will not be interested in moving into non-paddy crops. Paddy is the best crop for such part-time farmers.  

This situation you see clearly in many areas of South and East Asia and also in Egypt, in the delta, where extension staff moan about the large areas of 'illegal' paddy cultivation, in situations where many farms are only around 0.5 ha with a family of 7.

No easy solution, just something that needs to be considered in planning. Ultimately land consolidation through sale or renting would allow the return of full-time farmers.