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Social farming (also called care farming): an innovative approach for promoting women’s economic empowerment, decent rural employment and social inclusion. What works in developing countries?

Social farming (also called care farming, more information available here) is a farming practice that uses agricultural resources to provide social or educational care services for vulnerable groups of people. It is widely practiced in Europe and now we are looking for examples of care farming in developing countries.

Concrete care farming examples include:

  • the provision of on-farm child and elderly care services
  • the integration of disadvantaged groups in productive activities to promote their rehabilitation, social inclusion and employability.

Social / Care farming experiences from European countries have shown that economic participation helps vulnerable persons (e.g. people with intellectual or physical disabilities, ex-combatants, convicts, etc.) integrate back into society. It does this by providing them with new skills and by rewarding them with a feeling of utility and self-appreciation.

Other experiences which focus on providing care and educational services are good models (e.g. the Italian kindergarten farms –‘agriasilo’-) for delivering innovative and effective social services in remote rural areas where public care services are often non-existent or inadequate, inaccessible and of poor quality.

The purpose of this discussion

While many examples of the use of care farming in developed countries exist, we are looking for examples from developing countries contexts, specifically in rural areas. The case studies will be analysed to develop a framework for promoting care farming practices in developing countries.

We hope that this forum discussion will solicit lots of interest around care farming practices, how they work and what makes them successful, and how the concept can be adapted to less developed countries. We would be interested in how care farming may help fill gaps in social service provision as well as provide rural employment opportunities – especially to women. Please include as many details as possible in your contribution, for example:

  • details about the service providers (organizational form, agricultural activities, type of service offered, motivation of the provision of such services);
  • users (who they are, what is the main benefit for them);
  • financing methods or business model;
  • main challenges;
  • who else is involved (public health sector, private sector, professional organizations etc.);
  • related regulatory or policy frameworks;
  • any other relevant information.

The examples you will share will be part of a compilation of care farming practices. Through these cases we wish to explore the potential of social / care farming for care and educational service provision in poor rural areas with the goal of strengthening rural women’s economic empowerment, decent rural employment creation, and social inclusion. In collaboration with the University of Pisa and other international and national partners, we will also develop a country implementation framework to support countries’ efforts for reducing the burden of rural women’s unpaid care work by promoting social / care farming practices.

We look forward to a very interesting and rich discussion.

Thank you very much in advance for your contribution!

Hajnalka Petrics
Gender and Development Officer
Social Protection Division
Cross-cutting Theme on Gender

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Anura Widana Self-employed, New Zealand
Anura Widana

Chemicals-free farming and livelihood options for vulnerable people


Chemicals of various types are regularly applied on wet paddy eco-system in almost all Asian countries. The application begins as early as at the time of land preparation by some farmers. However, the majority apply it during paddy growth for weed control, pests and disease control. There is evidence that the number of applications within the life cycle of a paddy crop has been on the increase.


The chemicals applied on paddy crop kills not only weeds and pests but also fish and almost all other aquatic creatures such as bugs, cricketers, crustaceans, amphibians, mollusks, reptiles and edible plants. The harvest of aquatic creatures and plants provide a rich source of nutrients for poor and families with vulnerability. The sale of these items provide income while the engagement of people in collecting, cleaning, transport and packing provide employment  opportunities to several hundreds of people. The harvesting and sale of aquatic creatures is the sole income source for families in and around Delta Region of Myanmar and along the Mekong River in Lao and Cambodia. A study has shown that about 30 per cent of households in Delta regions are owning paddy lands while 70 per cent depend on the collection of aquatic creatures and plants for sale.


Evidence in Lao suggest that people with disabilities are being helped to earn an income through their engagement in cleaning and preparation of creatures collected from paddy fields. The collection of insects, fish and other creatures is an activity where children are heavily involved. On the other hand, sick and disabled people are engaged in activities such as cleaning, removal of parts not consumed, packing and preparation of creatures before dispatching to markets. The collection of insects from paddy fields starts quite early in the morning which is purchased by vendors. The produce is brought to a central area near a town by about 6.00 in the morning for cleaning, sorting and packing before being shipped out to consuming areas. This task is completed by about 7.00 am in the morning and the produce is ready to be dispatched. The cleaning, sorting and packing is done by disable people such as deaf, blind and people who have no legs to walk. The family members help disable people to come to a central location for cleaning. Although they have disabilities of different types, they are able to remove unwanted parts of insects, clean and pack using their hands.  On the other hand, widows and very poor people are able to engage in all activities from collecting to cleaning and even processing before consumption.


The impact of agro-chemicals on livelihood of vulnerable people by way of reduced insect and fish harvest is often disregarded in the analysis of costs and returns to high-input use paddy farming. The notion to increase paddy productivity per se without considering the total returns to wet paddy as a system is yet another error made by planners. 

Ms. Magda Rich Lab 863 , Czech Republic


I would like to share my experience from a project I worked on in the last two years in India. It did not start as a green care project (in fact I didn’t know about green care at the beginning) but it naturally evolved in it, though the facility we developed is not a typical green care farm as there are in Europe. The main topic of the project was promoting conservation through livelihood improvement in the Kodagu district in Western Ghats in India. One of our partners was Swastha – special school for disabled children which provides education and vocational training to children with all sorts of disabilities and which is pretty much the only such school in the district.

During the project we achieved a deep insight into the situation of people with disabilities (PWD’s) which involves some of the issues that have been mentioned here. As George Kent mentioned, in a well-functioning community there is mutual care that exists naturally. We could observe this in Kodagu where the traditional family ties are very strong and for example old people are treated with a great respect and – care. However, due to the religious beliefs, people with any kind of disability are ostracized and their involvement in the community is minimal or none. In addition to the religious aspect, another reason why they are considered as a curse or a burden to their families is because they are not financially productive. As Dr Turmusani mentioned, financial inclusion is extremely important. It is one of the basic ways to gain respect and become part of the community. Though, for people who cannot receive any education or training because of lack of facilities and will of the society to provide those, it is virtually inaccessible.

I attach a paper about the part of our project in which we established a butterfly garden, of about 4 acres, that will be used for therapeutic and training reasons by the disabled students who will receive practical gardening training to be able to be hired outside the school to earn their living.  The garden will also be used as an environmental education centre and thus visited by school children and public who will have a chance to see the work of the disabled and this will hopefully positively influence their way of seeing the PWD’s.

As I mentioned at the beginning, our garden is not a green care farm as they are in Europe. We shared the same scope but adjusted the form to the local conditions. 



George Kent Department of Political Science, University of Hawai'i, United States of ...

Greetings –

At the beginning of this discussion, on 16.04.2014, I reflected on the similarities and differences between care farming and caring communities. Care farming is an expression of the broader caring that is found in strong communities.

There has been a rich exchange since then, so I would like to offer a few more observations.

We should give attention to possibilities for farming that is undertaken to produce farm products needed by particular groups. For example, one might imagine farms that are devoted to raising crops that would help to meet nutrient deficiencies that are important in the local area.

Some farms could be devoted to raising crops specifically to meet needs of young children for complementary foods, as they wean from their breastmilk diets. This would fit nicely with Kanchan Lama ‘s 17.04.2014 call for child care to allow women to be fully involved in farming. Instead of working on farms that serve the general community, perhaps they could work on farms that focus on producing crops that are of special interest to women, especially those who are pregnant or new mothers. Child care could be provided at the farm site, thus making it easier for mothers to breastfeed. Facilities could be provided to enable the women to meet together to discuss their concerns about child feeding, as they do in La Leche League meetings that are common in high income countries. They could also discuss how the farmed products should be prepared for their young children.

That sort of arrangement would ensure better child care than that illustrated in the photo provided by Hajnalka Petrics on 24.04.2014.

On 23.04.2014 PV Hariharan asked, what is empowerment? I suggest: Empowerment is the increasing capacity of individuals and communities to define, analyze, and act on their own problems. Empowerment can be facilitated by outsiders, and there are also possibilities for self-empowerment, based on local initiatives.

Using this concept, we could say that care farming is empowering if it increases its beneficiaries’ capacity to care for themselves. David Nkwanga provided a good example on 23.04.2014, when he explained the Nature Palace foundation helps children and youth with disabilities obtain the skills and other resources needed to engage in profitable market gardening.

On 24.04.2014 Gina Seilern provided some links to studies about well-being and its determinants. It does include references to the importance of social connections, but it does not speak specifically about caring, the desire to act to benefit others.

It would be interesting if some of the specialists on well-being were to focus their attention on the well-being of communities. They could then explore how the quality of life of individuals depends on the quality of their communities.

On 28.04.2014 Mildred Crawford shared the experience she and others in her country have had in sharing food, farming skills and other resources with others for free. These relationships, usually informal, probably are far more widespread than anyone has recognized. These are expressions of deep caring at the community level, something that seems to be invisible to most economists and government officials. More should be done to recognize and understand these relationships.

Aloha, George




Mildred Crawford Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers , Jamaica
FSN Forum

There are many examples of CARE/Social Farming in the Caribbean. In these underdeveloped and developing countries, all these Community based organizations are operated by volunteerism and the women who are members of these groups are caregivers, mothers, back yard garden farmers who use the produce from their gardens and indigenous fruits found in the communities to make delicious delicacies, drinks, and gourmet foods for families and friends for free but it has been feeding them for years. They have mastered the skill in the household that on many occasions, they are ask to prepare the meals for other upper class groups without compensation. These rural women feed families and friends, share knowledge in groups which allow them to meet in their communities, but time does not allow them to go far or meet for long hours because of family commitments.
Secondly, I have been practicing insemination in pigs for years and have shared best practices in pig husbandry for free to other rural women for free for years both in my island and elsewhere. This is one area of agriculture that rural women in the home, persons in penal institutions and children at school learn easily. I have done it for years and never was introduced to this terminology. I worked with rural women in Agriculture voluntarily, is this not decent work?

Mildred Crawford
President/ Community Development Officer at Jamaica Network of Rural Women Producers

Hajnalka Petrics FAO, Italy
FSN Forum

I could imagine a Care Farm around there to take care of the children in  a safe environment while their mothers are working.


Gina Seilern FAO, Italy
FSN Forum

Dear Hajni,

I think this is a fascinating and very inspiring topic, and have enjoyed reading people’s contributions so far. In particular I think that George Kent from Hawaii raises a very important point about increasing people’s ability to empathize with and care about each other as a way of reducing hunger. This comes down to the relational nature of life and the all-important human factor.

With this in mind, have you  looked into any psychosocial approaches to development interventions and have you thought about this for managing and measuring future care farming programmes? There is some very interesting literature on this topic, and I wonder if there would be scope to link some of these concepts up with your work on care farming.

The “wellbeing approach” is one methodology, which could be interesting food for thought for this work: it places a special focus on subjective accounts of how people are doing and feeling, and uses these as a basis from which to measure the impact of development interventions. People’s “subjective”, or “inner” wellbeing links in directly with their sense of dignity and self-worth, as well as their capacity to relate to others in their families and communities. This in turn links in with people’s ability to care about each other, which as mentioned by Mr Kent, could be an effective way of reducing hunger..

The University of Bath has developed an interesting research project based on the wellbeing approach which it has piloted in India and Zambia – Of particular interest is their multidimensional model of wellbeing.

All the best,


Nelson Jacob Kiwagi Rural Economist, Uganda
FSN Forum

There is always great need for Rural Women Empowerment. It is not only important BUT also urgent.

There is need though, to analyse rural woman, marital status, age brackets, economic activities, market of products, marketing, food security, nutrition, level of education, number of children, average annual income, rate of school drop outs, & social infrustructure information availability, existing innovations,

Important to know, what they want and what they need, inclusion and participation, sustainability, cost benefit analysis, social cultural sensitivity.

Sri Rachmad, Researcher, Indonesia
FSN Forum

It must be initiated asap due to women particularly in rural area have remarkably contribution and involvement in all farming step, namely: farming management, field management, water management, time use allocation of women in the farming as domestic work and even domination of old women at rural area lead to low level production and simultaneously as the second post of their work instead of home businesses.
Indonesia data shows that under-utilization of labor in rural area been recognized as ageing population who are working in agriculture process in rural.
Agriculture is a bearing savior for hing unemployment in developing countries.

Sri Rachmad

Gokul Chandra, Agent for Social Change (ASOC) , Indonesia
FSN Forum

Care / Social farming is new concept it required to awareness to the world community. In regards to care / Social Farming I can share little information in the following ways:
1. Small farms / farming can develop in slum and cities areas where agricultural products are limited. In such small place city dwellers / municipals can cultivate green fields, beautiful and tasty animals farms for foods, economy, physical improvement of farmers and psychological fitness of localities / visitors both for healthiness of service providers and economy growth.
2. Whereas in rural areas where large size of agriculture land is available, in such areas we can develop and practice big agricultural farms by using organic agriculture products for health and eco-friendly, large animal farms and fisheries or integrated farming for employment generation of rural peoples, regular supply of foods to cities dwellers / consumers and earning good income and maintain physical health, psychological health, social and healthy environment.
3. Its is a part of education to local / rural farmers on new concepts for healthy, employment, economy growth and contributing to maintain of climate change.

For widely practice of Care / Social Farming FAO needs to develop global policy, regional policy, countries agriculture policy based on their social, cultural and food habit system and fittest to their environment. If the world communities widely practice Care / Social Farming in few decades over all the wold communities will get positive impact of Good products of Healthy food items like vegetables,meats, Fishes, Eggs, milk etc, increase employment generation, regular supply of good foods items to cities consumers, Education to farmers, maintain good physical health and psychological health, maintain healthy society and eco-friendly environment and contributing towards maintain of Climate change and social - environment mitigation.

Nidhi Tandon Networked Intelligence for Development, Canada
Nidhi Tandon


I would like to contribute this paper for your consideration for this discussion on care agriculture.



See the attachment:NT Care Economy.docx