FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Regional Initiative on Small Scale Family Farming in NENA Region

The Regional priorities of the small scale family farming initiative (RISSFF) focuses on the major needs and opportunities of Small-Scale farmers and family farming in the NENA region. The RISSFF contributes to increasing the competitiveness of small-scale producers, supporting the sustained increase in production, productivity and quality of family farming products, improving governmental capacities to design policies, programmes and legal frameworks promoting rural development and promoting inclusive business models and sustainable agri-food value chain development.

This is in addition to fostering the creation of decent employment opportunities and building support for social protection measures through strengthening comprehensive social protection systems in rural areas. Furthermore, the regional initiative promotes the adoption and dissemination of innovation and modern techniques that better serve the smallholders achieve resilience and welfare.

Within the context of COVID-19, the RISSFF has collaborated with many stakeholders and organizations to implement emergency actions supporting the livelihoods of the farmers and enabling them to cope with the disruptive impacts of the pandemic.

Main Pillars of the RISSFF

Conference
Council
Khalid Mehboob
Independent Chairperson of the Council
  • Council Committees:
    • Programme Committee
      Hans Hoogeveen
      Chairperson
    • Finance Committee
      Imelda Smolčić
      Chairperson
    • Committe on Constitutional and Legal Matters
      Daniela Rotondaro
      Chairperson
  • Regional Conferences
    • Africa
    • Asia and the Pacific
    • Europe
    • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • Near East
  • Technical Committees
    • Committee on Agriculture
    • Committee on Commodity Problems
    • Committee on Fisheries
    • Committee on Forestry
Liang Qu
Director
Reporting Line A: DDG Semedo
Reporting Line B: Chief Scientist
Sustainable and innovative practices developed to boost the agricultural productivity of farmers’ and their associations in small-scale agriculture
The RISSFF aims at strengthening the small-scale farmer’s productivity and income strategies to improve rural livelihood of Smallholders in the NENA Region, build the capacities of the farmers’ organizations on sustainable resource management practices and provide them with access to market linkages, and advocate for policies promoting investment in extension services and pluralistic advisory systems that better serve the smallholder farmers.
Decent rural employment opportunities and complementary social protection mechanisms developed and incentivized
Under the second pillar of the regional initiative FAO is working to ensure economic inclusion and decent employment by expanding the coverage and effectiveness of social protection systems, supporting sustainable economic opportunities for rural youth and ensuring equitable access to rural services and resources. RISSFF has supported young entrepreneurs and innovators through regional and global initiatives giving them access to unique training and development opportunities, including on green jobs both on and off the farm, and is providing direct policy support to countries to ensure that social protection systems reduce vulnerabilities and contribute to development outcomes, while reaching those who need it most.
Rural organizations and institutions’ capacities strengthened to improve access to rural services and markets
The RISSFF support member countries and value chain stakeholders to develop strategies and investments to strengthen agri-food value chains, create market linkages for producers’ organizations and agribusinesses, and reduce food losses and waste to promote efficient, inclusive, and sustainable food systems in the NENA region.
Greet de Leeuw
Director
Reporting Line A: DDG Thomas
Reporting Line B: DDG Semedo

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Family Farming in NENA and mitigating actions

COVID-19 has hit the nineteen countries in the NENA region hard. As this crisis spreads in the region, family farmers, especially small-scale family farmers, are particularly exposed to the effects of the pandemic and the restrictions on movement imposed in a number of countries that hinder access to inputs, technology and markets. This is a new context to which the work to support family farming needs to adapt.

The RISSFF has been supporting the smallholders, stakeholder, academia and youth cope with the disruptive impacts of the pandemic through a series of Zoominars (add link) that addressed diversified topics, in addition to prompting innovative techniques that address the issues faced by the smallholders under COVID-19.

Facts & Figures/ Did you know?

  • 80% of the NENA region’s agricultural production comes from small-scale family farmers.
  • NENA countries represents about 6% of the world’s population, with an estimated 395 million inhabitants.
  • 40% of the region’s population lives and works in rural areas and nearly 85% of agricultural land holdings are farmed by families. Agriculture employs 21% of the region’s active population on average.
  • In fact, despite being large in number, family farms control only 25% of arable land, while 75% is in the hands of corporate-type agriculture.
  • The average size of a family farm in the region is less than two hectares and is steadily decreasing as a result of population growth and the division of farms on inheritance.
  • 22.5% of NENA youth are unemployed according to ILO estimates, nearly double the global youth unemployment rate.

The United Nations Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF)

The Regional Initiative in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), is spearheading the regional roll out of the UNDFF launched globally in 2019. A regional action plan, aligned with the UNDFF global action plan, has designed with the aim of elucidating a series of concrete regional actions that can be prioritized nationally and supported regionally to promote public policies and investments to support family farming, taking into consideration the various contextual constraints and specificities with special emphasis on the need for better engagement and empowerment of women and youth.

The opportunity to mainstream the UNDFF is also an opportunity to align national priorities with the areas of work of the regional initiative. The RAP plays an important guiding role, by recommending a series of indicative actions to be considered as guidance for developing plans and strategies at different levels. The UNDFF also focuses on innovations, especially social innovations, in the sphere of small-scale agriculture. There is a growing need for countries in the NENA region to further invest in and adapt innovative solutions, and the RAP provides the vision for that.

For more information, please visit the RNE UNDFF webpage

Main Priorities of the Regional Action Plan

1- Develop an enabling policy environment to strengthen family farming

1- Develop an enabling policy environment to strengthen family farming

Promoting Inclusive and effective governance for comprehensive, family farming-focused policy design, implementation and monitoring and public awareness to support diverse and multilayered contributions of family farming to sustainable development and to increase coherence and integration between family farming-related policies and legislation. 

2- Support youth and ensure the generational sustainability of family farming

2- Support youth and ensure the generational sustainability of family farming

Improve the engagement of youth in family farming to rural economy and decision-making processes, to natural resources, productive assets, education, information, infrastructure, financial services and to markets. 

3- Promote gender equity in family farming and the leadership role of rural women

3- Promote gender equity in family farming and the leadership role of rural women

Strengthen the engagement of rural women in family farming and in rural economy, increase their access to natural resources, (re-)productive assets, information, infrastructure, financial services and to markets and Increase the capacity of women farmers and their organizations on technical, advocacy and leadership skills enhancing their participation within their organizations and in policy-making processes working towards gender equality. 

4- Strengthen family farmers’ organizations and capacities to generate knowledge, represent farmers and provide inclusive services in the urban-rural continuum

4- Strengthen family farmers’ organizations and capacities to generate knowledge, represent farmers and provide inclusive services in the urban-rural continuum

Strengthened governance, organizational and technical capacities of family farmers’ organizations engaged in agriculture, forestry and fisheries to better serve their members and their communities.

5- Improve socio-economic inclusion, resilience and well-being of family farmers, rural households and communities

5- Improve socio-economic inclusion, resilience and well-being of family farmers, rural households and communities

Enhancing the livelihoods and economic viability of family farmers through access to social protection, services, natural resources, productive assets and public goods by family farmers, in particular of youth and women, indigenous and landless people. 

6- Promote sustainability of family farming for climate-resilient food systems

6- Promote sustainability of family farming for climate-resilient food systems

Family farmers practicing and driving transition towards sustainable agriculture to address the needs of current and future generations and mitigate climate change. In addition to promoting Inclusive and fair value chain and short food supply chains, providing diversified and nutritious food, thus contributing to more sustainable food systems. 

7- Strengthen the multidimensionality of family farming to promote social innovations contributing to territorial development and food systems that safeguard biodiversity, the environment and culture

7- Strengthen the multidimensionality of family farming to promote social innovations contributing to territorial development and food systems that safeguard biodiversity, the environment and culture

Improving the synergies between production systems (fisheries, aquaculture, forestry, corps, livestock) and enhanced management of biodiversity and ecosystem services by family farmers. 

Innovation and digital transformation

The regional initiative is working to build knowledge and capacity on digital agriculture and innovation, support an enabling environment towards digital transformation in the agriculture and food systems in NENA region, especially those responding to emerging shockwaves such as COVID-19 pandemic.

With Special focus on women and young entrepreneurs, the RISSFF is promoting

  • Enhanced knowledge and experience sharing at regional level and beyond through networking;
  • Strengthened government capacities on the use digital tools to deliver services to farmers by supporting national institutions to expand national databases or registries to include farmers, aiming at ensuring the most vulnerable producers survive livelihood shocks including but not limited to the economic effects of COVID 19;
  • Digital agriculture innovations developed, adopted and scaled up, particularly those led by youth and women in the region to support small-scale farmers in time of crises such as COVID-19 applications (AI & Precision Ag, Extension Apps, E-commerce, Finance, Fintech);
  • Identified Innovative and sustainable practices supporting small-scale producers' productivity, resilience and income.

RI Innovation Scope of work

Conference
Council
Khalid Mehboob
Independent Chairperson of the Council
  • Council Committees:
    • Programme Committee
      Hans Hoogeveen
      Chairperson
    • Finance Committee
      Imelda Smolčić
      Chairperson
    • Committe on Constitutional and Legal Matters
      Daniela Rotondaro
      Chairperson
  • Regional Conferences
    • Africa
    • Asia and the Pacific
    • Europe
    • Latin America and the Caribbean
    • Near East
  • Technical Committees
    • Committee on Agriculture
    • Committee on Commodity Problems
    • Committee on Fisheries
    • Committee on Forestry
Liang Qu
Director
Reporting Line A: DDG Semedo
Reporting Line B: Chief Scientist
Database of innovation toolbox & Digital solutions
Network of innovation actors & Community of Practice (CoP)
Youth innovation Hub
Innovation piloting & scaling; investment, governance & policy
Greet de Leeuw
Director
Reporting Line A: DDG Thomas
Reporting Line B: DDG Semedo