Research & Extension

Agricultural Innovation Systems and Family Farming - An FAO E-mail Conference June, 2012

The e-mail conference was a truly inspiring and enthusiastic exchange of experiences, ideas and case studies by people worldwide. Nearly 600 people subscribed and 114 people (20% of the total) from nearly 50 different countries wrote at least one message. Almost 80% of the 242 messages came from people living in developing countries, the most active being India, Cameroon, Italy, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Zambia, Brazil, Sri lanka, Switzerland and the United States of America respectively. Roughly 25% of messages came from people working in research institutes; 20% in universities; 17% in NGOs; 16% from Government ministries or bodies; 9% from the private sector; 6% from FAO and 6% from independent consultants, farmers or development agencies.

The Summary Document has been published, entitled "An FAO e-mail conference on agricultural innovation systems and family farming: The moderator’s summary" (65 KB).

All of the 242 messages posted are available on the web, click here. The message archives are searchable, with a 'free text' search button on the right hand side of the webpage.

To see the messages sorted by date, click here or download the PDF file (1.2 MB).

Overall objectives

FAO hosted a moderated e-mail conference from 4 June to 1 July 2012 on "Ensuring the full participation of family farmers in agricultural innovation systems: Key issues and case studies". Agricultural innovation systems (AIS) are systems of individuals, organizations and enterprises that bring new products, processes and forms of organization into social and economic use to achieve food security, economic development and sustainable natural resource management. AIS include a multitude of potential actors, such as producer organizations, research organizations, extension and advisory services, universities and educational bodies, governments and civil society organizations, co-ordinating bodies, individual farmers and farm labourers, and the private sector (including traders, processors, supermarkets etc.).

The e-mail conference focused on the issues that determine whether family farmers can fully participate in, and benefit from, AIS. What are the key opportunities and hurdles for family farmers to engage in, and benefit from, AIS and what can policy-makers do to increase potential opportunities and remove potential hurdles? The e-mail conference allowed participants to discuss these issues, as well as to share case studies and lessons learned from practical experiences in agriculture (note, the term agriculture includes the crop, livestock, forestry, fishery and aquaculture sectors). The conference was open to everyone, was free and moderated. A background document was sent to subscribers before the conference begins.

All messages posted during the conference are available here.


The UN General Assembly has declared 2014 to be the International Year of Family Farming and has invited FAO to facilitate implementation of the International Year, in collaboration with its partners. Among its initiatives for the International Year, FAO is planning to publish a major study on family farming and AIS in 2014 in the State of Food and Agriculture series, which is FAO’s major annual flagship publication. As part of the preparations for this study, FAO organized an Expert Consultation at FAO Headquarters on 19-21 March 2012 and hosted this moderated e-mail conference.


Read more about Research and Extension Unit's focus on Agricultural Innovation in Family Farming.

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