The International Symposium on Agricultural Innovation for Family Farmers: Unlocking the potential of agricultural innovation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

The world is facing unprecedented global challenges that affect the sustainability of food and agriculture systems, and thus the livelihoods of millions of family farmers worldwide. These challenges pose serious threats to achieving the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. More food will be needed to feed a growing population and, in order to meet sustainability goals, the bulk of this increase must come from family farming.

In this context, innovation is the central driving force to transform food systems, lift family farmers out of poverty and help the world to achieve food security and sustainable agriculture and the SDGs.

Agricultural innovation is the process whereby individuals or organisations bring new or existing products, processes or ways of organisation into use for the first time in a specific context in order to increase effectiveness, competitiveness, resilience to shocks or environmental sustainability and thereby contribute to food security and nutrition, economic development or sustainable natural resource management.

Innovation in agriculture cuts across all dimensions of the production cycle along the entire value chain – from crop, forestry, fishery or livestock production to the management of inputs and resources, to organization and market access. It may, for instance, involve planting new crop varieties, combining traditional practices with new scientific knowledge, applying new pest control and post-harvest practices or engaging with markets in new, more rewarding ways.

Innovation is not just about technology, which on its own may simply remain on the shelf. It is also, and perhaps most importantly, about social, economic, institutional/organizational and policy processes, and having an impact on the lives of family farmers.

As many developing countries are as yet unable to harness the full potential of agricultural innovation, collective actions are required to remove barriers and address the constraints (technological, social, organizational, policy, etc.) that stifle the capacity of family farmers, and of other stakeholders in agriculture and food systems, to innovate.

To promote the exchange of knowledge, information and practices, to review enabling policies and platforms, and to help the development of potential partnerships and action plans, FAO will hold the International Symposium on Agricultural Innovation for Family Farmers in Rome from 21-23 November 2018.

Conceived as a dynamic multistakeholder and multidisciplinary forum, the Symposium will help in understanding the socio-economic potential of innovation, its key drivers and processes, and why it is critical to unlock its potential to achieve the transformative change required in agriculture and rural development.


  • Serve as a global knowledge and partnership platform to better understand the potential of innovation in agriculture to address the SDGs, with a special focus on supporting smallholder and family farmers
  • Increase understanding of the drivers of innovation and the main constraints
  • Propose processes, pathways and interventions needed to unlock the potential of innovation in agriculture and scaling up inclusive innovations;
  • Celebrate inspiring success stories of innovation and innovators in sustainable agriculture
  • Act as a catalyst for boosting partnerships as well as public and private investments to foster and scale up agricultural innovation

For further information, please refer to the FAQs and the Concept Note.