FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Empowering family farmers is key to achieving Zero Hunger in Southeast Asia

04/04/2019 Jakarta, Indonesia

Innovation, access to rural credit – particularly for women – and improvements to rural social protection programmes are important tools to help family farmers in Southeast Asia improve their livelihoods and become more food secure, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said today.  

Representatives from countries of Southeast Asia are meeting in Jakarta to discuss ways to help smallholder farmers achieve better food security and improved livelihoods in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger (SDG-2) before the 2030 deadline. The meeting is convened by the Government of Indonesia.

Family farms produce the vast majority of the food that makes it to our dinner tables. They produce 80 percent of the world’s food and are the biggest sources of employment globally, yet many family farms are themselves food insecure and extremely poor.

Southeast Asian countries join forces to raise awareness in the Decade of Family Farming 2019 – 2028

In Southeast Asia, a vast majority of farmland is owned by smallholder farmers representing less than five hectares. In Indonesia, farms are even smaller, with a sizable majority of farms occupying less than one hectare of land. By extension, family farming also relates to fisher folks, herders and people relying on forests for their food and livelihoods.

The rural poor, especially family farmers, face considerable difficulties in accessing credit, services, technologies and markets which would allow them to improve the productivity of their natural resources and labour. Rural women are disproportionately affected by these drawbacks.

Most available jobs in agriculture are associated with low and unstable incomes, poor safety and health conditions, gender inequality in pay and opportunities, and limited social protection. Due to this lack of access to training, financial and extension services and processing facilities, attractive prospects are often more limited in rural areas than in urban areas and, as a result, contribute to the rural-to-urban populations shift.

“Let’s be clear, farming in Southeast Asia, is family farming and so by empowering family farms and family farmers we will help to address the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in this region,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

She made the remarks during the opening session of the Regional Conference on Strengthening Southeast Asia Food Security, Nutrition, and Farmer Welfare through the UN Decade of Family Farming.

Family farms in Southeast Asia – an established cornerstone of rural life

Family farming is about linking production to families, to schools and to communities. It is based on local knowledge. It sustains productivity on, what is often, marginal land, and provides local consumers with fresh food, including poultry, livestock, fish, fruits and vegetables, along with other staple foods, which are critical to achieving good nutrition.

Recognizing the central roles of family farming the United Nations General Assembly has officially declared 2019–2028 as the Decade of Family Farming. The resolution acknowledges family farmers as key leaders in the pursuit of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically in ensuring global food security, eradicating poverty, ending hunger, conserving biodiversity, achieving environmental sustainability, and helping to address migration.

Many countries in the world have made progress in developing public policies in favor of family farming.  Sharing knowledge and data contributes to policy dialogue and policy making to address the specific needs of family farms.

“There are major challenges where policies need to be addressed related with family farming and climate change, gender, youth and decent work,” Kadiresan said.

“To improve the welfare of family farms, and strengthen their resilience, in a word, we need innovation. Innovation in policies and the enabling environment. Innovation in technologies. And Innovation in institutions,” she added. “Most importantly, family farmers must be at the heart of these innovations.” 

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