Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)


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 activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.

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Dear contributors,

The e-consultation on 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?’ is now over and I would like to thank you all for the ideas, insights, experiences shared to enrich our discussion.

We received 46 contributions from 24 countries: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Hawaii, India, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States of America.

The consultation helped us gain a better understanding of how the term social (or care) farming is known outside of academic circles that have been studying this farming practice. 

We recognize that what we mean by social/care farming may not be so clear and that the term can be interpreted very broadly. We hope that the methodological approach and the country implementation framework we are elaborating will define social/care farming more clearly. This will help practitioners and policy makers recognize and promote it.

We appreciate the concrete examples of social farming in action that have been shared with us by Gemma Todd (Tanzania), Simone Staiger (Colombia) and Magda Rich (India), among others.

We are also grateful for those who contributed methodological notes. These will be valuable for further defining the concept paper and the Rapid Social Farming Appraisal Framework.

We will be in touch with you to further discuss aspects of social/care farming as we go ahead with our analysis and the preparation of the country implementation framework.

In the meantime, we will retain your comments for others to read and look forward to your engagement on future themes. A summary of the key points from the discussion which highlights the case studies will be made available on the FSN forum website.

Many thanks,

Hajnalka Petrics


Saverio Senni

Università degli studi della Tuscia

Thanks for opening this discussion. I have been involved since more than 10 years ago in buiding knowledge and competences in social agriculture in Italy and I have participated to several project at European and international level.

Becoming more and more aware that mutifunctionality and social agriculture is not a field of interest only in developed countries but has a tremendous potential in developing countries in 2012  I founded with my University (the University of Tuscia)  a “University spin-off Company” called IDEA 2020 - Innovation and DEvelopment for Agriculture ( to  contribute to rural development in developing countries with a multifunctional approach to agriculture and to the development of social farming.

We are descovering a number of projects and initiatives in developing countries that can be considered as social farming, most of them carried on by NGOs. As example I can mention the Shamba Project in Tanzania ( where agricuotural activities are combine with a rehabilitation centre for disabled children.  The economic sustainability of this projects is guaranteed by several sources: market sales (sunflower oil), international funds,national and regional public funds and voluntary work from youngsters in International civil service.

More in general the  social function of farming in developing countries is often an indirect effect of many agricultural and rural development cooperation projects.

Prof. Saverio Senni di Scienze e Tecnologie per l'Agricoltura, le Foreste, la Natura e l'Energia


Università degli Studi della Tuscia

Angela Galasso

AiCARE (Italian Agency for Responsible and Ethic Countryside and Agriculture)

In Italy and Europe with the terms "social/care farming" is described the terapeutic use of farming practices. Care farms use the whole farm or part of it, for providing health, social or educational care service for one or a range of vulnerable groups of people and provide a supervised, structured program of farming-related activities. We believe that social farming must be interpreted as an innovative way to do agriculture. AiCARE (Italian Agency for Responsible and Ethic Countryside ana Agriculture) is an Italian non-profit organization, founded by a group of technicians and researchers actives in the fields of agriculture, psychology and welfare, joned by the common vision that agriculture can be the key of a new development paradigm, based on values still strongly alive in rural communities (like reciprocity, common good, relationship's economy, ...). Our mission is to widen and disseminate knowledge on social/care farming and civic agriculture, by collecting and networking good practices, by spreading studies and increasing research, by involving policy and community on it. All this is made by using very practical and smart methods and tools, as you can see on the website (online map of good practices, documentation center, databases, field visits and tours organizationa in Italy and abroad, scoutin events like the Civic Agriculture Award, training, ...).

The earth of our activity is the scouting and networking of good practices in social farming. By this activity we also tried to learn the lessons for building new good practices in social farming, so to spread this innovative kind of agriculture. One of this is the importance to have real farms, with real farm farming activity (and production), opened and able to build strong links with their communities. We also learned that in this kind of farms women's role is very strong, because of the "care" attitude of women, that are able to welcome "differences" and also "innovation" in a natural way. So, lookin in a new way to those that are "traditional women attitudes" in a large number of cultures (like managing the house, cooking, welcoming, caring and teaching/training babies in phisiological tasks, ...) social farming can be an effective way for increasing women role in agriculture.

If in European countries throughout social farming women find an efficient way for joining work and family enhancing their skills and competences (one of the main issues concerning women work in developed countries), so to come back to the land, in developing countries, where women are already farmers, social farming can give new working opportunities. This is also the evidence we had during a project of technical assistance to fincas agro turisticas in Nicaragua. It was a project for development or rural tourism in Nicaragua held in the June 2011 by the Italian Department of Agriculture. Perhaps it may be useful to report her some "memories" of that experience. During the mission we met several cooperatives located in different areas of the country. In almost all of the "social" dimension was naturally expressed by the cooperation, the union of the campesinos to create jobs through the cultivation of the land often using sustainable agricultural techniques. We perceived a tendency towards a human/social, environmental quality as well as attention to the economic sustainability of cooperatives. In a specific case, also, the cooperative had made a project of "turismo rural comunitario". A tourism developed in rural areas where the local population, especially indigenous peoples and campesinos' families trough various organizational structures and accommodation of collective character, has a leading role in its development, management and control, and distribution of benefits. Tourist activity does not replace the traditional productive activities, but it is a way to expand and diversify opportunities in rural communities, helping to supplement the income of the campesinos family. Also there was a diversification and increased production of vegetables for direct consumption and for direct sales to tourist (mainly coffee). The new jobs related to tourism have generated cash income, improved welfare and living conditions; improving household food and education of children. In these experiences, the management of the accommodation is carried out mainly by women, contributing to their economic independence, improving their living conditions, participation and involvement in active management, including economic and administrative within rural communities. The project was carried out by the cooperative Garnacha, Northern Nicaragua.

My best regards,


En México, el término “agricultura social” ha sido utilizado para referirse al sector conformado por los  campesinos que al término de la revolución de 1910 recibieron tierras para trabajarlas, con ciertos elementos de trabajo colectivo, como fue la manera tradicional de organizarse de los pueblos de los tiempos anteriores a la colonización española (algunos todavía existen). Tal como excelentemente lo señala George Kent, los mayas (y los aztecas)  tienen mucho que enseñarnos acerca del manejo de los alimentos, especialmente en el enfoque para producir lo que se necesita  y la vinculación entre la producción y el consumo.

Al llegar los españoles a Tenochtitlán, se sorprendieron de la prosperidad que encontraron, ya que los campesinos no eran pobres, mucho menos miserables, como lo eran en esa época sus contrapartes europeos, que vivían bajo el sistema feudal, en una virtual explotación. En México, los campesinos tenían la gran ventaja de la existencia de los “tianguis” (mercados), en donde podían ofrecer sus productos directamente a los consumidores, con todas las ventajas que ello implica. Durante la colonia española este esquema cambió y las tierras fueron acaparadas en grandes latifundios, en los cuales la población pasó a ocupar un lugar similar al de los siervos del feudalismo, sumidos, como ellos, en la pobreza. Los gobiernos surgidos a raíz de la revolución, intentaron restituir la forma tradicional de tenencia de la tierra de los pueblos prehispánicos, constituyéndose así el “ejido”, en el cual se entregaba tierra a los campesinos para que la trabajaran de manera tanto individual como colectiva. Durante 60 – 70 años se hizo un gran esfuerzo y se apoyó  con créditos y asesoría a los ejidatarios de una manera muy intensa, pero a partir de la década de los 80s se dieron grandes cambios en las políticas públicas, desmantelándose  el aparato gubernamental que daba soporte a este esquema. Se hicieron cambios a las leyes para permitir la venta de los ejidos (estaba prohibido) y  se alentó la producción comercial, especialmente la dirigida a la exportación. El resultado, 30 años después, es que la desigualdad ha aumentado en una forma impresionante, con la mitad de sus 110 millones de habitantes  en situación de pobreza y  más de 20 millones padeciendo hambre. Se cumple así lo que señala George Kent, de que no son las sociedades con menos ingresos, sino las que menos cuidan de sus miembros las que sufren más la pobreza y el hambre. México produce hoy más alimentos que hace 30 años, pero tiene más pobreza y hambre; tiene cada vez más pobres pero tiene al mismo tiempo algunos de los hombres más ricos del mundo. Sin embargo, existen aún muchos pueblos en México que mantienen sus tradiciones y sus sistemas de producción comunitaria, pero se encuentran en desventaja para competir en el actual esquema de comercialización, copado por las grandes empresas tanto mexicanas como trasnacionales, que poco a poco han ido cambiando nuestros hábitos de consumo y desplazando nuestros productos.

Así es que al buscar ejemplos de lo que llaman “agricultura social”, entendiéndola como “el uso de la agricultura para proporcionar servicios sociales o de educación a los grupos vulnerables”, encuentro que trasladamos los problemas sociales que padecemos a este ámbito también. Se han utilizado desde hace ya largo tiempo las granjas para menores a manera de reformatorios, pero es también largo el debate acerca del enfoque que se les da, ya que son manejadas a manera de cárceles, sin enfocarse realmente en la rehabilitación del menor. Como centros para rehabilitación de drogadictos, la situación es muy similar, con instalaciones igualmente similares a las cárceles y resultados cuestionables. El área en la que si hay resultados positivos es en  el uso de las granjas de manera didáctica; existen  granjas que se especializan en dar pequeños cursos o simples visitas que permiten a los niños conocer las labores agrícolas y entender lo que significan en la producción de alimentos y en el cuidado del medio ambiente. Estas granjas en general son negocios particulares y cobran por sus servicios, enfocándose en las escuelas tanto públicas como privadas de nivel básico, ofreciendo visitas a la granja o bien llevar la granja a las escuelas.

Considero que en México se necesita un fuerte cambio en el enfoque de nuestras políticas públicas, pues  al día de hoy, se hace un gran énfasis en que toda la producción debe estar enfocada al mercado, si es de exportación mejor, olvidándonos del compromiso y del objetivo básico de la agricultura, de alimentar a nuestra población.

Saludos cordiales

Moisés Gómez Porchini

Bonjour à tous,

Le modèle d'agriculture sociale afin d'être optimal doit permettre l'inclusion des plus vulnérables. J'ai travaillé sur un modèle qui pourrait permettre de donner de l'activité s'il est mené en mode artisanal. Aussi, Le modèle "cassava and tilapia" permet:  

  • une mise en place avec peu d'investissement
  • générer de nombreuses activités autour du modèle.
  • rendre très accessibles ces activités aux femmes
  • redynamiser les villages
  • offrir  une prevention dans le domaine da la santé une nourriture de soins aux populations
  • de donner une nutrition correcte aux populations
  • d'offrir une agriculture saine ( pour les personnes : le manioc ) pour les poissons ( les feuilles de manioc )...


Fatima ELtahir

Ministry of Agriculture

I think social for is one of the key drivers for rural development especially in areas where most of women are female headed HH, to ensure the visibility of social farming it is better to be linked to social networks and to build capacities of women on how to manage their farms and how can they interact socially to develop their farms. I think one of related organization can design a project in a given area to make a piloting for these farming systems for lessons learning and replications.

Fatima Eltahir

Senapathy Marisennayya

Associate Professor at Wolaita Sodo University

Social Farming is the survival strategy to the rural people. Social Farming has come to the attention of an increasing range of rural stakeholders in recent years and numerous examples of social farming activities can be found around the EU-27 Member States. This interest is the result of a growing understanding of the potential role of agricultural and rural resources for enhancing the social, physical and mental well-being of people. The rural people behavior, culture and type of living supported with local environmental condition in which they can lead their livelihood aspects. At the same time, social farming also represents a new opportunity for farmers to deliver alternative services to broaden and diversify the scope of their activities and multi-functional role in society. This integration between agricultural and social activities can also provide farmers with new sources of income and enhance the image of agriculture in the ‘public eye’. Social Farming is enhancing the life plus survival strategy to the rural people.



Themba Phiri

Agricultural Technical Specialist
South Africa

Women in the development world have been marginalized for quite a long time, the social care farming approach, will empower the women to farm profitably whilst keeping the social fabric of the family intact. Women are the key players in the farming industry, without their involvement farming will be decidely off-beat. The physically disbaled, sick are always taken care of by the majority of the women. The care farming approach should be tested at various levels as it intergrates all people from all walks of life such as the disbaled who are always vulnerable, the war veterans, who are affected by changing political situations. There is need to build institutions of learning that will train and cater for people with some level of vulnerabilities. This can only be done through donor forums as they are the ones who finance developmental programs. Donors should come up with tailor made programs for the vulnerable groups mentioned above for the care farming innovation to be deemed a success

Hello everyone, thank you for bringing up such a important issue and discussion! At Tanzania House of Hope we utilise social/care farming with our older people's associations. The farming has changed the perception of older people within the community, built unity within the older people groups, but also built confidence for older people - showcasing an ability to engage in income-generating activities and revive previous skills. 

I agree with some of the comments raised by previous discussants - such as the need to connect farmers to the market, providing fair prices and economic capabilities. However, additionally we need to remember the bigger picture of which social/care farming aims to change - reintegrating vulnerable groups and enforcing change. In order to do so at Tanzania House of Hope we are synthesising our care/social farming approaches with other members of the community. We are building an inclusive community centre of which is inter-generational and dynamic, to not only offer change for the vulnerable individuals engaging in social/care farming, but also to offer a opportunity for interaction. We are integrating social/care farming with broader community development programmes to introduce changes to how the community functions in unity. 

Please take a look at some of the work we are engaged in, and offer any support. Your support is crucial for wider-scale change through social/care farming. Thank you!!

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