The Right to Food

Leveraging human rights to improve the life of family farmers

On the ground - 07.12.2021

7 December 2021, Rome-Family farmers are needed for the transformation of agrifood systems. The facts speak for themselves: they produce over 80% of the food in the world and occupy up to 80% farmland, mostly operate at small-scale level, since 95% of existing farm units are less than 5 hectares big and more than 98% of farms are less than 20 hectares in size

Despite this huge contribution, many remain the most affected by poverty and exclusion. They are more likely not to see their human rights respected, including their right to adequate food, particularly in times of COVID-19.

Yet, the launch of the UN Decade of Family Farming 2019 - 2028 (UNDFF) marked a turning point. This is opening a gateway into the future, putting the rights of family farmers at the centre of attention.

“The UNDFF offers an extraordinary opportunity to bring people-centered solutions to today’s challenges and to develop more sustainable, just, inclusive and resilient agrifood systems”, said Guilherme Brady, Head of the Family Farming and Partnerships with Civil Society Organizations Unit at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).”Through coherent and conducive public policies, which capitalize on the multi-dimensionality of family farming, countries will be able to see results not only in terms of agricultural production but also in social, environmental and cultural aspects of sustainable development”, he added.

The Global Action Plan of the Decade calls for action at the national level. Many countries worldwide have already embarked on this journey. Among them, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Sierra Leone, which have been working over this year on the formulation of their National Action Plans (NAP) ) that can serve as a consolidated framework at national level including targeted and coordinated actions to support of family farming.

The FAO Right to Food Team has supported the UNDFF work in these two countries providing backstopping from a human rights-based approach to the development of NAP. This has been done within the framework of the Flexible Multi Partner Mechanism (FMM) subprogramme “Leveraging global instruments and knowledge products”,

 “Poverty, exclusion and inequalities are among the root causes of family farmer´s vulnerability. We need to tackle them in order to ensure their well-being and an adequate standard of living, including the enjoyment of their right to adequate food”, FAO Right to Food Policy Expert, Serena Pepino, explained.

Some of the recommendations provided by the Team, which have been incorporated in the NAP, are:

  • Boosting the participation of all stakeholders in the process, including family farmers and their organizations, parliamentarians, human rights institutions, academia and paralegals institutions. Also, highlighting the collaboration between ministries from several areas (agriculture, education, social protection, information, land, health and fisheries, among others).
  • Taking into consideration the needs of most vulnerable, such as women, the youth and Indigenous Peoples, to influence decision-makers.
  •  Setting up a rights-based monitoring mechanism and collecting disaggregated information about the situation of the farmers. This helps responsible institutions be better informed and prepared to address inequalities. At the same time, can help setting up feedback mechanisms for farmers to claim their rights.
  • Raising awareness on policy tools founded on human rights, such as the Right to Food Guidelines, adopted in 2004 by FAO Council.
  • Facilitating capacity development and training for farmers to strengthen their organizations so that they can increase their engagement in policy dialogues, manage their businesses more efficiently, adopt sustainable techniques and benefit from technological advancements in agriculture.
  • Connecting smallholders to markets, by promoting the integration of family farming in government programmes such as school feeding.

UN Family Farming Decade

FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) acts as the Joint Secretariat of the UNDFF by facilitating the development and implementation of public policies for family farming and by incorporating family farming-related issues into national policies and strategies. Since 2019, nine National Actions Plans have been developed, as well as 85 laws, policies and regulations. Today, support to the Decade is in full swing in many countries, even though some activities have been postponed or delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic.  

The NAP in Sierra Leone was already validated through a participatory and inclusive process. In November 2021, the Ministry of Agriculture officially signed and adopted the Plan. The official launch is expected to take place early next year to kick-start its implementation. On the other hand, Lao People's Democratic Republic has analysed the situation of family farmers nationwide, which shed light on the huge benefits they can bring to the economy, the environment and the communities. There the Plan was discussed among many actors and it will be soon reviewed by the government.  


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