Decent Rural Employment

Crop farming

Agriculture provides jobs for approximately 1.3 billion smallholders and landless workers worldwide. Nine out of ten of the world's farms are managed by families and about 80 percent of the world's food is produced on family farms that are operated by and predominantly reliant on family labour. Small-scale and family farmers have strong economic linkages with the rural sector; they contribute strongly to employment, especially in developing countries where agriculture continues to employ the majority of the labour force.

Yet, many smallholder family farmers are poor and food insecure and tend to be less commercially oriented due to their restricted access to markets. This is often due to poor infrastructure (e.g. roads and storage facilities) and limited access to financial and risk management instruments. In addition, small-scale farmers often face constraints in their efforts to introduce improved agricultural practices and innovations due to inadequate extension and rural advisory services, as well as limited access to training and education. Their ability to participate in and influence policy dialogue is also often restricted.

Access to basic services including health, clean water and sanitation is extremely limited in many rural areas. This can adversely affect the livelihoods of vulnerable farmers, since much of agricultural work is hazardous and can cause sickness, injury or even death, especially when health and safety standards are low. Unequal patterns of access to and control over natural resources, such as land and water, also have an impact on small farmers’ ability to increase productivity and improve their incomes. These challenges affect rural women and youth in particular, and can be exacerbated by factors such as climate change and environmental degradation.

The role of FAO:

FAO aims to promote sustainable productivity growth on family farms to increase incomes and to generate decent employment opportunities for landless rural workers. It also works to improve occupational safety and health in agriculture, with particular attention to eradicating the worst forms of child labour. Moreover, it assists governments to integrate international labour standards into national labour legislation and to extend their application in remote rural areas. Finally, it works towards promoting an enabling environment for strong, effective and inclusive producers’ organizations that can facilitate access of family farms to markets, technologies and financial services as well as to help small farmers gain a voice in policymaking.