About 805 million people in the world still do not have enough to eat and to win the war against hunger, political commitment, a holistic approach, and family farming are needed, says the Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jose Graziano da Silva.
This is despite the fact that 63 developing countries have already reached the Millennium Development Goal hunger target of halving the proportion of people suffering from chronic undernourishment by 2015.
“Around 500 million of the world’s 570 million farms are run by families. They are the main caretakers of our natural resources. As a sector, they form the largest employer, supply more than 80 percent of the world’s food in terms of value, and are often the main producers of fresh food and prosper in dairy, poultry and pig production.
“Yet many family farmers, especially subsistence producers, are part of the 70 percent of the world’s food-insecure population who live in rural areas. This means that family farmers still have a great potential they can fulfill with the right support,” he said in a statement as the UN marked World Food Day yesterday.
He said global agricultural productivity has dramatically increased, thanks to scientific and technological progress. But he added that family farming and the support it receives need to adjust in ways that can respond to changing conditions.
Innovation is key to make this happen, he said. Family farmers need to innovate in the systems they use; governments need to innovate in the specific policies they implement to support family farming; and research and extension institutions need to innovate by shifting from research-driven processes predominately based on technology transfer to an approach that enables and rewards innovation by family farmers themselves.
He said a growing and increasingly urbanised world population is relying on food produced by a much smaller percentage of farmers compared to that of the post-second World War period, saying the marketplace for agriculture and food products has become globalised.
Throughout the world, family farmers play a crucial socio-economic, environmental and cultural role which, amid serious challenges, needs to be cherished and strengthened through innovation. Facts presented in the FAO’s annual State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report clearly justify the emphasis being placed on family farming, Mr. da Silva said.
This year’s World Food Day celebrated the contribution family farmers make to food security and sustainable development: they feed the world and care for the earth. The United Nations has also designated 2014 as the Year of Family Farming.
Mr. da Silva said in all its forms, innovation needs to be inclusive, involving family farmers in the generation, sharing and use of knowledge so that they have ownership of the process, taking on board both the benefits and the risks, and making sure that it truly responds to local contexts.
“Family farmers need to produce enough food not just for themselves, but also for people in rural areas not involved in farming or city dwellers. They also need to generate income to buy inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, but also guarantee decent livelihoods, including paying for their children’s education and other needs.
“When family farmers are stronger, it is a win-win situation: more food available locally translates into more food security and into the possibility of producing and buying food for and in local markets. In turn, this means fresher and healthier meals that respect local culture and values local foods, contributes to better nutrition and makes more money in local economies, helping them flourish.
“The list of potential benefits does not stop there and includes, for instance, the possibility of linking local production to school meals and the opportunity to stimulate industries that can support the flourishing production.
“When we combine productive support to social protection and other public support such as better access to health facilities and schools, we can create a truly virtuous sustainable development cycle.”