This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

Small Farms Are Feeding The World

Contrary to popular belief, smallholder farms feed most of the world, not industrial-scale farming. And there are plenty of statistics to back it up.
Black and white portrait of aged Indian farmer
DrSKN08 via Getty Images
Black and white portrait of aged Indian farmer

Contrary to the popular belief, smallholder farms feed most of the world, not industrial-scale farming. Consider the following statistics.

Around 56%of Russia 's agricultural output comes from family farms which occupy less than 9% of arable land. These farms produce 90% of the country's potatoes, 83% of its vegetables, 55% of its of milk and 39% of its meat.

In Brazil, 84% of farms are small and control 24% of the land yet produce 87% of cassava, 69% of beans, 67% of goat milk, 59% of pork, 58% of cow milk, 50% of chickens, 46% of maize, 38% of coffee and 33.8% rice.

In Cuba, with 27% of the land, small farmers produce: 98% of fruits, 95% of beans, 80% of maize, 75% of pork, 65% of vegetables, 55% of cow milk, 55% of cattle and 35% of rice.

In Ukraine, according to State Statistics Services of Ukraine, small farmers operate 16% of agricultural land, but provide 55% of agricultural output, including: 97% of potatoes, 97% of honey, 88% of vegetables, 83% of fruits and berries and 80% of milk.

Similar figures are available for many other countries.

By using a range of measures, it has become clear that small farms tend to outperform large industrial farms, despite the latter's access to various expensive technologies.

Small peasant/family farms are the bedrock of global food production, not least in the Global South, but are squeezed onto less than a quarter of the world's farmland. The world is fast losing farms through the concentration of land into the hands of the rich investors, and small farmers are constantly exposed to systematic expulsion from their land.

Throughout much of the world, agricultural land is being taken over by large corporations often for commodity crops such as soybean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. Large institutional investors and big agritech concerns are interested in financial returns, not food security. Whether by 'free' trade agreements, commodity market price manipulations, World Bank/IMF strings-attached loan or aid packages, the co-optation of political leaders or the capture of strategic policy-making bodies, powerful agribusiness interests are undermining food security and regional food sovereignty or destroying national/regional economies.

In the US, for example, industrialised farming benefits from taxpayer subsidies, which has resulted in the squeezing out of so many family farms. In India, farmers are being discriminated against and farming is becoming financially non-viable to pave the entrance for Western transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. Despite the hardships experienced by India's farmers, however, they still manage to deliver bumper harvests.

Imagine what small farmers across the world could achieve if they could work in a supportive policy environment, rather than under the siege conditions they too often face.

There needs to be a major shift away from the high-input chemical-industrial model of agriculture and food production, not only because it leads to food insecurity, bad food, poor health and environmental degradation and is ultimately unsustainable. but also because this model has underpinned an exploitative US foreign policy agenda for many decades.

For instance, the 'Green Revolution' was exported courtesy of rich interests and has been wedded to the uprooting of traditional agriculture throughout the world and integrating nations into a globalised system of debt bondage, an unsuitable model of development, dollar dependency, rigged trade relations and the hollowing out and destruction of national and local economies.

The fraudulent GMO project represents the second coming of the Green Revolution.

Although the global hijack of food and agriculture by powerful corporations has resulted in dependency and the destruction of traditional agriculture, we are deceitfully informed that we must have more of the same if we are to feed an increasing global population and eradicate poverty.

We are told that the solutions for feeding a projected world population of nine billion are more technical fixes: more chemical-dependent agriculture, more GMOs, more industrial-scale monocropping and more unnecessary shifting of food across the planet. But this is simply bogus: we already produce enough food to feed the world's population and did so even at the peak of the world food crisis in 2008 and, furthermore, GM crops that are on the market today are not designed to address hunger.

Four GM crops account for almost 100% of worldwide GM crop acreage. All four have been developed for large-scale industrial farming systems and are used as cash crops for export, to produce fuel or for processed food and animal feed.

The genuine solution for feeding the world equitably and sustainably includes securing land rights for small farmers, guaranteeing effective price/income support and access to local markets. It also entails adopting more organic and ecological farming systems that are locally based and less reliant on inappropriate infrastructure developments.

Global agribusiness and proponents of GM technology attempt to depoliticise and disguise the genuine underlying power structures that are determining the GM agenda and the nature of food poverty, malnutrition and dependency. For example, look no further than the cynical arguments used for forcing GM food crops into India.

It is very convenient for some to brush aside the policies that have ended up destroying traditional models of farming and have transformed countries into aid-dependent regions and to then mistakenly regard Bill Gates as the saviour of African agriculture with 'corporate America' in tow.

Ultimately, there is a need to challenge an increasingly integrated and consolidated global cartel of agribusiness concerns that seeks to colonise all areas of food production and distribution. People want solutions for hunger and malnutrition but are too often told there is no alternative to what exists. The solution lies in taking manipulated markets and rigged trade rules out of farming and investing in and supporting indigenous knowledge and agroecology, while abandoning imposed and unsuitable models of development.

This involves resisting the strategy of using agriculture as a geopolitical tool to create economic devastation and dependency. It also involves challenging the corporate takeover of agriculture, supporting food sovereignty movements and embracing sustainable agriculture that is locally owned and rooted in the needs of communities.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

Before You Go

Popular in the Community

This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada. Certain site features have been disabled. If you have questions or concerns, please check our FAQ or contact