Fighting for Family Farmers

Family farmers have been and will always continue to be critical to national and global food security. Food Tank will be featuring posts focused on the issues and innovations critical to family farmers around the world, as well as actions everyone can take to support them.
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The United Nations has designated next year, 2014, the International Year of the Family Farmer (IYFF), and preparations around the world are already beginning.

Food Tank: The Food Think Tank (FAO) is partnering over the next two years with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to highlight the important role family farmers play in improving food security, alleviating poverty, enhancing ecoystem services, improving gender equity, creating opportunities for youth, and a whole range of other indicators. We're honored and thrilled to be involved in this important project and will look forward to your suggestions on groups we should highlight in Asia, Latin America, North America, ans sub-Saharan Africa.

"Family farmers" can be defined as producers who make most of their living by farming, have limited access to land and other resources, who work with family members, and where the head of the household is directly involved in production, not just management of the farm.

The World Bank reports that a one percent increase in GDP in the agriculture sector will be twice as effective in alleviating poverty than an equivalent increase in any other sector. But the percentage of global investment directed toward agriculture dropped from 16 percent to four percent between 1980 and 2010.

Fortunately, there are a number of organizations around the world that are currently working to make sure family farms get the support and investment they need. Here are nine organizations helping family farmers:

1. The National Family Farm Coalition (NFCC) is a U.S.-based nonprofit working with family farmers and rural communities. NFCC is pursuing a farmer-to-farmer initiative, in collaboration with local farmers' groups, to lead workshops and organize training programs for family farmers.

2. La Via Campesina is a grassroots movement protecting food sovereignty. In Colombia, La Via Campesina is working to promote agro-ecological practices and establish farmers' markets in the capital of Bogotá. By 2010, 2,500 family farmers participating in the markets were earning US$2 million annually. According to OXFAM, the government is now trying to bring the markets to other major cities in Colombia, including Cali and Medellín.

3. Thanks, in part, to Landesa's research and recommendations, historic legal changes are occurring in China. In an enormous coup for small-scale farmers, the Chinese government is now offering guaranteed 30-year land rights, both documenting and publicizing farmers' rights to their land and taking serious steps to limit expropriations. Landesa has helped secure the land rights of more than 400 million people in 45 countries.

4. Slow Food International's Terra Madre initiative is a network of small-scale farmers, breeders, fishers and food artisans around the world whose approach to food production protects both environmental and community interests. In Ireland, Slow Food has been supporting a campaign to protect the rights of dairy farmers. Ireland is the third largest consumer of raw milk in the world and a proposed government ban on unpasteurized milk threatened the livelihoods of family farms. The campaign's efforts were successful, and in January 2013 the government agreed to regulate, rather than ban, raw milk.

5. Navdanya has worked to establish 111 community seed banks throughout India, and has trained more than five million smallholder farmers to protect traditional seed varieties.

6. Groundswell International launched a program in Burkina Faso to improve production, food security, and gender equity for 29,500 families by helping scale up agroecological practices.

7. Organizations in the Promoting Local Innovation (PROLINNOVA) network have supported initiatives to pilot credit systems in several countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Farmers can access funds to do their own research projects and develop agricultural innovations that are most useful to them.

8. Dairy cooperatives in Afghanistan, with the support of the Rural Microfinance and Livestock Support Programme of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), are helping unite farmers' groups and providing training in farm management and feed supply. There are now more than 14 cooperatives in the eastern Afghan province of Nangahar, and the total membership is more than 14,000, a significant proportion of whom are women.

9. The World Cocoa Foundation offers a Family Support Scholarship program to family farmers. Not only does the three-tiered program help women to keep their children in school to allow them to focus on improving their farming enterprises, it also provides them with a business training course and additional funds to invest in their businesses.

Family farmers have been and will always continue to be critical to national and global food security. Food Tank will be featuring posts focused on the issues and innovations critical to family farmers around the world, as well as actions everyone can take to support them.

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