Supporting Family Farmers in 2014 and Beyond

Throughout 2014, Food Tank has been honored to collaborate with numerous organizations--including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and many others--around the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF).

The IYFF, created by the United Nations General Assembly, is a worldwide celebration that aims to reposition farming families, indigenous groups, cooperatives, and fishing families at the center of agricultural, environmental, and social policies.

It's also the first international year that is the result of an effort by more than 400 civil society organizations, led by the World Rural Forum, to ask the United Nations to recognize family farmers.

This yearlong celebration strives to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farming by focusing global attention on its significant role in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing and preserving natural resources, protecting the environment, improving equality, and emphasizing the important role of women farmers and youth to build a more sustainable food system.

During the IYFF, Food Tank has worked to promote broad discussion and cooperation at the national, regional, and global levels to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers.

According to Jose Antonio Osaba, Coordinator of the IYFF-2014 Civil Society Programme and Advisor to the World Rural Forum, "the most effective way to combat hunger and malnutrition is to produce food near the consumers- precisely what family farming does."

Through local knowledge and sustainable, innovative farming methods, family farmers can improve yields and create a more nutrient-dense and diverse food system.

And family farming integrates two incredibly important, but often overlooked, groups of agricultural producers: women and youth.

Food Tank recently hosted two online discussions with the FAO's Global Forum for Food Security and Nutrition centered on women and youth in agriculture. The discussions engaged nearly hundreds of participants from more than eighty countries from around the world, who shared innovative ways to empower these farmers and provide them with the resources they need for success.

"In many developing countries, women are the backbone of the economy," explains Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, FAO. "Yet, women farmers do not have equal access to resources and this significantly limits their potential in enhancing productivity."

Overcoming deep-rooted inequalities that prevent female farmers from gaining rights to access land, inputs, and economic resources will allow them to farm more productively. According to FAO, providing female farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million people.

And maintaining young people's interest in farming as a profession is vital to future food security. Today, youth face global unemployment levels of up to 28 percent and many see agriculture as a burden, not an opportunity. But governments, schools and universities, businesses, and international organizations can cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders by investing in policies and practices that make rural areas and agriculture intellectually stimulating and economically sustainable.

By fostering dialogue around family farming issues and reporting on programs that support family farmers, Food Tank hopes to contribute to IYFF's goal of creating policies that support and benefit all types of family farmers.

In case you missed them, below are some of the articles, reports, and videos that Food Tank has produced this year to highlight the meaningful work of family farmers around the world:

Food Tank issued a groundbreaking report with new research called Food Tank By the Numbers: Family Farming.

Food Tank collaborated with Greener Media to produce "Family Farmers + You = A Well Nourished Planet," a video calling upon eaters, business leaders, policy makers, funders, and donors to ensure that family farms receive more attention, more research, and more investment.

Food Tank created two petitions in partnership with for readers to sign to show their support for family farmers.

Food Tank participated in the Dialogue on Family Farming in North America and reported on the six key recommendations produced at the Dialogue.

Food Tank interviewed Dorcas Okello, co-founder of the Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa (FOSAA), on her work to improve the livelihoods of African family farmers through training and productive innovations.

Let's remember that farmers aren't just food producers--they are business women and men, teachers in their communities, innovators and inventors, and stewards of the land who deserve to be recognized for their hard work that supports both people and the planet.