Call for Innovation on Family Farms

GLOBAL – Family farming underpins food security on a world level and must be led by innovation going forward.
calendar icon 16 October 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Public investment into research, development and advice should be increased, aiming for sustainable intensification and more productivity from land and labour, says the World Food and Agriculture Organisation on World Food Day.

Education and training should play a part in driving and supporting innovation across the board. The FAO believes this is vital if modern farming's complex demands are to be met.

World Food Day

Officially the year of family farming, 2014’s World Food Day aims to showcase family farming businesses as custodians of the land, achieving high productivity levels within sustainable systems.

Using local knowledge and innovative techniques allows the 500 million family farms across the world to produce from often marginal land, catering for a variety of landscapes.

More intensive management of labour and resources allows small and medium-sized farms to have higher crop yields per hectare than larger holdings.

"Capacity to innovate in family farming must be promoted at multiple levels. Individual
innovation capacity must be developed through investment in education and training." FAO

However, small farms produce less per worker overall.

This is according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), organisers of World Food Day since its inception in 1981, which equates family operations at 56 per cent of world food production.

A spokesperson, ahead of World Food Day, said: “Family farmers are the custodians of a finely adapted understanding of local ecologies and land capabilities.

“As a result of the intimate knowledge they have of their land and their ability to sustainably manage diverse landscapes, family farmers are able to improve many ecosystem services.”

But the economic value is also crucial to rural communities.

“Family farmers have strong economic links to the rural sector,” the FAO added. “

"They contribute strongly to employment, especially in developing countries where agriculture still employs the majority of the labour force.”

“In addition, the incremental income generated by family farming is spent on housing, education, clothing etc. in the local non-farm economy.”

What Do Family Farms Achieve?

Land farmed by these operations across the continents is significant, particularly in North and Central America and Asia.

  • Production from land usage in the US is at 84 per cent of all produce from 78 per cent of farmland.
  • Meanwhile, Brazil families farm 25 per cent of the farmland, producing 40 per cent of many major crops.
  • More than eight out of ten of all Fijian yams, rice, maniocs, maize and beans will have been grown by family businesses, which work 47 per cent of the farmland.

Original source: FAO report

Michael Priestley

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