Featured,  Food Supply,  Sustainability,  Sustainability in Action

Sustainability in Action: Family Farming

By Roberta Attanasio

There are many family farms in the world, farms based on rural activities managed and operated by a family — they deserve our support for their contribution to the global food system and are now a recognized reason for celebration worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that there are about 500 million of these farms on our planet.

‘Farming family’, c. 1910, hand-embellished aquatint by Charles Bartlett.


The FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in his statement of November 22, 2013 “Family farmers rely mainly on family labor. Many times they have little more than their own physical strength to harvest the land. They usually run non-specialized, diversified agricultural activities that give them a central role in securing environmental sustainability and preserving biodiversity. Because of all this, nothing comes closer to the sustainable food production paradigm than family farming. And throughout the world, family farmers have a huge productive potential. A potential that, in many cases, has yet to be reached.”

Perhaps, the most significant expression of appreciation of family farming by the FAO Director-General is “But, strangely enough, family farmers are amongst the world’s most vulnerable population. Let’s not forget that over 70 percent of the food insecure population live in rural areas of developing countries. The truth is that, in many cases, family farmers were transformed into the subject of social policies. They were considered a problem to be solved. That is the mindset we need to change. Family farmers are not part of the problem. On the contrary. They are part of the solution for food security and sustainable development.”

Last week, the United Nations launched the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, which aims to focus worldwide attention on family farmers and indentify effcient strategies for supporting them.

WHY IS FAMILY FARMING IMPORTANT? (from the 2014 International Year of Family Farming website)

  • Family and small-scale farming are inextricably linked to world food security.
  • Family farming preserves traditional food products, while contributing to a balanced diet and safeguarding the world’s agro-biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.
  • Family farming represents an opportunity to boost local economies, especially when combined with specific policies aimed at social protection and well-being of communities.

Let’s all find ways to support family farming and the role it plays in nourishing the world.

One Comment

  • HollanderGuy

    Check out the World Rural Forum (Foro Rural Mundial). They have much to say about this subject and emphasize the role of women farmers in nutrition and food security.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *