Family Farming Can Alleviate Global Poverty

As development agencies, international research institutions, non-profit organizations, and funding and donor communities continue to search for ways to eradicate global poverty and hunger, many now believe that the answer may lie in family farming. Of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, an estimated 800 million work in the agricultural sector, and the vast majority own very small plots of land. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), and the panel has concluded that 96% of all agricultural holdings in Africa measure less than ten hectares. In China and India alone, there are 189 million and 112 million smallholder farmers respectively with plots measuring less than two hectares.

These smallholder family farms play a vital role in securing food for their communities. According to a World Bank report, an increase in one percent in agricultural GDP reduces poverty by four times as much as the same percentage increase in non-agricultural GDP. These families, however, are also some of those most at risk of hunger and poverty, and there must be a concerted effort to support their farms and the agricultural industry at large.

Over the next two years, The Food Think Tank and the FAO will work together to highlight the important role of family famers, and encourage other organizations to help family famers improve their working conditions by enhancing soil health, protecting water supplies, improving nutrition and increasing incomes. Here are five ways, presented by Food Thank and FAO, that NGOs and other organizations can help family famers alleviate global poverty.

1. Promote sustainable agriculture methods.
In order to increase yields, new farming methods can be employed, such as agroecology or ecological intensification. According to an analysis of 40 projects and programs, African smallholder farmers have experienced increased yields due to sustainable techniques, such as agroforestry and soil conservation.

2. Assist family famers in adapting to climate change and short-term climate variability.
As climate change continues to affect the agricultural industry, family farmers also bare the weight of environmental impacts. According to the IFAD, In Africa alone 75 million to 250 million more people will experience increased water stress by 2020 because of climate change. By supporting programs that teach sustainable practices in land and water management, organizations can help minimize the effects of year-to-year climate variability in the form of drought or flooding.

3. Promote policies to provide smallholders with legal titles to their land.
Over 1 billion poor people lack secure rights to land; by obtaining legal rights, farmers can increase productivity, investment in land and family income.

4. Increase access to local markets.
Since family famers produce on a small scale, they need chains of appropriate scale. Organizations such as Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) can provide platforms from which family farmers are able to sell their products directly to consumers.

5. Close the gender gap.
Currently, women do not have equal access to credit, land, inputs, and extension services when compared to their male counterparts. By closing the gender gap, 100 million to 150 million people could be lifted out of hunger.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: Huffington Post, FAO
Photo: The Guardian