For years it has been a common idea that providing impoverished communities with farmland could be a key strategy in fighting global poverty. After all, if these communities are given the land, are taught how to properly grow crops and are then left to tend to the land themselves, the cycle of poverty might finally be broken.

Unfortunately, the opposite is occurring, which only serves to increase world hunger.

According to a recent report released by the nonprofit organization GRAIN, small farmers are losing farmland at an alarming rate. It is difficult to determine who exactly owns the farmland in many countries since there is no set definition of a small or family farm, but GRAIN was able to determine that small farmers own approximately 25 percent of the world’s farmland using various measurements. If the farmland in China and India is excluded, however, then this approximation is decreased to only 17 percent.

Ironically, even though these small farmers occupy that small portion of farmland, they are actually responsible for providing most of the world’s food. According to Frederic Mousseau at the Oakland Institute, these small farmers have the ability to produce food for 9 billion people, showing that these farmers, rather than large corporate farms, should be given the farmland.

Not only are these small farms more productive, but GRAIN also argues that they are better for the environment. Along with producing more food, these farmers tend to practice agro-ecological farming, meaning that they show more care for the soil and do not emit as much carbon dioxide in comparison to large corporate farms.

As an international nonprofit organization, GRAIN works to support small farmers, specifically those in Latin America, Africa and Asia. In the early 1980s, this organization was formed with the goal of bringing back genetic diversity on farms, and GRAIN has since then formed partnerships with both local and national groups to complete research, advocacy and other collaborative projects, such as its new report “Hungry for Land.”

To gather enough comprehensive information, GRAIN not only used data from every country, but also statistics from the U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization.

Despite differences that exist in approximations of the amount of small farms that occupy farmland, the key issue of small farmers losing farmland remains. Small farms not only play an essential role in feeding the world, but also in the fight against global poverty, which is why this land reform movement needs to get back on track.

 — Meghan Orner

Sources: GRAIN, Oakland Institute, Inter Press Service