Decades of family farming just ahead

Peasants voice their hopes and concerns about the UN's Decade of Family Farming

The Decade was officially launched at FAO headquarters in Rome on 29th May 2019 and was preceded by sessions to exchange and discuss the priorities to implement the global action plan

In December 2017, the UN General Assembly declared 2019-2028 as the “United Nations Decade of Family Farming” and mandated the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to implement the Decade. The resolution of the General Assembly also called on governments, international organizations and civil society organizations to contribute to the implementation of the decade.

The goals announced for the Decade are based on a global action plan with 7 pillars:

  • Pillar 1. Develop an enabling policy environment to strengthen family farming.
  • Pillar 2 – Transversal. Support youth and ensure the generational sustainability of family farming.
  • Pillar 3, – Transversal. Promote gender equity in family farming and the leadership role of rural women.
  • Pillar 4 – Strengthen family farmers’ organizations and capacities to generate knowledge, represent farmers and provide inclusive services in the urban-rural continuum.
  • Pillar 5 – Improve socio-economic inclusion resilience and well-being of family farmers, rural households and communities.
  • Pillar 6. Promote sustainability of family farming for climate-resilient food systems.
  • Pillar 7. Strengthen the multidimensionality of family farming to promote social innovations contributing to territorial sustainability and food systems that safeguard biodiversity, the environment and culture.

Agriculture means much more than just a daily activity. It carries values, a culture, feeling love for our earth and life and, more importantly, taking pride in what we do. Today, we are threatened by transnational corporations that have found the means to act on our food system. We have taken action, and that is why we proclaim food sovereignty as a right of the peoples. We have also made very strong, clear and precise proposals so that people understand that, today, not only peasants are at risk of disappearing, but that peoples are at risk of becoming subordinate and living in slavery by being forced into a large market of cheap labour. We refer to peasants’ rights to ensure healthy diets, to keep our land alive and with diversity, to conserve our earth, the source of wealth. Above all, we want to protect life. And food is life, as long as it is produced using the forms of traditional agriculture that have been practised for millennia by indigenous peoples. This is why, for us, family farming is peasant and indigenous agriculture; it is practised by families, true, but in connection to the community, with workers united to build the future.

Elizabeth Mpofu, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, gave the following address before the government representatives at the launch of the Decade:

“Right now, while we are sitting here, climate change and agribusiness are threatening us; hunger is increasing around the world and peasants commit suicide every day. We must move into action. It is time to implement solutions. We, the peasants, have these solutions and we have been explaining them for many centuries. The solution is to promote peasant family farming based on agroecology and food sovereignty, including small-scale food producers.”

Food Waste Reduction

Better Post-harvest Processing

a solution to global hunger?

Though hunger rarely makes the headlines anymore, it is still a burning issue in many countries, with an estimated 821 million undernourished people in the world. For decades, governments and donors have been increasing investment into food production to alleviate the problem. But what if the solution lies elsewhere?

Seven years have passed since FAO estimated that about one third of the food produced worldwide is either lost or wasted. Surprisingly huge amounts of food are lost even in the poorest countries, the very same which have the highest numbers of hungry or malnourished people. Most of these countries are affected by high levels of post-harvest losses caused by inappropriate handling of the produce after harvest.
For example Rwanda: like many other sub-Saharan African countries, agriculture is the leading economic activity in this densely populated nation, with more than 70 per cent of the workforce employed in the agricultural sector. Most of the produce is handled by smallholder farmers in their own homes through rudimentary post-harvest practices, often leading to low quality produce and high post-harvest losses.

Climate change is a big part of the problem. Due to shifting climatic patterns, maize harvesting currently happens during the peak of the rainy season. Most farmers do not have access to adequate drying facilities and cannot dry their produce to acceptable moisture levels before storing it, leading to pest infestation, mold and contamination. The result: large quantities of their maize is either inedible or unsalable.

The problem is a real one and there is data to prove it. According to the Africa Post-Harvest Loss Information System (APHLIS), the leading source on post-harvest wastage in Africa, losses in the Rwanda maize supply chain could be as high as 22 per cent. The figure is also alarmingly high for other crops in other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with an average grain loss estimated at 13.5 per cent continent-wide.

Reducing such losses could constitute a more cost-effective answer to hunger than increasing productivity. If the figures published in a 2011 World Bank report paint an accurate portrait, eliminating grain losses in sub-Saharan Africa alone could provide the annual calorie requirement for around 48 million people. And this increase would not be detrimental to the environment, as it would require no extra resources (water, land and energy) to grow the food that would otherwise go wasted.

The problem is that it is difficult to isolate post-harvest losses from the issue of rural underdevelopment in general. That is because they are largely due to the lack of infrastructure and appropriate equipment that affects many developing economies. What is really needed is a complete overhaul of the rural sector and its value chains, and one that leaves no loss behind.

A growing number of projects supported by IFAD follow a holistic approach that aims to improve the overall efficiency of the value chain by upgrading the capacities of all actors involved. An internal desk review found that between 2013 and 2016 IFAD earmarked about US$433 million to post-harvest operations through such projects. The infrastructure, equipment and capacity developed thanks to this investment is essential to enable producers to reduce their losses.

More focused interventions may still be needed to reduce losses at critical loss points, as we've done for example in East Timor by subsidizing 42,000 improved storage drums for household storage. Yet the comprehensive and durable development many of our projects have brought to rural communities is arguably more effective than piecemeal interventions, which may have a more immediate and measurable impact, but a more uncertain future.
Source: https://www.ifad.org/web/latest/blog/asset/40810706

Reducing food losses is just as important as improving yields, especially in the context of shifting climatic conditions. But the most effective way to stop the loss is to take a holistic approach that carefully integrates post-harvest loss reduction into every step of the targeted supply chains, from production to retail. If adequately funded and implemented, this approach could be the key to building more sustainable food systems, ensuring that everyone is adequately fed while our environment is protected.

Global Food Movement Rejects 'Gene drive' Technology

World Food Day (Oct/18) ...

Over 200 global food movement leaders and organisations representing hundreds of millions of farmers and food workers set out their clear opposition to “gene drives” – a controversial new genetic forcing technology.

Their call for a stop to this technology accompanies a new report, Forcing the Farm: How Gene Drive Organisms Could Entrench Industrial Agriculture and Threaten Food Sovereignty, that lifts the lid on how gene drives may harm food and farming systems.

Unlike previous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these gene drive organisms (GDOs) are deliberately designed to spread genetic pollution as an agricultural strategy – for example, spreading "auto-extinction" genes to wipe out agricultural pests. Agri-research bodies now developing these extinction-organisms include the California Cherry Board, the US Citrus Research Board and the private California company Agragene Inc. Next month, the United Nations Biodiversity Convention will meet to discuss measures to control this technology, including a possible moratorium.

Those launching the call for a moratorium on gene drives in food and agriculture include all past and present UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food; the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements; IUF (the International Union representing Food and Farmworkers); La Via Campesina, the largest network of peasant movements representing 200 million peasants in 81 countries; and GMWatch. Signatories also include well-known commentators on food matters including seed activist Vandana Shiva, World Food Prize winner Dr Hans Herren, International President of Friends of the Earth International Karin Nansen, activist and food entrepreneur Nell Newman, and environmentalist and geneticist David Suzuki.

Applying gene drives to food systems threatens to harm farmers’ rights and the rights of peasants as enshrined in international treaties,” said Dr Olivier De Schutter, who served as the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2008-2014. “Gene drives would undermine the realisation of human rights including the right to healthy, ecologically-produced and culturally appropriate food and nutrition

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