Global Forum and Expo on Family Farming
Budapest, Hungary, 4-6 March 2014
In 2011, taking note of a proposal put forth by the Government of the Philippines, the 37th Session of the FAO Conference proposed that the United Nations declare 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). The 66th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations declared 2014 as the IYFF and invited FAO to facilitate the implementation of it. The Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development has proposed to host the GFEFF in Hungary that aims to contribute to the IYFF global dialogue and debates on policies and programmes that affect family farming at national, regional and global levels.
More than 600 participants from 104 countries of 6 continents attended the GFEFF. As far as government representatives are concerned, in total 85 countries from all over the world participated at governmental level at the GFEFF. There were high level government officials present (ministers/deputy ministers/state secretaries) from 17 countries. Ministers participated from Albania, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Jordan, The Philippines and Slovenia. Deputy Ministers and State Secretaries participated from Bulgaria, Equatorial Guinea, Georgia, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Namibia, Portugal, Serbia and Slovakia. Ambassadors from 45 countries attended on behalf of their governments. Beside governmental delegations, approximately 200 participants from non-governmental global, regional and national organisations of family farmers (farmers’ organizations, co-operatives and producer organisations, civil society organisations, private sector), and representatives of research institutions, universities (more than 100 participants) attended the event.
The Conference Summary Conclusions document of the GFEFF was handed over to the leaders of the 3 Rome-based UN agencies (FAO, IFAD, WFP) and to the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security. It is going to be a base and essential document for other events and meetings of the International Year of Family Farming to be organised by governments, NGOs or international organisations throughout the whole year.
The key messages (see further details in the Summary Conclusions):
1. This event confirmed that despite its diversity in different countries, family farming plays an important role all over the world.
2. This is a model that meets all requirements of sustainability. In addition to economic viability, family farmers are the guarantees of environmental sustainability, they use and manage natural resources (first of all, land and water) in a responsible way to keep their land fertile for the future generations. As a social dimension, family farming model provides unique employment opportunities and livelihood in rural areas. It has been confirmed that family farmers have essential role in preserving the traditions and the cultural heritage, as well as, the 4th dimension of sustainability.
3. Acknowledging their clear advantages, small-scale family farmers should be provided with an enabling policy environment to be able to contribute to local and global food security objectives.
4. In addition, it is essential that male and female farmers have equal access to land and other natural resources, as well as, to financing and markets. It is important for the future that youth find their livelihoods, job opportunities and income in the rural areas, therefore, adequate policy measures are essential.
The GFEFF also provided the opportunity for family farmers of participating countries to introduce their activities in the frame of the EXPO, open during the whole event with a total of 83 exhibitors – family members and organisations – 41 of them from abroad.
Initiated by the Philippines and World Rural Forum, the UN GA declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. Against this background, the FAO and the Hungarian Ministry of Rural Development organised a Global Forum to identify the various political, policy, business and social elements that play a role in the complex environment in which family farms operate. The overall objective was to find ways in which economies and communities could benefit from the values that family farms represent in food production, management of natural resources, biodiversity, human relations and the preservation of cultural heritage.
The main findings of the two-day-event, which emerged from the ministerial roundtable and the three parallel panel discussions, are the following:
Even if family farms differ, to a large extent, from region to region, they have values that all nations share and challenges that all nations need to tackle.
Most smallholder farms are family-based and make a significant contribution to global food and nutrition security. However, family
farms and the countries in which they operate are diverse in many ways and the solutions offered for them should be tailored for this diversity. Farmers need a high enough income to maintain their rural livelihoods and not be required to move to urban areas in the hope for a better life. To this end, a decent price for their produce and services needs to be obtained.
Limited access to land and other natural resources, knowledge, education and financing are seriously hindering family farming development globally. Best practices of coping mechanisms should be widely disseminated.
Cooperation could offer access to investment, technology and markets, making family farming viable. An enabling environment, including a clear and simple legislation and a proper taxation system is crucial for the development of cooperatives and farmers’ organisations. Socially responsible partnerships with civil society organizations and with the private sector can play an important role in the promotion of cooperation.
Women are the backbone of family farming, but their large contribution is not duly recognized in terms of income earned and access to productive resources and assets. If both women and men have adequate access to productive resources, rural societies can become more resilient. Hence, women’s meaningful participation in decision making processes should be enabled. We should continue raising awareness on the role of women in family farming management and promote women’s equal access to land, credit, education, technology, networks and decision-making processes. Youth are increasingly losing interest in agriculture and are migrating away from rural areas in search for job opportunities in other sectors. In order to provide young farmers with adequate livelihoods, appropriate income, targeted policies, programs and projects are essential.
The common ground among the views expressed reflects the key position that family farms occupy in sustainable agriculture. Since we all want our agrarian systems and rural networks to be sustainable, we must strive to support family farms. Economic sustainability is essential for family farming. Viable farming helps to keep young people on the farm. We also need pragmatic cooperation and responsible actions from different stakeholders: especially government, business, farmers and civil society. Environmental regulations should take into account the measured and internalised positive and negative externalities of different types of family farming. Traditional family farming strongly contributes to environmental sustainability. New environmental challenges should be answered by participative research, knowledge transfer and Life Long Learning.
The social sustainability of family farming is based on the next generation’s willingness to take part in farming and the society valuing the culture behind traditional family farming.