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- Question of the week
Seventy percent of the world’s food insecure people live in rural areas in developing countries; paradoxically, many are small-scale farmers or agricultural labourers. And whereas many think of them as merely ‘scratching a living’ from subsistence agriculture, together they produce an incredible 70% of the world’s food, and they have the potential to produce more. We must recognise that small-scale family farmers are more productive than large-scale industrial agriculture.
The development sector is making efforts to include small-scale producers into global value chains, but evidence suggests that ‘inclusive business’ schemes along formal value chains benefit only a narrow minority of farmers. Many also collapse once external support is withdrawn. Yet, informal trade flourishes, being less risky and more accessible for small-scale farmers, but often outside or on the margins of state regulation or the influence of large businesses.
The role of small-scale farmers is becoming more crucial as the world faces increasing challenges. We need ecologically sound and climate resilient farming systems that provide nutritious food and meaningful employment to more people. As experiences in our Farming Matters magazine clearly show, there are solutions, but which need to be rolled out. Policies can support the upscaling of successful initiatives , such as the Brazilian Public Procurement Programme which links 160,000 small food producers to public institutions including schools, reaching 15 million consumers.
Many young people are leaving the countryside, but from our work, we also see the emergence of a new generation of ‘modern peasants’, stewards of their soils and biodiversity, and producers of healthy foods for regional markets. In deciding how to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda, we must ask how to better include and support these young farmers, the food producers of the future.
Policies must address the following priorities if they are to include the needs of small-scale farmers, especially women and young farmers:
Similar recommendations were also highlighted in the outcomes of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). During the Global Dialogue on Family Farming FAO’s Director General José Graziano da Silva summarised the insights gained when he said:
“Where family farming used to be seen as a problem, it is now seen as part of the solution”.
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