GFAR blog

Enabling policy environment towards unleashing the potential of family farming

World Rural Forum

Strengthen Family farming has proven to be one of the paramount strategies to address the challenges facing humanity, including food security, climate change, forced migration. In times of crisis, the resilience, know-how, adaptability and community roots of family farmers are essential in attending the food, social and environmental needs of populations. Today more than ever, we face a major risk of global food insecurity, where family farmers are suffering the consequences of the covid-19 crisis, the huge impacts of the rise of energy prices and fertiliser shortages, and the loss of purchasing power in vulnerable populations.

In Madagascar, in the face of the worst drought in 40 years, family farmers are adapting, practicing more and more agroecology. In the Pacific islands, in a highly vulnerable situation, farmers are rediscovering indigenous crops, such as cassava, more resilient to climate change.

In this framework it is crucial to support and promote family farmers so that they continue to be pillars in our food systems, to feed humanity and that their transformative potential, in nutritional, economic, social and environmental terms, is fully unleashed. This requires in particular strong policy and institutional frameworks to strengthen and develop their capacities at local, national and regional levels.

The United Nations Decade of Family Farming (UNDFF) 2019-2028 is a significant response to this need, proposing a comprehensive, multi-sectoral and coherent policy approach to strengthen family farming. Only in this way will we achieve sustainable, resilient, viable and inclusive food systems that ensure the fulfilment of the 2030 Agenda.

The adoption of the UNDFF is the result of a long process started in 2008 with the campaign for the Declaration of the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF-2014), coordinated by the World Rural Forum (WRF) and driven mainly by family farmers’ organizations. The IYFF obtained significant milestones, especially in terms of public policy and raised the profile of the role of family farming in contributing to food security.

Strengthening family farms through public policies and enabling policy environments has been extensively promoted by the WRF and its members. Born in 1999, the WRF is a plural network composed of family farming federations and organizations, rural development organizations, agriculture cooperatives and research centers, representing more than 35 million family farmers across the five continents. The WRF is committed to the development and implementation of policies and investments, to the establishment of sustainable and inclusive agri-food systems by promoting multistakeholder participation, opening spaces for discussion, conducting awareness raising and advocacy activities, and providing technical assistance to design and carry out relevant and effective actions in favour of family farming.

This work includes the support to establish permanent multistakeholders platforms, such as National Committees of Family Farming (NCFFs) in 45 countries and the ongoing processes to build national action plans (NAP) of family farming in around 50 countries.

The NCFFs are inclusive, diverse and integrative platforms for policy dialogue, bringing together farmers’ organizations, UN and cooperation agencies such as FAO and IFAD, academia, research institutions, consumers’ organisations, NGOs, media, and in some cases government entities. They aim to promote sound, proactive policies, contributing to a policy environment in favour of family farming. Over 2,625 organizations are part of these NCFF, and at least 1,853 of them are farmers’ organizations. The Report on the implementation of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019–2028) recognizes the critical role played by the NCFFs in the promotion and development of an enabling policy environment in support of family farming.

Among the mechanisms for the implementation of the UNDFF, national action plans (NAP) are crucial: developed by governments in collaboration with family farmers’ organisations, they define tangible measures, including public policies, programmes and regulations, serving as a roadmap for countries in their efforts towards the sustainable development of family farming. There are currently 10 plans adopted, 14 under development, and stakeholders are being mobilised around plans in 27 other countries. In 2021, more than 30 new family farming laws and regulations have been adopted around the world.

In Togo, the NAP is to be launched this year, and the NCFF contributed to the national strategy for the development of agroecology and organic farming 2020-2030. In the Philippines, the NAP has been adopted in 2021, and the NCFF organises a recognised annual national conference on family farming, which has contributed significantly to the adoption of national laws in the sector.

Research focused in family farming should be a key component of this enabling environment framework in favour of family farming, as highlighted in the Pilar 1 of the Global Action Plan of the UNDFF. The promotion of collaborative frameworks among the different stakeholders, especially family farmers and research institutions are crucial to improve the capacities, resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness and viability of family farmers.

To find long-term solutions, it is clear that we cannot work in isolation. We need to build and strengthen partnerships between different stakeholders, especially family farmers and research institutions. This partnership should be based on knowledge, dialogue and mutual trust, so we will find the strategies to cope with the enormous challenges and ensure sustainable livelihood of the families.

This blog is part of the GFAR Partners in Action series, celebrating the achievements of our diverse network of partners who are working together to shape a new, sustainable future for agriculture and food. Each month we will be showcasing stories related to a key theme in agri-food research and innovation. The theme for May is ‘Small – scale family farming in an era of change’.

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