by Ana Maria Parada Rodriguez, our new Sydney City group leader

The 16th of October has been dedicated as a day to remember the urgency of food security and to strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. The theme for 2014 focuses on one of the most essential processes that needs attention: family farming.

Smallholder farming, a term used for small scale or family farming, is in fact the best way to describe 500 million farms globally where two billion people live and work. Family farming covers a wide range of producers, from marginal and impoverished families working to feed themselves, to those producing for markets at a local, national or international level. Very often these farmers are women who must work to provide the food for their families.

For world-renowned activist Vandana Shiva, family farming is important. “Small farms produce more food than large industrial farms, because small farmers give more care to the soil, to plans and animals, and they intensify biodiversity, not external chemical inputs”.

Indeed, family farming is the most predominant form of agriculture in global food production: today 72 per cent of food comes from small farms[1].  Ironically the world’s most impoverished people live in rural areas and are themselves family farmers. Today family farmers struggle to make the best use of their land to sustain their families and communities.

Family farming is crucial in the agenda of national agricultural, environmental and social policies. Strengthening family faming can ensure better management of natural resources, protect the environment and achieve sustainable development, particularly in rural areas.

But encouraging family farming is not only a concern for the agricultural sector; it is also closely interconnected with issues of nutrition and poverty. 76 per cent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas, where agriculture is their main source of livelihood. By not prioritising children living on these rural farms, where access to schools and clinics remains challenging, we are missing the children most in need. Malnutrition remains the single largest cause of child mortality.

Good nutrition cannot be solved with a single intervention. On this World Food Day, we need to focus on putting in place policies that support public and private investments to increase agricultural productivity, improving access to land, and markets, including measures to promote rural development, as well as specific nutrition programmes, particularly to address micronutrient deficiencies in mothers and children under five.

By improving food security, increasing nutritional food production through family farming can massively improve poor diets and nutrition.

Small scale farming is crucial to the health of the planet, and to ending poverty.

[1] UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)