Family farming involves almost 1.5 billion people worldwide. The term describes rural, traditional farmers, as well as herders, fish farmers, and those who rely on forests for their food and livelihoods. They produce 80% of the world’s food and are the biggest sources of employment globally, but many family farmers are believed to be food insecure and poor. 

The United Nations General Assembly has officially declared 2019-2028 as the decade of family farming. A World Rural Forum in Bilbao, Spain, in 2019 highlighted how important small-holders are and, with innovative approaches, how they can contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets. Family farmers can help ‘ensure global food security, eradicate poverty, ending hunger, conserving biodiversity, achieving environmental sustainability, and helping to address migration.’

Family farms are of vital importance to small communities because they often provide all of the food and fuel sources that the families themselves depend on. But on a wider ecological level, they are key to managing a large part of the world’s remaining biodiverse forests. They are also in a position to help restore degraded lands through tree planting initiatives such as Forest Landscape Restorations.   

Over the next ten years, family farmers are ambitious in their goals for the industry, and how they can deliver the SDGs with the right support. These include improving access to information and communication technology (ICT)  to improve knowledge sharing, the installation of business incubation capacity to minimise dependence on external service providers, and having the right business support to suit different agribusinesses.

In South East Asia, it is believed that family farmers are key to achieving zero hunger. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations  (FAO-UN) has said that innovation, access to rural credit – especally for women – and improvements to rural social protection programmes are key. They will help family farmers improve their livelihoods and become more food secure. 

Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, commented: “Let’s be clear, farming in Southeast Asia is family farming, and so by empowering family farms and family farmers we will help to address the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition in this region.”

One social entrepreneur who is helping to improve prospects for both family farms and women in rural communities is Lisa Curtis, CEO of Kuli Kuli Inc. Lisa discovered a nutrient dense plant called moringa while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Niger. To date, the company has planted over one million moringa trees, partnered with over 1,000 farmers, and provided more than $1.5mn in income to women-led farming cooperatives and family farming. 

For family farms that want to be more self-sufficient, innovation such as the AKOLogic farm management system is making an impact. It’s a cloud-based system designed to help farmers who want to export goods abroad, and ensure they comply with complex and frequently changing government regulations in their target countries. It provides constantly updated regulatory guidelines on a single dashboard around water, fertilisers, pesticides, plant protection, safety and labour conditions. It instills confidence in farmers that they are legally reaching all requirements, enabling them to expand the horizons of their business. 

AKOLogic CEO Ron Shani, has further explained the benefits it offers to small farms selling to large, international companies:  “For each container they receive, buyers need to know that everything was done according to regulations. Now all the documentation is in one place in real time automatically, with full traceability from field to market.” In addition, it helps farmers manage resources, scheduling, administrative processes, and digital document storage amongst other things. 

Family farming postively affects local economies as well as the international farming scene. Whilst the majority have modest smallholdings, their combined contribution towards achieving a sustainable future in farming must not be underestimated. 

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