Monday, February 17, 2014

The International Year of Family Farming

World Citizens to stress world food policy during 2014: The International Year of Family Farming

         The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming to highlight the double need of feeding the world and caring for the Earth.

         The Year will highlight the important role of women and men as family farmers with the aim of stimulating policies for the ecologically-sound development of farmer families, fishing families, indigenous groups and cooperatives.

         The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the lead UN Agency for the Year of Family Farming.  It is estimated that there are some 500 million farm families, defined as farms which rely primarily on family for labour and management.

         A goal of the Year is to build awareness that family farming is at the center of sound agricultural, environmental, and social policies.  During the Year, research and studies should indicate gaps and opportunities in efforts to reach a more equal and balanced development for smallholders.

         The Association of World Citizens is building on early world citizen efforts, such as those of Lord Boyd-Orr, an active world citizen and first Director-General of FAO.  The Association of World Citizens has been urging a comprehensive world food policy based on ecologically-sound development. 2014 presents a real opportunity for looking at food-related issues including land tenure, landless farmers, malnutrition, and child labour on farms.

         A central theme which citizens of the world have stressed is that there needs to be a true world food policy and that a world food policy is more than the sum of national food security programs.  The focus on the formulation of only national plans is clearly inadequate.  There is a need for a world plan of action with strong attention to the role that the United Nations and regional institutions must play if hunger is to be sharply reduced.

         For the formulation of a dynamic world food policy, world economic trends and structures need to be analysed including climate change, energy costs, export policies of major agricultural production States, and the role of speculation in commodities.  A world food policy for the welfare of all requires a close look at world institutions and patterns of production and trade. The Year of Family Farming offers an important opportunity to analyse the many elements necessary for a sound world food policy.

         My emphasis here is on the policy and efforts of the Association of World Citizens, but obviously, the structure of agricultural production and trade is of concern to many organizations and research centers. The value of UN-designated Years is to build awareness so that creative action may be taken. There is a three-step process in awareness-building:

1)     Factually-correct information needs to be gathered and analysed so that trends can be determined.

2)     There needs to be a wave of energy created both by emotion and reflection that builds a demand for change.

3)     There needs to be a plan of action which outlines paths and steps to be taken.

         In practice, the emotional energy wave may come first as people react to highly publicised events and only afterwards is data collected and analysed.  However, data, energy, plan would be the ideal pattern.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens