At the beginning of the International Year of Family Farming, Marine Renaudin, Food Security and Development Strategy Officer for the Development and International Organizations Office of the French Agriculture Ministry, presents the Ministry’s involvement during this year long event.

CIAT/Wikimedia - A Woman on a Farm in the Mount Kenya region

CIAT/Wikimedia – A Woman on a Farm in the Mount Kenya region

What is the International Year of Family Farming?

2014 was proclaimed International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations General Assembly. The objective is to cast some light on family farming since it is the most important form of agriculture in the world. This year is also the occasion to take into account the various challenges faced by agriculture – the nourishment of 9 billion people by 2050 when 1 billion are still underfed nowadays – , the challenge of environmental conservation, and the social challenge.

What are the key messages driven by the French Ministry of Agriculture this year?

First of all, the definition of family farming is commonly debated. For the Ministry of Agriculture, family farming is mainly defined by the fact that the farmer owns his production tools (land, animals, buildings) and that he is the decision maker on the farm, choosing the investments to make and the broad technical orientation. In this type of farming, the production tools tend to come from family heritage and the workforce is comprised mainly, but not necessarily, of family members.

This is the Ministry of Agriculture’s broad definition of family farming. Moreover, the Ministry wants to warn against the misconception that family farming and subsistence agriculture are one and the same. A common belief of family farming is that it is limited to small farmers from developing countries, but family farming also takes place in developed countries as a very productive type of agriculture, creating jobs and adding value to those territories.

Family farming is often minimized. When the words “subsistence farming” are used to describe family farming, it is often implied that such production never reaches the marketplace. This idea is wrong. Family farming produces 70% of our global food products, and even though the access to the market place is not always evident, this way of producing utilizes natural resources. Thus, the goal is to concentrate public investment on family farming to be able to face the aforementioned challenges.

Who are the main players in this International Year? What are the main organizations?

In France, many people will contribute to this International Year. First of all, the young farmers and the AFDI (French Agency for International Development) will organize joint events all throughout the year. The CIRAD (Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research) also conducted a very important study on family farming in the world. The Center will also host a seminar on topic of family farming during the spring 2014.

The AFD (French Agency for Development) is very involved through its various agencies. Several NGOs show great involvement too.

As for the Agriculture Ministry, we will dedicate a day to family farming during the International Agriculture Fair (Salon International de l’Agriculture) in Paris. A video competition will also take place in the Agriculture Schools, with the help of an NGO.
In her closing words, Mrs. Marine Renaudin stated:
I have three main points. Family farming can be productive, modern and professional if the public policies invest in it.
Family farming and agro-ecology are complementary, because a family farmer knows his environment and he passes down his production tool. By doing so, he can set up agro-ecological cultural practices on his farm.
Last point, participation from everyone is needed – in the country and in Paris – to make of this International Year a major event, should it be at local, regional or international scale.

Some facts about family farming and global agriculture:

A document presenting France’s position on family farming

The International Year of Family Farming website (in English)]