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The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is launching a technical platform for family farming, aiming to foster innovation and information exchanges across regions

FAO family farmsAccording to the FAO, 90% of the world’s agricultural farms are family-operated. (Image source: Adobe Stock)

Family farms account for 90% of all agricultural holdings in the world, covering a wide range of production systems and peoples and their thriving is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) according to FAO.

FAO director-general QU Dongyu said via video in his keynote address at the launch event, “When resources and knowledge are shared, innovation is accelerated. The platform “will enable us to think big, but also facilitate concrete actions.” 

Qu said that there are more than 500 million family farms in the world, and as well as producing 80% of the world’s food, many of them can and do play fundamental roles in biodiversity preservation and represent the first step for rural transformation.

“The multiple incomes and livelihoods strategies generated by family farming play a critical role across agri-food systems,” the Qu added.

FAO is launching five technical platforms, each global in scope while coordinated by one of its regional offices, to accelerate the adoption of innovations through exchanges of experience and knowledge. The ‘Regional Technical Platform for Family Farming’ will be coordinated by FAO’s regional office for Latin America and the Caribbean, in line with the region’s accumulated experience in matters of public policy, policy instruments, legal frameworks, national programmes and institutional capital.

The platform

The platform, offered by FAO as a new global public good, makes available to governments, farmers’ organisations, the scientific community, policymakers, the private sector and all those interested in rural development a set of innovative tools for the exchange of experiences and specialised knowledge.

By mobilising existing knowledge, expertise and best practices from around the world and fostering dialogue, learning and collaboration among a diverse array of partners from inside and outside FAO, the platform aims to promote technical and institutional innovations that strengthen family farmers around the world.

The platform works as a digital facility to push FAO’s knowledge products, technical and policy expertise operational know-how. It also acts as a digital “convention place” making available digital spaces and tools allowing partners and participants to carry out concrete initiatives such as webinars, training events, policy dialogue and virtual learning tours.

The director-general said that promoting and supporting innovations and the development of family farming is a core requirement for implementing FAO’s strategic framework to achieve the targets of certain ‘Sustainable Development Goals’. 

Several countries in Africa, Europe and Asia have already requested support from FAO in the development of their own national plans on family farming, while the Near East and North Africa has launched a ‘Regional Action Plan’ on family farming. "These initiatives should enhance the platform’s corpus of shared knowledge and innovation and help better support and “prepare this sector to take advantage of, and shape, the new opportunities presented by agri-food systems transformation,” Qu opined.

The platform also contributes to the ‘UN Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028,’ jointly led by FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Family farms

FAO has consolidated significant data on family farming, a category that includes farm labourers, indigenous peoples, fisher people, mountain farmers, nomadic pastoralists and many others in all regions of the world.

According to the FAO, family farms include a vast array of production systems and scales. Recent FAO-led research found that more than 90% of the world’s 608 million farms are family farms, occupying around 70-80% of farmland and producing 80% of the world’s food in value terms. The term is not synonymous with small farms, covering less than 2 ha, which operates around 12% of all agricultural land and produces roughly 36% of the world’s food.

The platform will also be coordinated with FAO projects and programmes in support of small-scale producers that focus on equitable access to resources that are fundamental for agricultural development and growth and fair markets.