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N°33 I quarterly I April 2014 Insights | 31 Society Family farms, celebrated by the UN in 2014, are not only a major employer, but they are also at the forefront of technological innovation in agriculture. The International Year of Family Farming BY Arby Gharibian The International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), due to be celebrated throughout 2014, is a UN initiative emphasizing the central role played by family farms in addressing agricultural and developmental challenges. They are defined as farms relying heavily on family members for labor. While some predict their disappearance, family holdings remain the world’s largest producer of foodstuffs—and employer, creating jobs for 1.3 billion people, or 40% of the world’s working population. “Three main objectives make the UN initiative welcome, namely changing public perception of family farms, conducting research on them, and advocating suitable public policies at the national level,” explains Jean-Michel Sourisseau,1 coordinator of the IYFF for the French agricultural research for development center (Cirad). Although 72% of family farms cover less than one hectare, they are important drivers for innovative technology and practices. One of the objectives of the UN initiative is to help study and disseminate such technology. For instance, family farmers in semi-arid regions of Madagascar and Zimbabwe have teamed up with French researchers over the past 10 years to enhance soil productivity through aggradation-conservation agriculture. Their counterparts in southern Cameroon established a rotating system of fallow and cultivated plots to allow for afforestation and soil regeneration. French researchers are now studying the intricate patterns behind these rotations in order to reproduce the system elsewhere. Family farming could also benefit from technological assistance, resources, Family farming is ubiquitous on all continents. Pictured here, families from Morondava (Madagascar) (01), Nkolondom (Cameroon) (02), Northeastern Brazil (03), and Hai Duong (Vietnam) (04). and better-adapted national agricultural policies to offset the short-term costs of implementing technological changes. France is a fervent advocate of family farming within the EU and the G20. For example, access to markets is crucial for the stability and growth of family farms, both in France and abroad. Yet distances and complex logistics can make this difficult. French researchers have helped farmers’ associations across the globe— including, since 2007, Peruvian cotton farmers and Egyptian milk producers— carry out detailed studies on the necessary infrastructure for setting up cooperatives to assist family farms with harvesting and transport. The Montpellier region (southern France) is home to many research teams and organizations that specialize in this field, and is now working hand in hand with global actors such as the FAO2 and the IFAD.3 Together, they hope to make fair and sustainable agriculture a reality. 01. ART-Dev: Acteurs, ressources et territoires dans le développement (Université Montpellier I and III / CNRS / Cirad). 02. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 03. International Fund for Agricultural Development. Contact information: ART-Dev, Montpellier. Jean-Michel Sourisseau > jean-michel.sourisseau@cirad.fr Jean-Michel Souriseau Senior Researcher at the Cirad, Sourisseau studies the development and sustainability aspects of rural planning and policy. He coordinated the Cirad’s research and publications for the UN 2014 IYF. Further reading: Jean-Michel Sourisseau (ed.), Family Farming and the Worlds of Tomorrow (Springer Editions, forthcoming 2014). 01 03 02 04 © S. FREGUIN/ciradimages © S. simon /ciradimages © P. caron /ciradimages © J.-C. mai llard /ciradimages DR


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