International Year of Family Farming: Five Initiatives Supporting Indigenous Farmers

An Indigenous farmer in Nepal. (Paulo Philippidis / Flickr)

The United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) to highlight the importance of family and smallholder farmers. Food Tank is partnering with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to commemorate IYFF, and will feature weekly posts and other media highlighting the innovations that family farmers are using to alleviate hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation along with the campaigns and policies that support them.

According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Indigenous Peoples can play a key role in smallholder and family farming around the world, thanks to their traditional knowledge and understanding of ecosystem management. IFAD estimates that there are 350 million smallholder farms globally who are Indigenous Peoples, and that these farmers are more likely to cultivate a variety of traditional or indigenous crops and livestock. In fact, Indigenous Peoples play a unique role in the conservation of biodiversity and in the mitigation of climate change, maintaining 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity within their lands and territories, according to the World Bank.

Many organizations are focusing on the role of Indigenous Peoples in smallholder farming, and are working to secure their rights to Indigenous lands and promote traditional Indigenous farming methods. In commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, designated as August 9th by the U.N. General Assembly, Food Tank is highlighting five initiatives that are supporting Indigenous family farmers around the world.

1.  First Peoples Worldwide is an Indigenous-led nonprofit funding local development projects in Indigenous communities around the world. First Peoples helps facilitate the use of traditional knowledge in solving today’s challenges. Through grants, corporate engagement, field projects, partnerships, and outreach, the organization connects Indigenous Peoples with the resources they need in order to thrive. First Peoples Worldwide also focuses on securing land rights; according to the organization, without land and control of assets, Indigenous Peoples will remain among the world’s poorest communities. 

2.  Jatun Sach’a, a grassroots project run by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime and the Ministry of Rural Development, works with Indigenous families in Bolivia to promote the sustainable use of natural resources. Over 4,000 families have benefited from the program, and 12,000 more are expected to benefit from it. Women particularly benefit from this project by receiving training on using local plants and vegetables to create products that enhance food security and improve nutrition. The activities of Jatun Sach’a have been important in supporting farmers’ cooperatives, Indigenous territories, and protected areas.

3.  The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is a first-of-its-kind program at the University of Arkansas School of Law that works to support Indigenous agriculture by providing strategic planning and technical assistance. “We hope to advance stability in our communities through food and agriculture and sustainable use of our natural resources to create stable economics,” says Janie Simms Hipp, Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative. 

4.  The Indigenous Carbon Farming Fund is an initiative from the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. It will provide US$22.3 million over five years to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in order to support their participation in the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI). The CFI will allow Indigenous landholders to earn carbon credits by undertaking projects, such as early season savannah burning and reforestation, that reduce emissions or store carbon.

5.  Sierra de Juárez Union of Organisations (UNOSJO) is comprised of 12 Indigenous communities that are seeking to protect their land and natural resources in Oaxaca, Mexico. UNOSJO members have learned and applied agro-ecological practices to coffee, vegetable, maize, and livestock production. By focusing on food security and sovereignty, protecting water supplies and natural resources, and improving gender equity, UNOSJO hopes to help people grow what they eat.

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