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International Year of Family Farming: Building Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture in Africa

According to FAO, the majority of smallholder farmers in Africa produce food organically. (Tai Strietman via Creative Commons)

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) publication "Organic Agriculture: African Experiences in Resilience and Sustainability" shows how mainstreaming organic management could help feed people, eradicate malnutrition and poverty, and mitigate the effects of extreme weather events in Africa. The book is a follow-up to selected research results delivered during the conference on Mainstreaming Organic Agriculture in the African Development Agenda, held in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2012.

According to the publication's authors, organic farming delivers a wide range of benefits, including higher production yields and improved food security, sound plant and animal management, conservation of traditional community knowledge, and social and cultural development. The authors point out that the majority of smallholder farmers in Africa produce food organically, due to their dependence on the use of local resources without relying on chemical inputs. In comparison to conventional farming methods, organic farming not only increases agricultural productivity, but also helps safeguard entire ecosystems and protect biodiversity by improving environmental resilience to drought, unseasonal rainfall, and other climate change-related phenomena.

The book contains a series of case studies from different sub-Saharan countries that confirm the role organic management plays in improving present and future food security in Africa. For instance, organic animal husbandry practices enabled, despite the irregular rainfall, to increase stocking rates in Namibia over the last years. Another case study shows how the organic activities and the implementation of System of Rice Intensification (SRI) practices in Madagascar can contribute to achieving food self-sufficiency on the island and even producing better quality rice for export purposes.

Other interesting aspects of organic management discussed in the publication include indigenous Nigerian ethno-veterinary practices, soil fertility improvement through management of legumes and bush tea, implementation of family farmers' learning groups in Uganda, or the role of information and communication technologies in organic agriculture.

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.

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