This post is part of Food Tank’s series on the International Year of Family Farming. Today, we feature three smallholder farmer groups that are successfully bringing farmers together to increase their visibility and influence, pool resources and information, and advance reforms to food and agriculture systems.
In countries around the world, family farmers are growing the food that supports two billon people on what is often called marginal or limited land. They typically have little access to critical resources, including quality seeds and financial or technical assistance. Breaking down the barriers that confront smallholder farmers daily not only improves their livelihoods, but also helps alleviate hunger and poverty, protect biodiversity and ecosystem services, and establish more sustainable food systems. Recognizing this, more and more smallholder farmers are coming together and forming organizations to increase their visibility and influence, pool resources and information, and exercise greater bargaining power to advance critical reforms.
Via Campesina is an international, grassroots agrarian movement made up of about 200 million smallholder farmers, agricultural workers, peasants, and Indigenous people. From Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, Via Campesina-affiliated groups organize campaigns and protests to defend the interests and rights of small-scale farmers, push for land reform, and promote food sovereignty and family-farm based sustainable agriculture. Thanks to the activism and work of Via Campesina-affiliated organizations, the concept of food sovereignty has become part of both the international dialogue and government policy in several countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Nepal, and Venezuela.
Women farmers in Mozambique formed the General Union of Co-operatives in the early 1980s to pool resources, share knowledge and organize trainings, and increase access to markets to sell their excess crops. The Union started with 250 women initially and soon grew to a business with close to 3,000 members. Currently its members supply much of the produce and poultry for sale in Maputo, the capital, and have attained increased financial stability- earning on average 50 percent more than the minimum wage.
The Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA), a organization of women farmers in South Korea, gained recognition recently when it won the Food Sovereignty Prize in 2012 for its work to promote food sovereignty, defend small-scale Korean farmers, and end violence against women. KWPA created the Sister Gardens initiative, which supports local food production by linking women farmers directly with local consumers. KWPA also began the Native Seed Campaign to safeguard biodiversity within agroecosystems and preserve native seeds.
Smallholder cooperatives and organizations like the ones highlighted above have successfully drawn global attention and ensured that the needs of family farmers are part of international and national dialogues around food security and economic empowerment.
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 more information on the innovations family farmers are using to alleviate hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation and the campaigns and organizations that are supporting them.