Hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers throughout the world face a mountain of challenges daily, including limited or no access to markets, limited training and education, inadequate financing or access to credit, limited access to good quality seeds, limited transportation for moving crops to market, hunger, gender discrimination, and insecure land rights. Minimizing or eliminating these challenges and empowering family farmers would help alleviate hunger and poverty, increase food security, and protect global biodiversity. In many cases addressing these challenges requires policy makers and government leaders to develop and adopt laws that promote the interests of family farmers.
Luckily, many political leaders are beginning to recognize the important role smallholder farmers play in the food system and have begun to take legislative action to protect family farmers and improve their livelihoods. In January 2013, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a law declaring that family farming is of “public and national interest” and comprises the “basis of food sovereignty” for Bolivia. During the law signing ceremony President Morales emphasized that his government would respond to the demands of family and Indigenous farmers, and work to improve production in Bolivian agriculture. The law created new financing for fair trade agriculture products and smallholder farming operations. The law also requires states and local institutions to support production diversification and innovation by providing farmers with technical and material assistance.
Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America. Proponents of the new law hope that it will increase the effective inclusion and participation of family and indigenous farmers within the Bolivian economy, help increase smallholder farmers and food security by making financing and technical assistance available, increase rural employment, and encourage rural workers to continue farming rather than being forced to migrate to urban areas looking for work.