Family farmers face numerous challenges, from insecure land rights to inadequate financing and training opportunities. And although smallholder and family farmers make up 60 percent of global agriculture, they are one of the most food insecure groups; in fact, farmers are the hungriest people in the world. Fortunately, a number of organizations have begun campaigns to educate consumers on the importance of smallholder farmers, bring global attention to their struggles, and advocate for reforms to improve their livelihoods. With its Behind the Brands campaign, launched in February 2013, Oxfam created a scorecard that rates the 10 largest food and beverage companies on their agricultural sourcing policies. The companies receive a score based on their handling of a range of issues, including treatment of smallholder farmers and women, and their policies on land distribution and land access.
Oxfam’s campaign was almost immediately successful in delivering results for family farmers. Oxfam targeted the three biggest chocolate companies for inadequate support for female farmers in their supply chain, and tens of thousands of people took to email, Twitter, and Facebook to urge the companies to do more to protect and promote women farmers. Mars and Nestlé responded to the public pressure and agreed to look into the conditions and treatment of their female cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa provider. The companies have also agreed to create an action plan to improve the well-being of female farmers, to sign on to the United Nations’ Women’s Empowerment Principles, and to work with other companies to address the gender discrimination that female farmers face.
Because Nestlé and Mars together control 27 percent of the cocoa market, the policies that the companies pursue have huge ripple effects throughout the chocolate industry. By implementing policies that address gender inequality within their supply chain, the companies can make a big difference in the lives of women who grow their ingredients.
Around the same time that Oxfam launched Behind the Brands, a coalition of 100 United Kingdom charities organized the IF Campaign. In the lead-up to the U.K.-hosted G8 summit in June, the IF Campaign is urging world leaders to address some of the underlying causes of world hunger, calling on them to end land grabs, increase funding for programs that support small-scale farming, and to increase transparency in investments in developing countries. IF Campaign organizers are working to mobilize millions of people around the world through a series of events going on now in the months before the G8 meeting this summer and extending to World Food Day in the fall. The campaign is also looking to organize events in September to influence the U.N. General Assembly’s discussion of the new post-2015 development goals.
Fairtrade Foundation took a similar tack to that of the IF Campaign when it launched Go Further for Smallholder Farmers. With the “Go Further” Campaign, Fairtrade is urging world leaders, especially British Prime Minister David Cameron, to champion smallholder and family farmers at the upcoming G8 summit. The main focus of the Go Further Campaign has been collecting signatures for an online petition that will be sent to Prime Minister Cameron in advance of the June summit. In early March, Fairtrade organized the first ever paper march on the British Parliament by turning petition signatures into thousands of mini-marchers, so that each campaign supporter was represented at the march.