In April, representatives from 35 organizations around the world gathered in Québec City to participate in the Dialogue on Family Farming in North America. Motivated by the United Nation’s designation of 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), the dialogue included workshops, panel discussions, and question periods organized by UPA Développement International (UPA DI) and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This week, a report was published summarizing the key presentations and findings from the event.
Canadian presenters spoke on a range of topics including the importance of women in small farming, and the challenges of farming profitably without formal training. Quebec, a region known for its patchwork of family farms, was strongly represented. Québécois small farmer Russell Pocock, who grew his organic farm into a successful business, noted, “I want to keep the land healthy for future generations. But if I were an employee of a multinational corporation, I wouldn’t be as attached or committed.”
Food Tank was excited to participate in a panel on good family farming practices, entitled “For a More Sustainable and Fair Food System.” President and co-founder Danielle Nierenberg expressed her hope for the potential of family farmers. “I believe that it is possible to develop a food system that is able to fight hunger and poverty by ceasing to regard family farmers as an obstacle to sustainable development and instead helping them to realize their potential to contribute to it,” she said. The presentation addressed the need for appropriate technologies, rural development, and worker’s rights in agriculture. The importance of incorporating women and youth into agricultural systems was also recognized.
Participants from Mexico addressed the differences and similarities between Mexican and other North American family farmers. Mexico’s new National Development Plan intends to provide extra support to the 5.4 million family farmers there, who have been historically overlooked to promote large agribusiness development. Miguel Angel Martinez Real, of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), said, “we are especially focused on women, who play a key role in Mexican family farming, and we are trying to retain the young people who leave the countryside in masses.”
The dialogue participants formulated fifteen diverse recommendations for North American family farming. The six key recommendations produced included:
- Promote the establishment of new generations of farmers.
- Guarantee access to financing and farmland.
- Ensure a decent income by fairer commercial rules.
- Make training, knowledge and technology available.
- Promote the adoption of policies focused on the recognition of the multiple functions of family farming for the benefit of society as a whole.
- Ensure that farmers, through their organizations, are in the driver’s seat and influence farm policies.
“By proclaiming 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), the United Nations (UN) spotlights the essential contribution of family farming to food security, the economy, conservation and global farm biodiversity, sustainable use of natural resources and community welfare,” the report states. “The IYFF seeks to restore family farming to the center of farm, environmental and social policies by creating a better understanding of its needs, constraints and potential.”