At its 72nd Session, the United Nations General Assembly officially adopted a resolution declaring 2019 – 2028 as a “Decade of Family Farming”. The resolution is aimed at providing a framework for the promotion of better public policies on family farming.
The adoption of the resolution has presented a unique opportunity to all stakeholders in the agricultural sector to collectively focus on the role of family farming in addressing numerous socioeconomic challenges that include hunger and poverty. However, for the declaration to fully achieve its intention, there is a need for active participation of the farming community in the planning and implementation of all activities aimed at achieving the goals of the declaration at national and regional levels.
Family farming means different things to different stakeholders but the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has defined it as “all family-based agricultural activities that are linked to areas of rural development”. Consequently, they contend that family farming is a means of organising agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production which is managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour that includes both women and men.
Regardless of which definition one wants to use, in both developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector. As such it can be concluded that most farmers in Africa including our region operate family farms.
The declaration of the United Nations should therefore provide assurance to farmers that issues affecting most farmers will receive more attention than before. In addition, the declaration provides an opportunity for farmers to link with all other stakeholders in the agricultural sector to lobby with governments (who are party to the declaration) to ensure that the operational environment is improved for increased production, agro-processing and marketing of their produce.
It is an opportunity for farmers to impress upon their governments and other partners to formulate policies and programs that will ensure that more attention is given in addressing challenges farmers face daily. If well supported (technically and financially) farmers will be able to provide information to their governments and other stakeholders on policies that work and those that don’t work.
They will also be able to provide practical solutions on what should be done to ensure that policies are working. It is against this background that governments are called upon to practically demonstrate their political commitment by putting in place regulatory frameworks as well as institutions and policies that address the needs of family farmers.
They should establish platforms for policy dialogue with farmers’ organisations to generate consensus and formulate and implement effective policies.