Family farming key to food security: FAO

Government, donor organisations and civil society are joining forces under the United Nations Year of Family Farming to support farming at family level across the globe in a bid to boost food security.

David Mfote
David Mfote

The programme, launched last week at the UN Headquarters in New York, will be rolled out in Zimbabwe throughout 2014.

David Mfote, the assistant Food and Agriculture Organisation representative in Harare, said government would be encouraged to come up with policies to promote the development of family farming to produce the majority of their food. The programme is coordinated by the World Rural Forum, a member of the International Land Coalition, and FAO is to facilitate its implementation.

The Coalition brings together grassroots organisations, networks fighting for human rights and the rights of women and farmers organisations, global research institutions and multilateral agencies.

These members universally agree that a sustainable future can only be achieved if there is secure and equitable access to and control over land that protects interests of the world’s family farmers, who produce an average 80 percent of the food consumed in the developed world.

Family farming helps preserve traditional food products, while contributing to a balanced diet and safeguarding the world’s agro-biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources. It presents an opportunity to boost local economies if combined with policies aimed at social protection and well-being of communities. Addressing landlessness and securing the land rights of people on the verge of becoming landless is a fundamental step in this regard.

The Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union welcomed the launch of IYFF-2014. The president, Silas Hungwe, described the programme as a sure vehicle to drive Zimbabwe out of food insecurity. Brian Oldreive, founder of Foundations for Farming, a local organisation that teaches sustainable agriculture said: “Families provide the key to unlocking Africa’s hidden farming potential. If Zimbabwe will ever feed itself again, it will be through faithful and united families returning to the natural structure of family to produce a harvest.

“The urban family would purchase inputs and send these to the rural home where the food is produced and provides food for both rural and urban family members.” Oldreive said families in action were the farming future of the continent and the answer to immediate food security.

Mfote said at present farmers on small pieces of land were producing 0.6 to 0.7 tonnes of cereals per hectare, productivity which if improved to 1.5 tonnes would eradicate food insecurity in Zimbabwe. “Extension services and inputs would be availed to farming families for them to maximise productivity,” he said in an exclusive interview.

Extension workers around the country would be assisted in terms of mobility and other incentives to enable them to give their best services to family farmers. At present some 30,000 families are benefiting from FAO and donor assistance. The number is expected to increase for the IYFF-2014. The assistance package will also enhance livestock interventions, providing families with livestock seed such as goats and chickens.

Mfote said notable players would include USAID, the Dutch among others. Currently key donors, who could not be identified for professional reasons, were working on credit facility schemes for farmers. The loans would be followed with back-up packages such as extension services to ensure beneficiaries get things right.

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