International Year of Family Farming in Asia and the Pacific

on 09 December 2014. Posted in News from the region

IYFFThe International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) officially concluded on 27 November, 2014 in Manila, the Philippines. The year has brought into focus the importance of family farming to reduce poverty and improve global food security.The IYFF had four key objectives: Support the development of policies that will foster sustainable family farming; Increase knowledge and public awareness on the vital role that family farmers play in the agricultural and development sectors; Raise awareness of the needs and potential of family farmers, along with the constraints that they face, and ensure that they have access to technical support and create synergies for sustainability.

 

The General Assembly of the United Nations invited the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to facilitate the implementation of the IYFF in collaboration with various non-governmental, government and international stakeholders. Within the framework of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, FAO in collaboration with World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) organised a series of events to mark the year of Family Farming.


Family Farming in Asia Pacific

Family farm is commonly known as small farms, small holder farms or marginal farms in Asia Pacific. It is estimated that about 87 per cent of the world's 500 million small farms (less than 2 ha) are in Asia and the Pacific region (IFPRI, 2007).

Here are some figures that show the importance of family farming:

  • 70 % of the world food production is provided by family farmers
  • 25% of the world's population is composed of women farmers, often heads of households (that is about 1,600 million people)
  • 90% of the total agricultural labour in Asia is constituted by small farmers who produce 80% of regional food


Hence family farms are vital for agricultural production, food security, rural poverty reduction, and biodiversity conservation.

Communication and Family Farming

Communication and community media play a vital role in rural development as they aid in information transfer and raise awareness. The potential of ICTs and community media for family farmers in Asia Pacific is immense and can have huge benefits.

Comparing with other modern ICT tools, mobile phone is the electronic communication technology most widely used in developing countries and has several advantages compared to other ICT tools in terms of reach-ability, affordability, status of literacy to use the tool, gender disparity etc., and never involves any opportunity costs. It has a vast penetration and wide appeal to the rural population across the Asia Pacific region. Similarly other mediums like community radio and community video have a huge potential to address the information needs of family farmers. As these communication medium use local languages it is easier for the target group to understand and the information is delivered according to local need and context.

Some of the priority areas of action are advocacy for an enabling policy environment for Communication for Development, broadcasting and licensing policies for rural communication rights in the region. Such policies should for example help to drive down the cost of mobile telephone services in rural areas. Public service broadcasting requirements should be placed onto commercial broadcasters as part of the licensing regime to create and deliver programming that is relevant to farmers and other rural residents.

One of the other objectives of IYFF was to recognize the role and rights of women in family farming. Though 25% of the world's population is composed of women farmers, often heads of households they are often absent in the debate. The majority of rural women still have limited or no access to media or communication. Most are aware of the gender and technology divide however there is a need to understand more clearly the 'Gender Digital Divide' and its ramifications on intra household dynamics, women's agricultural and household work and their bargaining power. A gender disaggregated understanding of ICTs is much needed and cannot assume that men and women are impacted equally.

The Way Forward

An e-consultation on "Communication for Development, Community Media and ICTs for Family Farming and Rural Development in Asia Pacific" was held from 25 August to 12 September, 2014 on the ComDev Asia platform to collect regional and sector perspectives. Some of the recommendations for the sector in the region are:

  • Given the potential of ICTs in the Asia Pacific region to help address the needs of the family farmers there is a dire need to create an inexpensive ICT tools that can be used for free by ordinary farmers and farm workers.
  • Women farmers are responsible for 60% of the work in agriculture but policies, strategies and inclusion and even technology often evades them. In order to reach out to the women farmers, ICT interventions should be targeted towards women also.
  • There is need for an enabling policy environment for rural communications and community broadcasting. There is a need to recognise community media and differentiate community radio particularly with regards to licensing, fees and spectrum allocation.
  • It is not enough to have policies in place but also special initiatives should be taken up by concerned authorities to facilitate rural communication with a long term goal of inculcating quality farming.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Secretary Rasit Pertev, speaking of the IYFF at the Manila ceremony said, "We have helped the world to understand the scope of family farming, with 500 million family farms employing and supporting upwards of 2.5 billion people."

The IYFF it has caused "a paradigm shift" in support of the interests of family farmers. It has provided a unique opportunity to pave the way towards more inclusive and sustainable approaches to agricultural and rural development by promoting new development policies that will help smallholder and family farmers eradicate hunger, reduce rural poverty and continue to play a major role in global food security through small-scale, sustainable agricultural production.

The ComDev Asia platform is a space for community media, agricultural practitioners and stakeholders to share information, best practices and chart the way forward in the region.