Family farming as a sure way to ensure sustainable food production

Food security is based roughly on three pillars: (i) the availability of food in sufficient quantity and quality, (ii) accessibility to food resources and (iii) their proper use. It raises various issues including whether food production will relieve famine between 800 and 900 million people, but the durability is not always obvious.
Family farming goes beyond food security by relying on control of knowledge and know-how of production and food management.
To define family agriculture, we will retain two fundamental aspects that guarantee sustainability including:
– * The deep connection in the time between the earth and a family that operates it;
– * The combination of economic and environmental dimensions in the family business ensures the sustainability of food security.
To mark the official launch of the celebration of the AIAF 2014, in New York on 22 November 2013, the Director-General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva emphasized the enormous productive potential of farmers family, saying: “by choosing to celebrate this year, we recognize that family farmers are the leading figures in the double urgency with which the world faces today: improving food security and safeguard natural resources, in line with objectives Millennium development, the debate on the post 2015 development agenda and the Zero Hunger Challenge “.
Relying on this statement, we return to the effective link between family farming and sustainable food security.
Indeed, in the literature, sustainability in simple terms refers to the conduct of activities to satisfy human needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. It is generally accepted that there are three pillars of sustainability – environmental, economic and social. The consensus accepts that environmental sustainability is most critical of the three.
Family farming is central, particularly in sustainable food production because it integrates economic, social, cultural, environmental and spiritual. This potential for multiple solutions allows it to meet the dual challenge: feeding the world and heal the planet.
Economically, the agricultural sector, dominated by family farming is the backbone of African economies as evidenced by its contribution to GDP per capita, the proportion of people it employs, its contribution to local food production and the production of raw materials for industry. Indeed, 70% of the world’s food comes from family farmers. The analyzes confirm that GDP growth originating in agriculture is three times more effective in reducing poverty than GDP growth generated by other sectors. The analyzes also confirm that small family farms are more productive and sustainable land and per unit of energy consumed.
In Africa, agriculture accounts for about 32% of GDP, on average. An estimated 70% of the population depends on agriculture for full-time employment and many others depend on agriculture for part of their income. With family farming, the urban poor benefit from agricultural growth thanks to the proximity of abundant food.
On the social level, the social values of collective ownership and sharing natural goods production (seeds, land, water, forests, etc.) are well organized within families and farming communities. A sense of collective belonging imposes a moral / social obligation for the proper management of natural resources (land, seeds, water resources, forests, etc.), knowledge and culturally acceptable practices. A sense of responsibility regarding family and community power, makes farm families more resistant to unfavorable changes in market prices. The place of women in family agriculture, from field to plate, is another guarantee of food sustainability. According to UNIFEM (UN WOMEN), 60-80% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries are women.
On the environmental side, family farming is mainly ecological (with the exception of export crops such as cotton, rubber, cocoa, tea, etc.) There is a special relationship between farming communities and the natural environment based on the culture and practices that enhance the propensity towards responsible management of natural capital and productive assets. For example, sacred sites (river sites, forests, etc.), the days set aside in a week during which the work of the land is prohibited because the ancestors are supposed to be in the fields, the harvest festivals to thank the nature and the ancestors for a good harvest, seeds of blessing ceremonies, etc.
Responsible management of natural capital and productive assets is further enhanced by a sense of solidarity between generations. Families and farming communities feel morally responsible to care, improve and transmit to future generations what they inherited from their ancestors.
Moreover, farm families are the keepers of genetic diversity (seed). Family farming is a way of preserving local seeds and animal breeds adapted to the changing environment. It avoids the threats facing food diversity. Indeed, on 7000 plant species found along the history, over 150 species are marketable, 30 of them only provide 90% of calories, only four (rice, potato, wheat and maize) bring more half the calories in the world.
Contribution of Inades-Formation Workshop on Family Agriculture organized by the Swiss Centre for Scientific Research in Côte d’Ivoire (CSRS), Thursday, April 24, 2014.