Family farming is the most common type of farming around the world. Far from being backward,it adapts and responds to changes in the environment. The Barometer dedicated to family farmers by Iles de Paix, SOS-Faim and Autre Terre analyzes  the current issues that shape and transform them.

Of the world’s 7.6 billion people, 821 million are undernourished. Two billion people eat poor diets. At least 2 billion people are overweight, 650 million of whom are obese. If, at one time, family farming was thought to be the source of all development problems, it is now seen increasingly as the way out of  poverty. It is high time to come out of the impasse…

A large majority of family farms uses less than 2 hectares of land, or the equivalent of two football fields. This represents 470 million families currently using between 12% and 24% of cultivated lands. Yet, this small portion of our planet’s cultivated lands produces more than one third of the world’s food. In other words, “small scale family farming produces a greater portion of the world’s food than the amount of land it uses”.


Farming policies are conceived with rationales that do not address the overall issue: to increase food  production for an exploding demography. Yet, food insecurity is much more tied to the problem of poverty than the availability of food. “It is an issue of food access, distribution and rights, an issue of political will”. Moreover, when we look at the intake of food calories, less than half of the calories from food produced around the world ends up in people’s stomachs!  Is increasing food production the only aspect to consider?


International negotiations on climate change are beginning to pay attention to the farming sector. This presents a real opportunity, but attention must be paid to food security. The environmental impacts of farming activities go beyond the major climate issues (loss of biodiversity, changes in land use,…) and this sector is responsible for a bigger impact than human beings have on the environment. In such a context, “we cannot have sustainable development without a profound transformation of the food systems”.


Faced with this dilemma, a serious solution seems to be emerging: agro-ecology. Numerous social movements, scientists and even the United Nations are all promoting it. What public policies currently support the transition to agro-ecology? Page 17 of this barometer presents an overview of Latin America, Western Africa, and France.

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