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Family farming champions celebrated

23 January 2014

Women in Business Development is launching a year-long programme to celebrate International Year of Family Farming.

The world-wide celebration is an initiative promoted by the World Rural Forum and supported by over 360 civil society and farmers’ organizations.

Women in Business Development executive director Adimaimalaga Tafunai says the organization will be highlighting a family each month in the media.

“We know that family farming is key to Samoa’s economic development and we want to celebrate our national organic farming champions. These families are carrying on a proud Samoan tradition of farming without using chemicals and doing their best to use their strength, soil and time to provide healthy food for their families and local markets.

“If we support locally grown farm food, more people will see agriculture as an opportunity, we can reduce our reliance on imported foods and eat healthier foods from our own soil and also keep our families intact.

“Already we have restaurants and hotels supporting our farmers through the Farm to Table project, we have export markets asking for more coffee, virgin coconut oil, fetau oil and cocoa. With the right support, our family farmers will be an economic force for this country.”

Last year, the organisation’s rural farmers exported more than $500,000 in virgin coconut oil to its Uk and US markets. Its finemat annual sales also increased by 50 per cent to total more than $80,000, which has been fuelled by overseas demand.

Tafuna’i says the organization currently includes more than 600 families made up of more than 11,000 people who are trying to make a sustainable living from farming and, most importantly, take control of their family’s development.

“To add to that, our farmers are certified organic, which means they are also farming while caring for the environment.”

International Year of Family Farming was declared by the United Nations General Assembly. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says the goal of the campaign is to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas.

In an opinion column entitled “The Family Farming Revolution”, FAO director general José Graziano da Silva says that much of the world’s experience in sustainable farming systems has been gained by family-run farms.

“From generation to generation, family farmers have transmitted knowledge and skills, preserving and improving many practices and technologies that can support agricultural sustainability. Using innovative techniques such as building terraces and adopting zero-tillage practices, family farmers have consistently succeeded in maintaining production on often marginal lands ... Family farmers also play a pivotal role in the local production, marketing and consumption circuits that are so important not simply in fighting hunger but also in creating jobs, generating income, and in stimulating and diversifying local economies.”

He says worldwide, there are an estimated 500 million family farms. In an FAO survey of 93 countries, family farmers account on average for over 80 percent of all holdings. In developed and developing countries alike, they are the main producers of food consumed locally, the primary stewards of food security.

However, he adds that there is a limit to what family farmers can achieve on their own. “Governments, international organizations, regional agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and research institutions have a role to play in providing this support and creating the enabling environment they need to thrive.

“What family farmers need is similar throughout the world: technical assistance and policies that build on their knowledge and bolster sustainable productivity increase; appropriate technologies; quality inputs that respond to their needs and respect their culture and traditions; special attention to women and youth farmers; strengthening of producers’ organizations and cooperatives; improved access to land and water, credit and markets; and, efforts to improve their participation in value chains.

“The 2014 International Year of Family Farming gives us a chance to revitalize this critical sector. By choosing to celebrate family farmers, we recognize that they must be protagonists in responding to the dual challenge the world today faces: improving food security while preserving crucial natural resources.”

ENDS

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