Walking along the terraced fields in the Northern areas of Pakistan, mostly women folk can be seen farming – with their children playing around; I had little understanding and had thought they are employed in the industrial agricultural practice. I was actually looking at smallholder farmers, well aware of their landscapes and local climates, and with endurable support, they help to transform the food system using sustainable methods that can boost productivity or just self sufficient in their need for daily food consumption. Today, these small farmers are better informed to use traditional knowledge and techniques to rely less on scarce natural resources.
To further enhance support the culture of Family Farming, the United Nations declare 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). About 40% of World Households depend on Family farming and 70% of World Food Supply is produced by family farmers. So, out of the 3,000 million rural people in developing countries, 2,500 belong to families engaged in Family Farming.
According to a research study from Oxfam, investing in small farmers also creates a ‘multiplier’ effect that extends beyond the farming sector — farmers spend a big share of their income in other sectors, including construction, infrastructure, and manufacturing.
The main objective of the IYFF is to raise the profile of smallholders and family farms by focusing world attention on their role in alleviating hunger and poverty and improving conditions for smallholders and family farms. Supporting the success of family farms will result in increased incomes of family farmers and thus a significant rise in overall living standard.
While industrial agriculture practices tend to be extremely resource-intensive and can damage the environment (70 per cent of global water use goes to farming, and soil is being eroded between 10 and 40 times faster than it’s being replenished); family farms feeds the world and yet produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than industrial farms.
According to Ose Antonio Osaba Garcia – coordinator of the IYFF, “We have pushed for this year to honor family farmers. So the year (2014) is centered on dialogue in favor of family farming as the real model for sustainable agriculture.”
Family Farming or Family Agriculture comprises women (almost half of agriculture labour-force), and men farmers, gatherers, landless peasants, indigenous people, artisan fishers (some 357 million people depend directly on small-scale fisheries, employs over 90% of the World’s fishing catch) and pastoralists (cover about 25% of the earth’s terrestrial surface and supports 20 million households) – involved in agricultural, forestry, aquaculture, fisheries and pastoral production which is managed in smallhold areas under 10 hectare and operated by a family and primarily dependent on non-wage family labor and responsible for everything – from production to farm maintenance. The family and the farm are “linked, co-evolve and combine economic, environmental, reproductive, social and cultural functions”.
To mark the IYFF – national committees are being set up. These are composed of agriculture and development cooperation representatives, one such committee with an observer status is the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), which has been established in Switzerland. The SDC helps smallholders and family farms to adapt to change and to boost production in a sustainable way.
Some of the projects, as follows, show the SDC’s work to support smallholders and family farms in developing countries:
-Irrigation for family farms
-Changing course in global agriculture: Nourish our People – Nurture our Planet
-Plant clinics and doctors to reduce crop losses
-Increasing the revenue of rural households
-Microcredit: a way to ensure access to water and to generate revenues
-More rice with less waste
-Using seeds to guarantee food security and preserve biodiversity
The SDC’s activities are focused on the following areas:
-Establishing a regulatory international framework that supports smallholder farming (including seed regulations and international trade rules)
-Securing access to natural resources such as land and water
-Strengthening farmers’ organizations to enable them to offer their members better services and to voice their concerns more effectively in the political arena
-Improving access to services, particularly for women small farmers, to realize their untapped potential
-Ensuring better access for women and young people to means of production
-Improving storage and processing of agricultural products to reduce postharvest losses
-Promoting research and advice on new technologies adapted to the needs of smallholders and family farms
-Creating alternative sources of income for smallholder farmers
Pakistan hosts some 3.8 million small family farms constituting about 43.4% of total farm area, with landholdings measuring less than two hectares. The country that show an estimated 17 million people food-insecure and according to the World Bank, 27 per cent of the rural population of Pakistan live under the national rural poverty line; there is an urgent need to support Family Farming and development of infrastructure.
The International Fund of Agricultural Development operation, Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Project, is working to benefit an estimated 8.6 million rural residents in several districts of Pakistan and there are proposed projects in the pipeline that will support small farmers in Pakistan. “The project can assist casual laborers without landholdings, smallholder farmers, and independent woman-headed households in increasing their incomes by supporting agricultural productivity and production, and by increasing the overall employment potential of this targeted population”. For the success of family Farming in Pakistan, it is essential that donors like Agha Khan Rural Support Program, Agriculture Development Bank, non-profit organizations, and governments focus their attention on family farmers and invest in programs and infrastructure essential to production growth.
Micro Finance: Since the 1990’s, small farmers with no land and also people with no capital had the possibility of acquiring small loans through Punjab Rural Support Program’s (PRSP) Micro-Credit Scheme, aimed at improve living condition of people living below the poverty line. Micro Finance helped small Farmers to access techniques to yield sufficient production and purchase of better quality seeds and fertilizers. Research studies indicate that Micro Financing has substantially increased agricultural production and crop productivity.
The Neelum-Jhelum Valleys Community Development Project has set up an example by planting nearly 12,000 hectares that resulted in an improved crop yields and doubling the average household income of the project’s participants. The project’s main objectives were to promote environmental conservation and community participation in resource development in response to deforestation, erosion, and overgrazing.
Revival of Family (Trout) Farms in Swat valley, Pakistan.
The unrest in the Swat Valleys in Pakistan not only had the tourism crashing nose dive but also shattered the once prosperous family run trout farms in Madyan and Kalam valleys – valued at around Rs. 44 million. The local family farms had lost all hopes however, with support from the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PRRSA) and Early Recovery of Agriculture and Livelihood Program (ERALP) supported by the Italian government (February 2010); trout farms produced about 184 tons trout (2013) and according to reports, Swat valleys has now some 22 trout farms.
Self Help Family Farming
Lessons can be learnt from Switzerland Family Farming on a self-help basis since time immemorial. In Valais – the French and German speaking mountainous Southwest region of Switzerland, most of the mountain farming at a varying high altitude with extremely patchy landscape, thus limits use of modern farming methods. Family Farm is the only option to an efficient and effective method of farming, ensuring house hold security.
Family Farming in the mountains is deeply rooted in Valaisan culture and has more recently adopted means of self-help in exchange offering lodging to travelers. In a barter exchange of visitors’ services to the farmer – a helping hand in farming activities or herding livestock, the visitor would earn overnight stays in traditional Swiss chalet. The farmer thus saves on labor cost and the visitor is happy making a saving on cost of lodging. Located in the eastern French speaking region of Valais, in Nendaz – orchards and vineyards are small, family run businesses. The Country of Bisses (a system of irrigation channels) and nearby valleys are world renowned for delicious grapes, apricots, strawberries and raspberries.
Dubbed “the world’s cutest sheep”, the Valaisan Blacknose sheep are bred in Valais region where they are adored for their “black hole” faces, shaggy coats and spiral horns. This unique breed is fashionable livestock farming in Europe. On a family farm in Scotland, the farmer said: “I think they are the world’s cutest sheep.”
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