Posted by Mireille Vermeulen
Family farming offers a global solution to the rising demand for food, even while the agricultural sector is expected to be hard hit by the effects of climate change. This emerged from our jubilee conference “The Future of Family Farming" on 15 December at Nieuwspoort in The Hague, the Netherlands.
“Whatever the results may be of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, it is clear that next year will be decisive for climate measures in agriculture”. This said Camilla Toulmin, Director of the British research institute IIED, which focuses on opportunities for developing countries in this time of environmental change. Over 130 scientific, governmental and agricultural professionals from the Netherlands and developing countries discussed the future of family farming.
Family farming is not only defined by its smaller size, but even more by the fact that it is better adapted to local conditions. It is therefore able to respond more flexibly to climate change. As summed up by chairperson of the day, Bram Huijsman from Wageningen University: “Multifunctional agriculture is in tune with the local situation - this is what family farming is all about. While large-scale, industrial agriculture has largely reached the limits of growth, family farming still has a lot of potential.”
In addition, family farming offers new opportunities for feeding cities. In a city such as Accra, the capital of Ghana, urban agriculture sees a daily stream of fresh vegetables, fruit and animal products into the city, due to the efforts of hundreds of family farmers. “Because farmers cultivate with waste products like chicken manure as fertilizer, they kill two birds with one stone”, according to Dr Olufunke Cofie, who is researching the opportunities presented by urban agriculture at the International Water Management Institute in Accra.
In order for family farmers to take hold of new opportunities, knowledge is crucial. According to its Director Edith van Walsum, ileia has an important role to play: “ileia now celebrates its 25th anniversary. It has grown in 25 years into an international movement that makes links between farmers and knowledge exchange from Latin America, Africa and Asia possible. By way of our seven network partners, we reach a quarter of a million male and female farmers around the world, who provide for food and the environment and oppose climate change.”
Begin next week we will publish more about our conference. You will also find the presentations of the speakers and a video report of the day. Keep posted!