New Research Shows That 500 Million Family Farmers Have Enormous Potential To Feed The World

CHICAGO -- As the world celebrates the International Year of Family Farming, Food Tank: The Food Think Tank highlights new research in a report, Food Tank by the Numbers: Family Farming, that features original research from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and draws on dozens of experts. The report proves that family farms-farms or ranches owned and operated by families-are not only feeding the world, but also developing effective ways to address global food security, increase income, protect biodiversity, and conserve the environment for a growing population.

According to research in the Food Tank report, soils are being depleted 10 to 40 times faster than they are being replenished, and as a result, 30 percent of global arable land has lost productivity. And land use changes as a result of agriculture-deforestation and land degradation-are contributing to climate change.

But millions of family farmers are using agroecological approaches to combat climate change. Agroforestry, solar drip irrigation, and integrated pest management are helping protect natural resources, improving nutrient density, and increasing farmers' incomes.

"We need to bring more attention to what's being implemented by family farmers on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, the United States, and Europe because what they're doing is working. These innovative practices, which are grounded in farmers' knowledge, are nourishing communities and protecting the planet's resources at the same time," says Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank President.

Supporting family farmers' livelihoods through facilitating access to markets can have a substantial and significant effect on increasing rural incomes. Organic certification for family farmers has also had a positive effect on their incomes-in Indonesia, the Boyolali Farmers' Association, has shown a 40 percent reduction in production costs because of organic farming practices.

Family farming also drives economic growth and social stability by providing job opportunities. Small farmers create a "multiplier" effect that extends beyond the farm sector, spending a high share of their income in other sectors, and creating demand for goods in other sectors.

"Family farmers deserve to be recognized for the multiple roles they play-as business women and men, innovators, teachers, and stewards of the land. Family farmers need our recognition and our support now, not later," says Caterina Batello, Senior Agricultural Officer FAO.

With increased support from research institutions and the funding and donor communities to invest in family farmers, global food security can be achieved, environmental resources can be protected, and national economies can grow.

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