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Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers! November 26, 2015

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???????????Coffee (Buna) originated from Oromia2Study on Agroecology (OAKLAND INSTITUTE) in Africa Sweet potato harvest. Credit to Aminah Jasho, KHCP.

Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers!

GRAIN, Ecologist

22nd November 2014

All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN – and it’s justified by the need to ‘feed the world’. But it’s the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

The United Nations declared 2014 as theInternational Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual ‘State of Food and Agriculture‘, which this year is dedicated to family farming.

Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world’s farmland and produce 80% of the world’s food.

But on the ground – whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain – rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.

A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world’s farmland – or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN’s report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.

How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world’s farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world’s farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN’s findings.

Just what is a ‘family farm’

The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)

Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO’s count of ‘family farms’.

What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country’s battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?

Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.

It allows FAO to paint a rosy picture and conveniently ignore perhaps the most crucial factor affecting the capacity of small farmers to produce food: lack of access to land. Instead, the FAO focuses its message on how family farmers should innovate and be more productive.

Small farmers are ever more squeezed in

Small food producers’ access to land is shrinking due a range of forces. One is that because of population pressure, farms are getting divided up amongst family members. Another is the vertiginous expansion of monoculture plantations.

In the last 50 years, a staggering 140 million hectares – the size of almost all the farmland in India – has been taken over by four industrial crops: soya bean, oil palm, rapeseed and sugar cane. And this trend is accelerating.

In the next few decades, experts predict that the global area planted to oil palm willdouble, while the soybean area will grow by a third. These crops don’t feed people. They are grown to feed the agro-industrial complex.

Other pressures pushing small food producers off their land include the runaway plague of large-scale land grabs by corporate interests. In the last few years alone, according to the World Bank, some 60 million hectares of fertile farmland have been leased, on a long-term basis, to foreign investors and local elites, mostly in the global South.

While some of this is for energy production, a big part of it is to produce food commodities for the global market, instead of family farming.

Small is beautiful – and productive

The paradox, however, and one of the reasons why despite having so little land, small producers are feeding the planet, is that small farms are often more productive than large ones.

If the yields achieved by Kenya’s small farmers were matched by the country’s large-scale operations, the country’s agricultural output would double. In Central America, the region’s food production would triple. If Russia’s big farms were as productive as its small ones, output would increase by a factor of six.

Another reason why small farms are the feeding the planet is because they prioritise food production. They tend to focus on local and national markets and their own families. In fact, much of what they produce doesn’t enter into trade statistics – but it does reach those who need it most: the rural and urban poor.

If the current processes of land concentration continue, then no matter how hard-working, efficient and productive they are, small farmers will simply not be able to carry on.

The data show that the concentration of farmland in fewer and fewer hands is directly related to the increasing number of people going hungry every day.

According to one UN study, active policies supporting small producers and agro-ecological farming methods could double global food production in a decade and enable small farmers to continue to produce and utilise biodiversity, maintain ecosystems and local economies, while multiplying and strengthening meaningful work opportunities and social cohesion in rural areas.

Agrarian reforms can and should be the springboard to moving in this direction.

To double global food production, we must support the small farmers

Experts and development agencies are constantly saying that we need to double food production in the coming decades. To achieve that, they usually recommend a combination of trade and investment liberalisation plus new technologies.

But this will only empower corporate interests and create more inequality. The real solution is to turn control and resources over to small producers themselves and enact agricultural policies to support them.

The message is clear. We need to urgently put land back in the hands of small farmers and make the struggle for genuine and comprehensive agrarian reform central to the fight for better food systems worldwide.

FAO’s lip service to family farming just confuses the matter and avoids putting the real issues on the table.




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???????????Study on Agroecology (OAKLAND INSTITUTE) in Africa Sweet potato harvest. Credit to Aminah Jasho, KHCP.


The thirty-three case studies shed light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent. They demonstrate with facts and figures how an agricultural transformation respectful of the farmers and their environment can yield immense economic, social, and food security benefits while also fighting climate change and restoring soils and the environment.

What is Agroecology?

Agroecology is the application of ecological science to agriculture and agroecosystems. It encompasses a wide-variety of practices, which are coherent with key principles of environment preservation, social fairness, and economic viability. Therefore, agroecology combines parameters of sound ecological management, like minimizing the use of toxics by using on-farm renewable resources and privileging endogenous solutions to manage pests and disease, with an approach that upholds and secures farmers’ livelihoods.


Local Context, Long-Term Impact

While agroecology promotes low use of external inputs, it is a very knowledge-intensive system. Transmission of this knowledge, adaptation to local contexts, and appropriation by farmers and government technicians, are essential steps for farmers and communities to reap the benefits of agroecology. The case studies demonstrate how the expansion of agroecological practices will generate a rapid, fair and inclusive development, that can be sustained for future generations.

UN Report: Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World September 8, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Agaw people, Food Production.
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???????????Oromo coffee farmer

UN Report Says Small-Scale Organic Farming Only Way to Feed the World

Nick Meyer | AltHealthWORKS

Even as the United States government continues to push for the use of more chemically-intensive and corporate-dominated farming methods such as GMOs and monoculture-based crops, the United Nations is once against sounding the alarm about the urgent need to return to (and develop) a more sustainable, natural and organic system.

That was the key point of a new publication from the UN Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) titled“Trade and Environment Review 2013: Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” which included contributions from more than 60 experts around the world.

The cover of the report looks like that of a blockbuster documentary or Hollywood movie, and the dramatic nature of the title cannot be understated: The time is now to switch back to our natural farming roots.

The New UN Farming Report “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.”
The New UN Farming Report “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late.” Click here to read it.
The findings on the report seem to echo those of a December 2010 UN Report in many ways, one that essentially said organic and small-scale farming is the answer for “feeding the world,” not GMOs and monocultures.

According to the new UN report, major changes are needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems, with a shift toward local small-scale farmers and food systems recommended.

Diversity of farms, reducing the use of fertilizer and other changes are desperately needed according to the report, which was highlighted in this article from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

It also said that global trade rules should be reformed in order to work toward these ends, which is unfortunately the opposite of what mega-trade deals like the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S.-EU Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are seeking to accomplish.

The Institute noted that these pending deals are “primarily designed to strengthen the hold of multinational corporate and financial firms on the global economy…” rather than the reflect the urgent need for a shift in agriculture described in the new report.

Even global security may be at stake according to the report, as food prices (and food price speculating) continue to rise.

“This implies a rapid and significant shift from conventional, monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent industrial production toward mosaics of sustainable, regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers,” the report concludes.

You can read more about the report from the Institute by visiting their website here.

Food Sovereignty: Five steps to cool the planet and feed its people. #Africa December 7, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, African Poor, Agriculture, Soil preservation in Sub-Saharan Africa..
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Five steps to cool the planet and feed its people

An info-graphic that shows how the industrial food system contributes to the climate crisis and how food sovereignty is the solution.

1.Take care of  the soil

2. Natural farming, no chemicals

3. Cut the food miles & the Corporations, and focus on fresh food

4. Forget the false solutions, focus on what works

5. Get the land back to the farmers, and stop the mega plantation

Insurance for Ethiopian herders aims to combat drought, conflict – TRFN


YABELO, Ethiopia, Dec 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nomadic livestock herders in Ethiopia have received their first payout from an insurance scheme that tracks poor pasture conditions with satellite technology.

Ethiopia has difficulty drawing full advantage from its livestock resources – the largest in Africa – because of the unreliability of pasture and water caused by persistent drought.

The new insurance scheme, known as index-based livestock insurance, aims to reduce losses, support pastoral communities, and lower the risk of conflict sparked by pastoralists migrating into agricultural areas in search of forage or water.

Coverage has been sold since July 2012 in southern Ethiopia’s Borena zone by Oromia Insurance Company (OIC), with technical assistance from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), U.S.-based Cornell University, and Mercy Corps, an international development organisation. Just over 500 pastoralists took up coverage initially.

The scheme was based on an earlier insurance effort rolled out in 2010 in neighbouring Marsabit region in northern Kenya, said Andrew Mude, principal economist at ILRI in Nairobi.

There, payouts were based on livestock deaths. But “the (experience) we had with the Kenyan programme was that some animals are more hardy than others, and so (with) differential mortality rates … (it) was a bit complex,” Mude said.

The insurance offered by OIC in Ethiopia instead offers coverage based on the actual scarcity of the herders’ forage, rather than the mortality rate of their livestock.


The insurance uses NASA satellite data to look at forage availability in the Borena zone. Experts from ILRI and Cornell University compare current images with historical data from the past 30 years.

“We provide the technical expertise to understand how to use the information from satellites on the state of forage on the ground,” Mude said.

The timing and amount of insurance payouts are then calculated based on the severity of the lack of forage.

OIC’s insurance will pay out up to 6,000 Ethiopian birr ($300) for a cow, 10,000 birr ($500) for a camel, and 800 birr ($40) for a sheep or goat annually. Pastoralists pay premiums averaging about 7.5 percent of the value of the maximum payout.

If forage levels become scarce compared to the index based on the historical satellite data, the herder receives compensation, even if no livestock have been lost.

In response to poor forage conditions, OIC made its first payout to all the insured holders, totalling 570,000 birr ($28,300), at the beginning of November this year at a ceremony in Yabelo, a town 565 km (353 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Mude said that although livestock is the key productive asset and source of income for pastoralists, the novelty of insurance in this remote region initially made it difficult to sell.

ILRI spent two years researching the needs of the Borena zone herders before formally launching the insurance.

A further challenge is how to assess the damage suffered by policyholders when dealing with a mobile population.

Mude explained that an important feature of the insurance is that pastoralists remain covered even if they migrate out of the woredas (districts) where they are insured, since migration itself implies that there is a severe lack of forage. Compensation is therefore calculated based on the area where they were initially insured.

Wondimu Beteyo, a pastoralist who received a payout for his cattle and goats, says that until recently he had to trek several days for pasture and water. Now, he says, the money he has received will allow him to replenish the cattle he lost during the recent drought.

Dono Kotelo, from Teltale woreda, insured his two goats and two cattle for a total of 1,048 birr ($50) after learning about the insurance scheme. Although none of his animals died, because he migrated to find pasture, he received a payout of 192 birr ($10) for costs associated with the dry season and said he plans to buy insurance again for the coming year.


Getaneh Eerena, a livestock insurance officer at the micro-insurance department of OIC, said that in the long run the programme is not just about financial payments but about avoiding conflicts.

“The area tends to have high conflict incidence, both within (the) pastoralist community and against agricultural communities,” Eerena said.

Kotelo, the herder, said his Borena community used to cross into the land of agricultural communities when their own pastures were exhausted, often leading to deadly clashes.

Mude and Eerena said their organisations planned to extend the insurance scheme eventually across the country.

Source: Reuters