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The State of Food and Agriculture 2014

Innovation in Family Farming

image of The State of Food and Agriculture 2014

More than 500 million family farms manage the majority of the world’s agricultural land and produce most of the world’s food. We need family farms to ensure global food security, to care for and protect the natural environment and to end poverty, undernourishment and malnutrition. But these goals can be thoroughly achieved if public policies support family farms to become more productive and sustainable. This edition of the The State of Food and Agriculture analyses family farms and the role of innovation in ensuring global food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. It argues that family farms must be supported to innovate in ways that promote sustainable intensification of production and improvements in rural livelihoods. Innovation is a process through which farmers improve their production and farm management practices.

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Agricultural research and development for family farms

Farmers experiment and innovate continuously and have done so for millennia. Their efforts led to the domestication of the many crops and livestock species used in the modern food system. Formal scientific research in agriculture is a relatively recent phenomenon and has been largely responsible for the enormous growth in agricultural yields since the mid-twentieth century. Local indigenous knowledge – often implicit in farmers’ practices – and formal scientific research should both be involved in the overall innovation system needed to enable family farms to achieve sustainable productivity growth and adapt to changing environmental circumstances. Building closer cooperation between formal and informal parts of the research system can help ensure that agricultural research and development (R&D) supports innovation by small family farms.

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