The State of Food and Agriculture 2014

Innovation in Family Farming

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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.



Family farming

At least 90 percent of the world’s farms are family farms according to the most commonly used definitions. Family farms represent the dominant form of agriculture in most countries. They range in size from tiny, subsistence holdings to large-scale, commercial enterprises, and they produce a vast range of food and cash crops in all kinds of agro-ecological conditions. However, the enormous heterogeneity of family farms means that general policy prescriptions are unlikely to be relevant for the whole category. It is necessary to look at the different characteristics of farms within the broad category of family farming. This chapter briefly reviews the state of family farming in the world, focusing on smaller family farms.


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