Rome — IFAD hosts bi-annual meeting of 90 smallholder representatives from around the world
More than 90 leaders of national and regional organizations, representing hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers, fishers, pastoralists and rural producers globally, gathered at the headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Fifth Global Meeting of the Farmers' Forum from 17-20 February.
In observance of this year's International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), IFAD sponsored side events on family farming, participatory governance of extension and research, agro-ecological agriculture, as well as a special session on small-scale fisheries.
The international year is an initiative of the United Nations General Assembly promoted by the World Rural Forum and supported by more than 360 civil society and farmers' organizations
In his opening address, the President of IFAD, Kanayo F. Nwanze pledged that IFAD "will make a special effort to press for policy changes that result in improvements in the rural space that benefit smallholders. We will do this not just because this year is an international year, but because this is the core of what we do, this year and every year.
Nwanze added that he is personally committed "to creating a world where young women and men choose to build their futures in rural areas. With the right policies and investments, [these] areas can thrive and grow."
In the dynamic opening discussions, members of the Farmers' Forum called for a greater voice for smallholders in rural policy development. Participants also stressed the need for partnerships - in particular those that facilitate dialogue with governments - increased investments in smallholder agriculture, and capacity building for farmers' organizations.
In her remarks on the first day, Steering Committee Member Alessandra Da Costa Lunas of the Confederación de Organizaciones de Productores Familiares del MERCOSUR emphasized: "Family farming is a fundamental sector for guaranteeing global food sovereignty.
Thus, support is needed to strengthen local markets, manage risks, access credit, guarantee funding and support agro-ecological production, among others."
Smallholders and family farmers produce four-fifths of the developing world's food and so are key contributors to global food security and eradicating rural poverty.
Despite this critical role, they remain a largely untapped resource and are disproportionately represented among the world's poor. Taking advantage of the global focus on family farming during IYYF, participants at the Farmers' Forum urged that small-scale farming be placed at the centre of national, regional and global agricultural, environmental as well as social policies.
Throughout the two-day Forum, farmers' leaders shared their experiences with IFAD staff and partners such as: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN; the World Food Programme; AgriCord; the European Commission; the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Agence Française de Développement; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and research institutions and non-governmental organizations.
The Farmers' Forum is rooted in concrete partnerships and collaborations at the country and regional levels. Established in 2005, the Forum meets every two years for a global consultation in conjunction with the Governing Council of IFAD. Representatives of farmers' organizations attending the Forum are nominated by its steering committee.
IFAD invests in increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers by facilitating partnerships.
The Farmers' Forum contributes substantially to IFAD's capacity to link realities on the ground with policy processes at all levels, including from the micro to the macro, keeping in line with demand locally, nationally and internationally, including from governments.
Because of the "local to global" dimension and the diversity of subjects addressed, the Forum is not only instrumental for projects, but also long-term national capacity investments for rural poverty reduction.