The United Nations has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been announced as the coordinating agency of the year.
This will help bring attention to the importance of family farmers, including smallholder farmers, and their role in helping to nourish the world.
The celebration is also aptly timed: the global population is expected to reach more than nine billion people by the year 2050, and nearly 900 million people go to bed hungry every night.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has estimated that family farmers around the world are already relied upon to produce a large share of the food supply in developing countries, which is where most of the global population growth is expected over the coming decades.
In order to feed the growing population, experts from the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) recognize that the world will not only need to increase agricultural production, but to engage in agricultural practices that are more efﬁcient and environmentally sustainable.
According to FAO, there are more than 500 million family farmers around the world, contributing to the livelihoods of more than two billion people.
Of the world’s farms — less than two hectares in size — China accounts for almost 200 million farms and India, 117 million.
Family farming also makes up the majority of agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately 33 million farms in the region, or 80 percent, are smallholder farms.
According to IFAD estimates, more than 80 percent of all agricultural holdings measuring less than two hectares in size and are thus managed by smallholder farmers. (See Figure 1.) Also, against earlier predictions by many experts, small farms are actually getting more numerous.