Family Farming and Food Security

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    Agriculture is a central piece of the agenda for African transformation. Declared the United Nations (UN) Year of Family Farming and the African Union (AU) Year of Food Security, 2014 will be particularly interesting, with key challenges in terms of policy directions and international processes.

    While there is reason to rejoice about the gradual return of food security to the centre stage of African and international debates in recent years, intense debate prevails on the most appropriate policy direction and agricultural models that should take priority. Some believe that agricultural policies have been focused disproportionally on industrial farming, which often goes along with mono-cropping and heavy use of inputs (at the expense of environmental conservation). Others respond that this is important to produce enough to feed the growing African population, as alternative approaches focused on smallholder farming, multi-cropping and biodiversity protection will not result in sufficient agricultural growth. 

    In terms of international processes, all players should use the attention and focus in 2014 to effectively make progress on agriculture development and food security. This requires enhanced cooperation rather than divisive debates captured by polarising discourses around large-scale industrialised versus smallholder farming. The main issue is how best to harness sustainable agricultural growth and enhanced cross-sectoral linkages, while preserving rural development, livelihood and diversity. A big challenge will be to make bolder progress in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). This process, which will reach its 10th Anniversary in 2014, has achieved a lot in terms of raising overall awareness about the centrality of agriculture for African growth but public financing of CAADP national investment programmes and private sector-led activities are still insufficient. 

    In this issue of GREAT insights we have asked the ‘custodians’ of the UN Year of Family Farming and the AU Year of Food Security, the Director General of the Food Agriculture Organization and the AU Commissioner for Agriculture, what outcomes they expect from these international processes, particularly in terms of the progress required on concrete measures to promote family farmers and better harmonisation and alignment of development partners’ support to those priorities. The Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs looks at agricultural dynamism in Africa in the context of the growing discourse in Europe on ‘economic diplomacy’ and exploring linkages between the AU Year of Agriculture and the 2014 Italian European Union Presidency.

    Other articles are dedicated to the risks of heralding Africa as the new frontier for commercial farming, presenting ‘alternative’ development pathways and agricultural policies. Issues covered include food sovereignty based on customary land rights, agro-ecological approaches to diversifying farming systems, rehabilitating degraded farmland, the importance of water management, the need for an enabling policy and regulatory framework for smallholder farmers, and the key role of women. References to regional experiences in Africa, as well as family farming in Europe, also provide additional insights.

    Finally, as 2013 draws to a close and a challenging New Year starts, the editorial team of GREAT insights proudly introduces a new look and format to your publication, part of our goal of continuously improving its relevance and quality. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the contributors to GREAT insights this year, and the institutions that have joined forces with us to produce thematic issues. We hope you keep enjoying GREAT insights and welcome your suggestions and contributions. With our best wishes for 2014.

    San Bilal (Editor), Head of Economic Transformation Programme, ECDPM
    Francesco Rampa (Guest editor), Manager Food Security Programme, ECDPM

     This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 3, Issue 1

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