There are over 500 million family farms spread across the world, on all continents. Family farmers are the main producers of foodstuffs in many regions and vitally contribute to the variety and quality of diets. Paradoxically, many family farmers are also food and nutrition insecure. Governments have recognized the contemporary and persisting importance of family farming. The United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF)
In context of the IYFF, the research institutions of Montpellier’s Agropolis International took the initiative to organize the event: International Encounters on “Family Farmers and Research”
, with the support of the French Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, CGIAR Consortium and World Rural Forum, the IYFF 2014 civil society coordinator.
The meeting explored links between research and family farmers and provided a prime opportunity, during this International Year of Family Farming, for farmers and agricultural researchers to meet directly and explore how to build better linkages in practice. It aimed to i) foster exchanges between representatives of family farming, decision makers from the political and private sectors, representatives of civil society, trainers and researchers throughout the world and ii) to question and enhance research agendas dealing with family farming issues and the challenges of global change (society, economics, food security, urbanization, human mobility and migrations, nutrition and health, climate change etc.).
The meeting attracted around 250 participants, with a strong representation of farmer groups, civil society organizations and researchers from national and international institutions around the world A number of farmer and civil society representatives were directly sponsored by the Global Forum to attend.
The meeting was preceded by an open public meeting on June 1st, with a keynote presentation by World Food Prize and Right Livelihood Award winner Dr Hans Herren, followed by roundtable debate of the issues that he raised. Prof. Sir Gordon Conway gave a thought-provoking opening address to the International Encounters meeting: “Sustainable Family Farming: Is it Viable? Is it Resilient?”
A series of high-profile speakers followed, including: Dr Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD President; Hon. Minister Stéphane Le Foll, Minister of Agriculture, Agri-food and Forest, France; Hon. Minister Papa A. Seck, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Equipment, Senegal; Dr Carlos Perez del Castillo, CGIAR Consortium Board Chair; Ms Marcela Villarreal, FAO Coordinator of the IYFF and Ms Monique Pariat, Deputy Director-General, EC Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate-General. Ms Esther Penunia, IYFF Ambassador and Executive Secretary of the Asian Farmers Association, and GFAR Steering Committee member, spoke strongly on the roles of GFAR and GCARD in enabling smallholder farmers to discuss and shape research on an equal basis with researchers .
The afternoon provided the platform for the official opening of the new headquarters building for the CGIAR Consortium at Agropolis International in Montpellier and enabled open discussions with a wide range of CGIAR Directors General, Board Chairs and CRP Leaders. In parallel with the IYFF Conference, the CGIAR is holding a series of planning meetings towards a new Strategic Results Framework for the CGIAR system.
The meeting also provided a valuable opportunity for public release the GFAR-supported training materials on Farmers Rights
, which were prepared with farmer and civil society organizations in Guatemala, and which have now been taken up and have resulted in changes in national policies to better reflect Farmers Rights. This approach is now being rapidly scaled-out, in response to strong demand from countries in Latin America and Africa.
The next day, Dr Marion Guillou presented the study by the CFS High level Panel of Experts on the value of investing in smallholder farmers
. Dr Robin Bourgeois, foresight specialist of the GFAR Secretariat then highlighted, in his thought-provoking presentation “What could agricultural research do for the futures of family farmers?, that the future of family farming is open and considered what it meant in practice for research to link more and better with different scenarios of family farming. The IYFF encounters event had a valuable emphasis on direct participation, with parallel workshop sessions addressing 7 key issues affecting family farmers and their future:
Family farming in territories
Family farming facing the challenges of agro-ecological intensification
In-house issues within family farming: which organizational forms for agricultural activities
Family farming facing the challenges of urbanization and employment
Family farming facing the challenges of climate change
Contribution of family farming to food systems
Family farming as one of the players in the future of agriculture
Thomas Price and Robin Bourgeois of GFAR Secretariat had earlier contributed to the shaping of the workshop sessions and provided facilitation support to the sessions during the event. Outcomes of the interactive workshop sessions were then presented in plenary, outlining actions required to address each area and the research questions raised by each.
Pierre Fabre of CIRAD and Ibrahim Coulibaly, FAO Ambassador for IYFF gave summary perspectives drawing together outcomes from the sessions. Looking forward, Mark Holderness, GFAR Executive Secretary, provided an overview
of how the meeting outcomes contributed to the transformation of agricultural innovation systems. He explored how the outcomes expressed would be taken forward in the work of the Global Forum and help develop measures strengthening farmer-centred national innovation systems for agriculture and rural development and, through the GCARD3 process, help to reshape international research agendas from the perspectives of farmers and those on the ground. Laurence Tubiana, AFD Chair and IDDRI General Director, set the conclusions of the meeting in context of the planning process towards the UNFCCC Conference of Parties meeting, to be hosted by France in 2015.
The meeting was concluded by statements from Henri Rouillé d’Orfeuil, French coordinator of IYFF 2014, Mr. Lupino Lázaro, Permanent Delegation of the Philippines in Rome and President of the IYFF-2014 International Steering Committee and Mr José Osaba, WRF, Civil Society Coordinator of the IYFF 2014.
The link to the webpage containing the speakers’ presentations and videos is available here
Following the International Encounters meeting, Robin Bourgeois organized and led a further Foresight Exchange Workshop among foresight practitioners from around the world, and representatives of Farmer Organizations and Civil Society Organizations, addressing key issues for which collective foresight action is now required.