FAO Brussels Dialogue
Strengthening family farming-centred food systems
Pathways for global transformations Jointly organized with the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU 14 April 2021
Speech of M. Placido Plaza
Secretary-General of the CIHEAM
“ Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues,
First of all, I would like to thank the FAO and the Portuguese Presidency of the EU for their invitation to participate in this meeting.
We are all the more sensitive to this invitation that Portugal is one of the CIHEAM Founding Member States and a country that is particularly invested in strengthening more sustainable food and agricultural systems.
The FAO and the CIHEAM have been collaborating for over 40 years. This strong partnership has generated significant knowledge and expertise on food security and safety, especially in support of a territorial approach to sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture and rural development.
At the intersection of these issues, the promotion of family farming is one of our common strategic goals. It is important to recall that in the South and East of the Mediterranean, family farming is a reservoir of jobs and labour, often employing more than 10% of the total population.
Our region is characterised by an agricultural dualism with, on the one hand, large estates or firms well connected to markets and, on the other hand, small family farms weakly connected to those markets, with unequal access to water resources, financing and increasingly alarming levels of poverty and lack of social recognition.
This lack of social recognition is often coupled with a lack of legal recognition, as heads of family farms and workers often lack legal status. These inequalities hamper family farmers’ innovation capacities, crucial for adapting to climate change and manage natural resources’ degradation and scarcity.
Under these conditions, the resumption of family farms becomes difficult. In southern European countries, 50% for holdings of more than 5 hectares are owned by farmers over 55 years old and this proportion rises to 64% for holdings of less than 5 hectares. The control of land by elder generations, as well as their reluctance to risk, discourage younger generations from developing innovative activities within family farms.
As a consequence, young people are hardly attracted to family farming and seek to ensure a better future in urban areas or abroad. Additionally, the place of women in family farming is still a major issue. Among the many indicators of inequalities between men and women, let’s recall that barely 5% of the total number of the region’s agricultural landowners are women. Therefore, a strong female potential has yet to be developed in family farming.
However, if the list of challenges is long, Family Farming has significant assets. It is resilient, sustainable and has significant development potential with demonstrated social and economic ripple effects:
- Better environmental practices
- Closer social and economic interaction between production processes and the territories
- More efficient short supply chains underpinning positive aspects of the Mediterranean diet
However, to develop this potential, Family Farming requires a more favourable social and legal status, as well as representative professional organisations to strengthen its advocacy power.
While questions about food sovereignty and economic diversification resurface to overcome the COVID19 crises, Family farming should capitalize on the digital revolution to make a qualitative and quantitative breakthrough.
Digital technologies provide more accuracy and efficiency to help solving the difficult equation “producing better with less”. They improve access to data, finance, as well as inputs and products, but also, products’ transparency and traceability with regard to food safety standards that often family farming still struggles to meet.
In order to help addressing these challenges, CIHEAM has joined forces with FAO and the UfM to set up and support the co-development of a regional platform on Mediterranean Sustainable Food Systems to foster progress on the 2030 SDG’s.
We hope that this platform will be an asset in bringing forward our joint vision of a renewed and ambitious Family Agriculture for the Mediterranean…and this will certainly require, more than ever, a stronger regional cooperation
Thank you for your attention.”
CAPMED & SDGTélécharger le CAPMED