What is family farming and why is it important?

More than 500 million family farms dominate the agricultural landscape around the world ensuring food security and providing employment to hundreds of millions of people. Family farms are also essential in safeguarding agro-biodiversity, sustaining communities and cultures.

However, family farming faces numerous challenges ranging from insecure land rights to limited access to inputs, improved seeds, modern farming techniques, training, extension services and markets.

World attention has turned to agriculture after many years of neglect as a result of the food price spikes of 2007-08. This is opening an unprecedented opportunity for family farms to transform themselves into viable businesses. Growing demand from booming cities in Africa and elsewhere is helping to make agriculture a profitable enterprise. By increasing their productivity and competitiveness, family farms can contribute greatly not only to addressing food and nutrition security challenges of developing countries but also to sustainable economic growth.

The United Nations has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) to draw global attention to the significant role family farming can play in ensuring food security, fighting poverty and hunger, and enhancing sustainable natural resource management. The IYFF is helping to mobilize partnerships among different stakeholders—farmers' associations, non-governmental organisations, governments, international agencies and agribusiness—to put in place conducive policies and boost investments to support family farming.

CTA is joining forces with regional farmers' organisations and other partners to support the IYFF through a variety of activities, one of which is this special issue of Spore on family farming. Our work on policies, inclusive value chains, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and knowledge management is focused on helping family farmers become profitable and prosperous. That is why we attach a special significance to the IYFF.