November 26, 2015

The importance of small farmers

Ecologist - The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.

Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world's farmland and produce 80% of the world's food.

But on the ground - whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain - rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.

A recent comprehensive survey by Grain, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world's farmland - or 17% if you leave out China and India. Grain's report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.

Natural Himes - In 2011, 51% of Russia's food was grown either by dacha communities (40%) or peasant farmers (11%) leaving the rest (49%) of production to the large agricultural enterprises. But when you dig down into the earthy data from the Russian Statistics Service you discover some impressive details. Again in 2011, dacha gardens produced over 80% of the countries fruit and berries, over 66% of the vegetables, almost 80% of the potatoes and nearly 50% of the nations milk, much of it consumed raw.

While many European governments make living on a small-holding very difficult, in Russia the opposite is the case. In the UK one councillor's opinion regarding living on the land was, "Nobody would subject themselves to that way of life. You might as well be in prison"; tell that to a nation of gardeners living off the land.                   

During the communist period school children were obliged to visit their local farms to get hands-on experience harvesting food at a time when about 90% of the nation's food came from dacha gardens. During the same period every child would be expected to play their part in growing the family's food from their small patch of Russia.

While the percentage of food grown by Russia's dacha has fallen since then it is still a massive contribution to the nation's food and forms an important part of their rural heritage. Take a walk through the street's of Russia's cities, like St. Petersburg, and you will find people selling herbs, fruit, berries and vegetables from their dacha gardens. Unlike many cities in Europe and the USA, Russian cities are peppered with small corner shops  selling locally grown food in all shapes, colours and sizes still carrying their native Russian soil.

1 comment:

Capt. America said...

We need more family greenhouse agriculture, with fish farming, especially in the most arid parts of the country, for security reasons: defense against crop failure, climate change, disease and sudden catastrophic events. We should slow and ultimately ban the import of bananas, mangoes, palm oil, apples, and all other food from the tropics or southern hemisphere and grow it here under glass or plastic. This can be done small scale as well as large when it is supported by incentives and infrastructure. It is already proven doable and practical.