UN declares 2014 International Year of Family Farming

Proclamation aims to put family farming higher on policy agendas

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has declared 2014 as International Year of Family Farming.

The declaration aims to “help reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas,” an FAO news release said.

The declaration aims to broaden discussion and co-operation at all levels to “increase awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders and help identify efficient ways to support family farmers.”

The FAO says family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in both developing and developed countries and has key socio-economic, environmental and cultural roles.

It preserves traditional food products while contributing to a balanced diet and safeguarding agro-biodiversity and sustainable use of natural resources, while boosting local economies and the well-being of communities.

Family farms also help to strengthen food security, and are key players in managing natural resources and protecting the environment, the FAO says.

Family farming’s contributions were highlighted during a dialogue in Brussels in mid-December when about 100 participants from 27 countries across Europe and Central Asia discussed the common challenges faced by the world’s farm families.

These include succession planning and enticing young people to farm, lack of market access, land, water and credit, as well as access to research and innovation, and training and education. The need to better integrate family farmers into the food chain also resonated strongly during the debates, the FAO release said.

That gathering is the beginning of a series of meetings in the upcoming months. Outcomes will be presented at the IYFF Global Dialogue in Rome later this year.

From the Manitoba Co-operator website: Pulse promoters see opportunity in ‘international year’

Several countries have formed national committees around the declaration, including a U.S. executive committee made up of organizations including the Alliance to End Hunger, American Farmland Trust, the Consumer Federation of America, the National Cooperative Business Association and U.S. National Farmers Union.

Other UN proclamations ahead include International Year of Soils in 2015 to raise global awareness about sustainable soil management and its essential ecosystem functions.

Pulses will capture global attention in 2016 with the UN General Assembly declaring that year International Year of Pulses. A series of national committees are being established around the world by CICILS/International Pulse Trade and Industries Confederation members to work with their governments, farmers, NGOs, retailers, food manufacturers, health and science organizations and UN bodies to mark 2016.

Laird green lentil has been selected as the 2013-14 Seed of the Year West, a program which recognizes publicly developed varieties that have made a significant contribution to the economy, agriculture, and the Canadian public.

The Laird green lentil was developed by Alfred E. Slinkard of the Crop Development Centre (CDC) at the University of Saskatchewan. Laird was the first lentil variety to be licensed in Canada. A number of pulse growers are still growing Laird today, 35 years after being released. All subsequent large green lentil varieties developed in Canada have Laird lentil in their ancestry.

Part of the western award is a $4,000 scholarship, awarded to a student enrolled in a western Canadian university and currently completing a master’s degree or PhD in plant breeding or genetics. Gurcharn Singh Brar was selected as this year’s winner. Brar is in his second year of graduate studies at University of Saskatchewan. He is researching wheat stripe rust in Western Canada.

The Seed of the Year award was presented to Slinkard at the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers annual meeting Jan. 13.

Sponsors of the program are Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Alberta Barley Commission, Canterra Seeds, Cargill, Canadian Seed Growers Association, FP Genetics, Viterra, Richardson International, SeCan, and Western Grains Research Foundation.

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