On 22nd November, the United Nations launched the International Year of Family Farming for 2014. Since 1993, the Via Campesina has been the only international organisation to daily defend small-scale family and peasant agriculture throughout the world; it does so with 160 organisations in 79 countries and over 200 million peasant farmer members, both men and women. In Europe, the European Coordiantion Via Campesina, – members of the LVC – are present in 18 European countreis, and federates peasants’ organisations and agricultural workers under the banner of food sovereignty and peasant agriculture, the very essence of family agriculture.
A few days before the conference organised by the European Commission is held on 29th November, it is essential to remember a few facts.
Small- and medium-sized peasant farms are the economic and social backbone of European agriculture, which is the most power in the world, with an average farm size of 14 ha, and over 69% of which under 5 ha, and just 2.7% over 100 ha.
Based on capacity and labour intensiveness – and not capital – these farms are adapted to the infinite nature of diversity of natural, social and economic conditions. These productive structures guarantee the security and diversity of food for European citizens, and are a real model of social, economoc and ecological sustainability. This agriculture aims to support life, and not speculation.
And yet year after year, policy-making is driving these farms out of existence in a pseudo-modern approach that is ill-adapted to the issues facing us in the 21st century and the global crisis that European people are confronting.
We need to encourage relocalisation of agricultural products and introduce policies based on the principes of food sovereignty to support, maintain and increase economic and social sustainablity of the peasant agriculture model, and we need to do it now.
We need to support new farmers who are setting up with young people, as well as those from other economic sectors in crisis, who are turning to agriculture as their future.
The idea of family farming needs to grow and follow the evolution of Europe, far from patriarchy and discrimination.
Land policy needs to change in line with the directives validated by States in the Committee on World Food Security of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
Regulation on hygiene need to be adapted to the reality of family farming and processing activities.
Legislation governing seed should support farmers control of this fundamental aspecct of all agricultural production, and not just favour the industry of seed merchants.
More suitable adapted funding for small-scale farms is needed rather than the current rural development programmes.
More appropriate new distribution circuits are needed for slall-scale family and peasant agriculture, and their creation needs to be facilitated.
Markets need to be regulated to guarantee accpetable, stable prices.
Finally , it is essential to allow collective, solidarity-based organisation of small-scale family and peasant agriculture.
ECVC calls upon the international institutions and the European Union in particular to prove themselves coherent and systematic in their definition of agricultural policy. The year of family farming should not just be cover-up communication so people forget the critically important negotiations that are underway with the United States ) – that would destory peasant agriculture – as well as those on seed legislation and the final touches to the future CAP.
These are the radical changes that are needed to recognise and guarantee the future of family farming beyond 2014.
“We need our small farms”
Geneviève Savigny : +33 6 25 55 16 87
Andrea Ferrante : + 39 34 80 18 92 21