New York

22 November 2013

Secretary-General's message for launch of International Year of Family Farming 2014 [delivered by Mr. Thomas Gass, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs]

I am pleased to send greetings to the official launch of the International Year of Family Farming 2014.  Empowering family farmers is central to the Zero Hunger Challenge, which seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to promote equitable, sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition.

As populations grow, food demand is predicted to increase by 50 per cent by 2030.  The International Year of Family Farming 2014 recognizes the important contribution that small- and medium-scale farmers, fishing communities and pastoralists can make in the post-2015 development agenda.   

A principal requirement of sustainable food systems is resilience in the face of environmental and economic shocks.  Climate change, in particular, is exacting a heavy toll on worldwide agricultural production and rural livelihoods.  The projections are alarming: 49 million more people may be at risk of hunger by 2020; each one degree rise in temperature will cause a 25 per cent increase in food prices.

Smallholders everywhere face particular risks, since they rely on vulnerable ecosystems, and many lack the capacity to cope with more extreme weather events.  Family famers must be empowered to adapt to climate change.

The International Year of Family Farming calls for commitments from every stakeholder.  Governments can empower family farmers, especially women and youth, by creating policies conducive to equitable and sustainable rural development.  Private investors can ensure accountability and social and environmental responsibility throughout the value chain from farm to fork.  Too much food is lost after harvest because small-scale producers aren’t able to store, process and transport their goods. .

Agricultural research and extension agencies and the knowledge community can tailor appropriate technologies for family farmers, and family farmers’ organizations, cooperatives and civil society as a whole can strengthen their role in promoting dialogue on this important issue.  Together, let us use this International Year to reposition family farming as a central tool for sustainable development.