Family Farmers Protect The Earth’s Plant Diversity

(3BL Media/Justmeans) The diversity of life on our planet is critical for maintaining the basic planetary life support systems we rely on daily.  The resources nature provides us free of charge—water, crop pollination, nutrient cycling and climate regulation—rely on biodiversity. We know that our ecosystem is under severe threat, and that land use changes due to agriculture. A report by Food Tank, entitled, Food Tank by the Numbers: Family Farming, reveals that approximately 70 percent of the world’s freshwater goes toward agriculture; it is estimated that this will increase by 19 percent by 2050. Soils are being depleted 10 to 40 times faster than they are being replenished and consequently 30 percent of global arable land has lost productivity. All this is contributing to climate change!

However, within this ‘biodiversity storm’ there is some light. They are family and smallholder farms that use growing systems that replenish and maintain soil fertility, building biologically diverse agriculture. Food Tank’s report shows how millions of family farmers are using agro-ecological approaches to combat climate change and create resilience to food price spikes, natural disasters and conflict. Agroforestry, inter-cropping, cover crops and green manure, solar drip irrigation, integrated pest management, and utilising orphan and indigenous crops are helping protect natural resources.

Family farmers are actually protecting plant diversity across the world. Over 98 percent of farms are family farms, producing at least 56 percent of the world’s agricultural production. They are using farming methods that preserve biodiversity and are not just for nutrition or taste, but by cultivating a wide variety of species, they help insulate against risk of plant disease; crop diversity also promotes soil health and increases yields. Diversified and indigenous crops are typically more resilient to climate change and extreme weather conditions.

According to Food Tank, by planting diversified and indigenous crops, family farmers can produce between 20 to 60 percent more yields than farmers who produce only one type of crop. Moreover, supporting family farmers’ livelihoods through facilitating access to markets can have a substantial and significant effect on increasing rural incomes, which includes 70 percent of the world’s poor. Organic certification for family farmers has also had a positive effect on their incomes.

Family farming drives economic growth and social stability by providing job opportunities, creating a “multiplier” effect that extends beyond the farm sector, with a high share of farm income spent in other industries such as construction and manufacturing, creating a demand for other goods within their communities. Family farmers deserve to be recognised for the different roles they play, as businesspeople, innovators, teachers and stewards of the land. They need our recognition and our support now, not later. Smallholder and family farmers are the backbone of food production around the world.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia