Letter from the director: 2016 summary

2016 has seen a profound change in the political context regarding family farming (FF). The governments of Canada and Australia, which maintained a very tough stance in relation to family farming, changed towards the end of 2015, thus opening up a new stage of possibilities to achieve results in support of FF.

However, in key countries like Brazil and the United States, the political context has significantly deteriorated. During the last decade, Brazil not only produced public policies relevant to Family Farming in domestic terms, but also managed to have a positive influence on other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Even beyond the borders of Latin America, Brazil was behind dozens of projects to promote FF (often through the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).

The impact of the political changes in the United States is still difficult to assess, although the new president has already clearly expressed his lack of sympathy for the United Nations system, a space in which the WRF (World Rural Forum) carries out a significant part of its work.

In short, we must assume that we are now facing a very different (and probably more unfavourable) political context than in previous years. And that means, at least, two things: firstly, that we must adapt our way of working in those countries where the situation has changed (we cannot work the same way in Canada in 2017 as we did in 2014, just as we cannot work the same way in Brazil in 2017 as we did in 2015) and, secondly, that our work as the WRF is now even more necessary than before.

In any case, and on a more tangible level, we have experienced some relevant successes during 2016: of particular note is the creation of a Regional Dialogue Mechanism for Family Farming for the SICA (Sistema de Integración Centroamericano – Central American Integration System) countries. This mechanism consists of the Ministries of Agriculture and Civil Society from the SICA (Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador). Its founding document explicitly cites the IYFF (International Year of Family Farming) and provides the opportunity for the National Committees for Family Farming (NCFF) to become national instruments for dialogue in support of FF.

Another notable achievement is that of the National Committee for Family Farming in DR Congo which, for the new electoral period, has drafted and approved an Electoral Strategy for the Farming Community and a Pledge of Commitment addressed to the country’s public authorities and potential political leaders in order to galvanise support for Family Farming.

The NCFF in Kenya participated in the policy networking forums organised by the Kenya Food Alliance and Growth Partners Africa to discuss policy developments on family farmers’ rights over biodiversity and seeds. This space for dialogue helped bring about an Act recognising these rights: The Seeds Management Act (Amendment Act) 2016, which protects locally managed seed procurement systems.

In Costa Rica, the NCFF reached an agreement on the National Family Farming Guidelines, which have been used to draft the Framework Law on the Human Right to Adequate Food and Food Security and Nutrition. We also welcome the start of the development of regional FF guidelines within the framework of the REAF (Reunión Especializada sobre Agricultura Familiar del MERCOSUR – Specialized Meeting on Family Farming of MERCOSUR). The Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) also approved a framework law on FF, a similar idea to that of the Guidelines. On the proposal of the Brazilian government at the time, the G-20 included positive references to family farming at its September summit in Hangzhou, China. The original draft of the text considered the idea of Guidelines for Family Farming.

In Mali, thanks to a number of actions that began in October 2015, the CNOP (Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes – National Coordination of Peasants’ Organisations) and other NCFF members succeeded in blocking the approval of the latest version of the Agricultural Land Act (Loi Foncière Agricole (LFA)) in the National Assembly, despite the government’s desire to expedite the process. Most of the stakeholders in the sector invalidated this version, which did not reflect the needs of family farmers.

In Uganda, several members of the NCFF (FRA (Food Rights Alliance), PELUM (Participatory Ecological Land Use Management), ESAFF (Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers’ Forum), SWAGEN (Support for Women in Agriculture and Environment), etc.) took part in the non-governmental working group on agricultural extension to improve the state agricultural advisory service system, held in the presence of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result of this process, they were able to increase the budget allocation of UGX 22 billion (€5,723,377.27) for agricultural extension staffing.

Furthermore, the NCFF in Colombia embarked on a hopeful process to reform the national constitution through a Referendum on National Farming, in which the Committee also included a proposed draft law for Family Farming based on the work carried out in the context of the IYFF+10.

Internally, and with regard to the organisational development of the WRF, we have strongly promoted family farming in the ILC (International Land Coalition) during 2016.

As the year drew to a close, we were delighted to learn that the WRF has been selected to serve on the Steering Committee of the GFAR, the Global Forum for Agricultural Research, a leading international institution. This new space will enable us to focus on achieving agricultural research agendas that are more geared towards family farming. We will also facilitate a better connection between research centres and family farming organisations.

The report highlights some other relevant aspects of our work in 2016, such as the start of the campaign to declare a decade on family farming. The government of Costa Rica will present the proposal to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

2016 is also a year in which we have succeeded in incorporating new relevant partners into the WRF, such as the Pacific Island Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON), the Kaiku Cooperative, UAGA (Unión de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Aragón – Aragón Farmers’ Union), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the Valle Salado de Añana Foundation, Avialter (Asociación Profesional de la Avicultura Alternativa – Professional Association of Alternative Poultry Production) and Abelur. We have also been able to approve our new 2016-2020 strategic plan.

To find out more about the work done by the WRF in 2016, we invite you to read our activity report.

Auxtin Ortiz

Director of the World Rural Forum