In the previous modules, we’ve learned how ancestral knowledge and the innovations of small farmers are the foundation of agroecology, and how it is difficult to separate the practices and the politics of agroecology. We’ve also learned more about Food Sovereignty, and how agroecology can be a path towards achieving it if small farmers and their communities are placed at the center of decision making.
Traditional, smallholder farmers are vital not just for their sustainable practices, but for the world’s food supply. For example, in Brazil in 2006, the family farm sector produced an estimated 70% of total domestic food consumption (de França et al., 2009 and Fernandes, 2014), despite only occupying 24.3% of total agricultural land area (de França et al., 2009 and IBGE, 2009; Fernandes et al., 2012 and MDA, 2013). Non-family farming, defined by Graeub et al., 2015 as “highly capitalized large-scale commodity and export-oriented production” often occupies more land in a country than small farmers, but contributes less to food security and has deleterious ecological effects.
In addition, big corporate interests not only control territories, but also control and monopolize the means of production. For example, recent mergers of big corporations such as Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, DuPont and ChemChina leads to the near exclusive control of production and sale of patented seed. These corporations, in turn, push governments to enact and reinforce laws to restrict production, interchange, and use of heirloom seeds produced by traditional smallholder farmers. This can force the purchase of patented seed on small farmers, resulting in new burdens for the growers.
In this module, you’ll learn about the importance of traditional smallholder farmers to our world’s food systems and some of the threats that they are facing.
Article 1: Traditional Innovation in Farming is Under Threat
by Krystyna Swiderska | SciDev.net, 2013
Article 2: Five Global Threats to the Survival of Family Farms in the International Year of Family Farming
by Tanya Kerssen | Food First, 2014