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All over the world, small farmers are being forced off their land to make way for corporate agriculture, writes GRAIN – and it's justified by the need to 'feed the world'. But it's the small farmers that are the most productive, and the more their land is grabbed, the more global hunger increases. We must give them their land back!
The United Nations declared 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. As part of the celebrations, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual 'State of Food and Agriculture', which this year is dedicated to family farming.
Family farmers, FAO say, manage 70-80% of the world's farmland and produce 80% of the world's food.
But on the ground – whether in Kenya, Brazil, China or Spain – rural people are being marginalised and threatened, displaced, beaten and even killed by a variety of powerful actors who want their land.
A recent comprehensive survey by GRAIN, examining data from around the world, finds that while small farmers feed the world, they are doing so with just 24% of the world's farmland – or 17% if you leave out China and India. GRAIN's report also shows that this meagre share is shrinking fast.
How, then, can FAO claim that family farms occupy 70 to 80% of the world's farmland? In the same report, FAO claims that only 1% of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, and that these few farms control 65% of the world's farmland, a figure much more in line with GRAIN's findings.
Just what is a 'family farm'
The confusion stems from the way FAO deal with the concept of family farming, which they roughly define as any farm managed by an individual or a household. (They admit there is no precise definition. Various countries, like Mali, have their own.)
Thus, a huge industrial soya bean farm in rural Argentina, whose family owners live in Buenos Aires, is included in FAO's count of 'family farms'.
What about sprawling Hacienda Luisita, owned by the powerful Cojuanco family in the Philippines and epicentre of the country's battle for agrarian reform since decades. Is that a family farm?
Looking at ownership to determine what is and is not a family farm masks all the inequities, injustices and struggles that peasants and other small scale food producers across the world are mired in.