Although hundreds of millions of smallholder family farmers in Asia-Pacific produce a majority of the world’s food, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on their livelihoods, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Creating greater understanding of the importance of these workers in ensuring regional food security is the goal of a new FAO-backed campaign launched on Wednesday.
Described as “a call to action that everyone needs to hear”, it also aims to give voice to family farmers’ organizations and reach out to rural communities through the use of community radio across 15 countries in the region.
“The campaign is calling on all people to value the role of family farmers to achieve food security in this region, especially during the pandemic. Family farmers are the frontline to provide nutritious food for us all. We believe a more resilient family farmer is representing a more resilient world”, said Maria Stella Tirol of ComDev Asia, a communication for development initiative supported by FAO.
Other partners include the Asian Farmers’ Association, the UPLB College of Development Communication, the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, Digital Green, and the Self-Employed Women’s Association.
Pandemic exposing fragilities
Globally, there are some 500 million family farmers who produce more than 80 per cent of the world’s food, thus contributing to national and even global food security.
In Asia-Pacific, smallholder farmers own and operate the majority of farmland, but they hold less than five hectares per farm. Most of what they produce, or 75 per cent, is sold on to markets, while the remainder is consumed by household members.
FAO explained that food, trade, health and climate are interdependent, and the pandemic has revealed the fragility of these linkages.
The crisis has threatened progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which promise to bring about a better world for all people by 2030.
Asia is home to some 350 million undernourished people, more than any other region, and FAO feared the pandemic could jeopardize decades of gains in reducing poverty and ending hunger.
Still feeding us all
Smallholder family farmers already earned low average incomes prior to the pandemic and are now enduring worsening conditions, such as a weakening in their purchasing power. Disruptions of food chains have also caused increasing food loss and falling prices.
Despite risks to their health, they continue to play a fundamental role in feeding people everywhere.
“This campaign to advocate for Asia-Pacific’s family farmers, fishers, herders and others is needed now more than ever”, said Allan Dow, FAO’s Asia-Pacific Communication Officer.
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“Safeguarding the food security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable people in our vast region is an absolute priority – and with the added impact of this global pandemic a call to action must be loud and clear.”
FAO has created a family farming knowledge platform, with extensive information about COVID-19 impacts on food systems.
The partners in the campaign will also use the platform to reach out to various stakeholders and development partners.