Practical solutions to transform the agricultural model
Building coalitions to sustain family farming with Livelihoods Fund for Family Farming
Some insights shared by B. Giraud, President of Livelihoods Venture, at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture – March 22, 2016 – Brussels
Environmental degradation, climate change and rural poverty are interlinked
Today, there are 570 million smallholder farms in the world, 72% of which measure less than 1 hectare. These farms provide a source of living for 1 billion people, accounting for 40% of jobs and 70% of global food needs.
Human pressure and the search for new arable land drive deforestation in many parts of the world. Almost everywhere, pastoral or agricultural practices unsuited to the current conditions aggravate the situation.
Worldwide, the equivalent of the surface area of Greece is deforested as a result of agriculture every year because of erosion and soil degradation. This leads to poverty and malnutrition, alongside the destruction of an invaluable natural resource – the reduction of carbon stock stored in these ecosystems.
The interaction between climate change, natural resources consumption, economic development and social stability is directly experienced on a daily basis by rural peoples who depend upon their land for their livelihoods. However, these effects concern us all. Cities will continue to depend on rural areas for their food, water, and social stability.
The rural poor are expressing their desperation with their feet. Attracted by the bright lights of cities, they are starting to leave the countryside in mass numbers. Yet, the migration we are currently experiencing is minor compared to what can be expected if the hundreds of millions of rural poor decide to leave the countryside.
Encouraging productive and sustainable agricultural practices
Environmentally sustainable agricultural models do exist and have proved their effectiveness. Low-cost techniques, which are accessible for smallholder farmers have now been successfully tested on a large scale. Knowledge has increased in leaps and bounds in recent years, be it in agroforestry, fertilization practices using biomass, or in plant and livestock breeding. New information technology, financial services directed towards smallholder farms, and the expansion of regional markets are all creating new opportunities for family farms.
Investing in smallholder farms via innovative financial models
Investing in thousands of smallholder farms would appear to be a complex and uncertain gamble. It is therefore essential to develop investment mechanisms that are both suited to the peculiarities of family farming and are able to support large-scale projects. Unlike “classic” funds, these funds put a financial value on the direct or indirect “externalities”, or benefits, generated by the projects such as: volume and quality of agricultural production, water resources management, increased biodiversity, carbon storage, social impact, etc.
Building coalitions with all stakeholders
Even more than the investment itself, the method is important: no single stakeholder – be it a company, NGO, farmers’ cooperative or public organization – has the solution on his or her own, but each has a vital role to play in contributing to the solution. Today, coalitions of diverse stakeholders are working together to achieve well-defined goals in the field of family farming. The essential principle driving their models is that the farmers are and will be the main drivers of this transformation.
Sustainably transforming supply chains
Companies that process the raw materials from this type of agriculture, which not only guarantee the water supply for cities and industries, but also develop services for farmers, have every interest in making long-term investments to secure their future supplies and contribute to innovation by making their business expertise available.
Governments and development agencies would make better use of public funds if they took an investment and payments-on-results approach to the social and environmental services provided by these projects, and measured them rigorously.
Finally, let us not forget that soil is actually the largest carbon reservoir in the world, with 615 billion tons in the first 20 cm and 2.3 trillion tons in the first 3 meters. These masses of carbon stored in large land areas are not just vital to combating climate change, but they also provide the basis for our food resources and agricultural raw ingredients in the products we consume. They also account for vital water resources.
Livelihoods Venture and its partners are optimistic that new models and innovations can allow us to come together to collectively find the right solutions for tomorrow.
Learn more about The Livelihoods Fund For Family Farming (L3F)