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Statements Special Procedures

Family farmers produce over 70% of the world’s food, their rights cannot be ignored

World Food Day

15 October 2014

World Food Day – Thursday 16 October 2014*

GENEVA (16 October 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, calls on Governments to protect the rights of family and small holder farmers working worldwide. Family farming, Ms. Elver says, is a crucial element in the global fight against hunger, and key to the protection and sustainability of natural resources.

“With over 70% of the world’s food production reliant on family farmers, this type of farming represents the vast majority of agriculture worldwide, both in developed and developing countries. Most of these farmers own less than two hectares of land, and cultivate only a small share of the world's farmland. Protecting their rights is paramount to the eradication of hunger and ensuring food security and adequate nutrition.

There is an estimated 500 million family farms worldwide, many of which currently face increasing challenges that are undermining agricultural production, including soil erosion, increased water scarcity, deforestation, climate change, globalisation of the food sector and an ever expanding monoculture for export and large corporations.

Family farming is based on tradition, and forms the social fabric of many societies playing a key role in protecting the world’s biodiversity and promoting the sustainable use of natural resources.

Women, who account for some 43% of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, play a crucial role in enhancing food security and nutrition in the household as well as increasing agricultural output and every effort must be made to ensure that they are afforded the same rights and access to necessary resources as their male counterparts.

On the occasion of World Food Day I urge all States to show a more meaningful commitment to the development of social and economic policies specifically targeted at smallholder and family farms.

I call on all Governments to do everything in their power to ensure that the rights of family and small holder farmers working worldwide to eradicate hunger and sustain natural resources are protected.”

(*) Family farming is the focus of World Food Day on 16 October 2014, coupled with the theme: 'Feeding the world, caring for the earth'.

Hilal Elver (Turkey) is a Research Professor, and co-director of the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy housed at the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has a law degree, a Ph.D. from the University of Ankara Law School, and SJD from the UCLA Law School. She started her teaching career at the University of Ankara Faculty of Law.

She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organisation and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more:

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