Returning farmers to the centre of policy decisions is fundamental to sustainable development. Governments, businesses, scientists and civil society groups must focus attention on the source of our food security. All these groups must work together to enable the many millions of farm families, especially smallholders, to grow more crops sustainably through effective markets, more collaborative research and committed knowledge sharing.
The Farming First framework proposes six interlinked imperatives for sustainable development:
- Safeguard natural resources
- Share knowledge
- Build local access and capacity
- Protect harvests
- Enable access to markets
- Prioritise research imperatives
A broad-based, knowledge-centred approach to agricultural development is needed. The approach starts with focusing on farmers and the tools and information they need to steward land, grow crops, bring in their harvest and then get it to market. While modern agricultural technologies and management approaches have doubled the production of world food calories over the past half-century, many smallholder farmers struggle to achieve even the most basic level of subsistence.
New investments, incentives and innovations are needed to achieve greater social and environmental sustainability, while delivering increased agricultural production. These benefits must be made available to all farmers and agricultural workers, recognising their role as guardians of our shared environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems. There is a need for a radical shift in thinking which places the farmer at the centre of sound and sustainable agricultural practices.
This approach – delivering productivity and sustainability – must also lead to a more equitable and efficient production and distribution systems. Combined with better functioning markets and sustainable local and regional infrastructure, an enhanced farming system will contribute to improved economic development, providing food security, decent work, fair prices and improved land management.
To succeed, any new approach must be based on a stable policy environment within which farmers can work and invest. This, in turn, requires us to establish stable, long-term policy and regulatory frameworks for the development of agriculture; to enhance national financial allocations; to direct international development assistance towards the agricultural sector in developing countries; and to undertake comprehensive stakeholder consultation processes in the design and implementation of agricultural programs.
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