Tackling Poverty through Family Farming


Oluchi Chibuzor writes that President Muhammadu Buhari’s plan of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty can be achieved through family farming

The plan by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years coincides with the 10-year plan of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming between 2019- 2028.

Family farming (including all the family-based agricultural activities) is a means of organising agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production that is managed and operated by a family. It is predominantly reliant on the family labour of both women and men. The family and the farm are linked, co-evolve and combine economic, environmental, social and cultural functions.

Recent United Nations report on family farming noted that family farmers everywhere and everyday have shown that they can be productive and adapt to producing food in their locality and serving so many functions, and, “are custodians of biodiversity, preserving landscape and maintaining community and cultural heritage.

“Also, they have the knowledge to produce nutritious and culturally appropriate food as part of local traditions.”
The report explained that nothing comes closer to the paradigm of sustainable food production than family farming.
“Family farmers, when supported with affirmative policies and programmes, have a unique capacity to redress the failure of a world food system that, while producing enough food for all, still wastes one third of the food produced, fails to reduce hunger and the different forms of malnutrition, and even generates social inequalities,” it added.

Nigeria with the current population projected to be about 200,828,854, based on the latest United Nation estimates, equivalent to 2.6 per cent of the total world population, ranks number seven on the list of countries by population.

In achieving a global food security toward meeting the SDGs, United Nation (UN) declared the period between 2019-2028 as global action year noting that agriculture today stands at a crossroads because it faces increasing pressure to provide sufficient, affordable and nutritious food for a growing population, to coping with climate change and the degradation of natural resources, including water scarcity, soil depletion and biodiversity loss.

The global body said the pervasive and persistent social and economic inequalities between rural and urban areas had led to an unprecedented level of urbanisation, and cities that have limited absorptive capacity face issues related to social marginalisation and sometimes conflict.
It added that to feed the world and do it sustainably, an urgent and radical shift in our food systems is necessary.

According to the United Nations Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028, if the Global Action Plan is to be effective, “transformative actions must address a complex set of interconnected objectives, encompassing economic, social and environmental dimensions.”

The United Nation’s report stated that, “In view of these challenges, the United Nations proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019-2028) in December 2017, providing the international community an extraordinary opportunity to address family farming from a holistic perspective, in order to achieve substantial transformations in current food systems that will contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

The body further stated that by placing family farming at the centre of the international agenda for a period of ten years, this Decade of Family Farming would provide an unprecedented possibility to achieve positive change throughout global food systems.
“The purpose of the plan is to mobilize concrete, coordinated actions to overcome challenges family farmers face, strengthen their investment capacity, and thereby attain the potential benefits of their contributions to transform our societies and put in place long-term and sustainable solutions,” the report said.

Retirees’ Perspectives
Many people like Mr. Abia Paul, who is a retired banker, currently engages in family farming. He believes that family farming should be encouraged by government for all citizens, saying China is a model of family farming in the world because Mao Zedong started the revolution in China by mobilising the Chinese to start farming on any available land which took china from poor country to powerfully rich nation they are today.

“So if anybody wants to venture into family farming, he may not need too much capital, but must have passion, little capital and if by nature they have land anywhere, he can start in a very humble way,” he said.
He encouraged anybody who wants to start faming to do a survey and plan how he would set up his farm, noting that without such plan, a new farmer was likely going to fail. Paul, said the farmer would have to plan the area of farming he want to go into if it is agrarian, food cropping, raising of poultry, piggery, Aquaculture, fruits and other herbs.

He added: “In my own case and point of view having studied finance and banking, worked for a long time in the banking system, with that basic experience in credit banking and management, I decided to go into farming because that will give me a very good way of exercising my passion for plants, fish, and fruits and herbal plants.

“So when I started, before I retired I bought a wet land, people do not know the purpose of the wet land. So I started by using my own vision and dreams to stabilise the wetland and also using consultant in aquaculture to assist me to raise up aquatic natural pond,” he disclosed.

In a recent national broadcast recently, the President Buhari had noted the need for the country to be self-reliance in food production.
He had said, “We have water, arable land, forests, oil and gas and vast quantities of solid minerals. We are blessed with an equitable climate. However, the bulk of our real wealth lies in agriculture, livestock, forestry and mining. We possess all the ingredients of a major economic power on the world stage, agreeing to the fact that this resources can only be driven by the rural farmers.”

Paul added: “I try to integrate my children into it by teaching them the nitty-gritty of farming and the benefits and idea of it. They have bought into it and they are doing what am doing and take delight in doing it. They know all the healing plants I know, like the plant for whitlow, blood pressure, strokes and some other ones down the line.

“They have learned a lot of things down the line on several local herbs and help in planting and harvesting the vegetables we consume at home from the farm, and very medicinal leaves like apple, almond, sycamore that are very good to me, because I used them personally in treating myself.”

But another farmer, Mr. Christopher Aiyeru, explained that family farming problems ranges from tussle of ownership, power struggle and profit sharing when the business finally begins to make profits.
“The critical areas that need to be addressed is if all the family members would be supportive to the project and not be exploitative when the business starts to yield income,” he added.

The Decade of Family Farming believes that family farmers have unique potential to promote transformative changes on how food is grown, produced, processed and distributed, which enhances territorial development.

“Enabling and supporting family farmers to attain diversified, innovative and dynamic agricultural systems can increase the availability of nutritious, sustainably produced and culturally appropriate food, which can incentivise healthy diets while promoting the transition towards context-specific, diversified, resilient and sustainable food systems,” he said.

According to croplife international, “Smallholder family farms are essential to rural economies all over the world, they face particular challenges that large-scale farmers do not, but they still find ways to support their families and communities.”

“Poor family farmers can shift from subsistence to creating income generation opportunities in rural areas: Social protection policies and resilient livelihoods are keys to exiting poverty traps and providing opportunities.

“Family farmers can implement resilient and highly productive agricultural practices that create income generation opportunities: Policies to improve their access to natural resources, productive inputs and tailored services unleash their productive potential,” they added.