Cover image: Family Farming 2014

Family Farming 2014

The year 2014 has been designated as International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the United Nations. In this feature we provide some background information about the year and suggest some teaching resources for you to use in class. (This photo is by the Gates Foundation on and shows a farmer standing with his family in a field near his home in Kirehe, Rwanda - used under a Creative Commons Licence.) The IYFF aims to raise the profile of family and smallholder farming. This type of farming represents the vast majority of agriculture worldwide, both in developed and developing countries, and is therefore vital to food security. The Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) estimates that there are over 500 million family farms worldwide. This YouTube clip from the FAO launches the IYFF and explains the importance of family farming in more detail: From time immemorial farming has been a family activity, with all family members cooperating in caring for livestock, planting, harvesting and marketing their produce. A family farm may have been passed down to family members through many generations. Or families may share in the work of subsistence farming, tending a field of crops or a small garden so they can feed themselves and sell any surplus. But is this changing? Contrast 'family farming' with concepts such as 'intensive agriculture', 'monoculture' or 'factory farming' - could your pupils do some research and find out what these terms mean? Do they think family farms would happily engage with these types of farming or be threatened by them? Why or why not? The following YouTube clip from Food MythBusters asks 'Do we really need industrial agriculture to feed the world?' It is presenting a particular perspective - would any of your pupils like to present an alternative point of view? With its emphasis on tradition and continuity, family farming can also be perceived as helping to preserve traditional food products, safeguard the world’s biodiversity and promote the sustainable use of natural resources. Perhaps your pupils could research 'traditional' foods from different countries and regions and find out how long these traditions have continued - are these foods still being produced by family farms? This short YouTube clip from Biodiversity International takes us around the world to meet some of the smallholder farmers who have worked to safeguard agricultural biodiversity. Pupils could do research to find out more about the different plant types mentioned in the clip.

Useful websites, links and articles

  • The Perennial Plate: the people behind this website have travelled the world to research 'adventurous and sustainable eating' - a search on the site for 'family farming' will bring up a range of lovely film clips.

Useful teaching resources

  • Practical Action - EuropAfrica - secondary resource looking at our connections with small scale family farmers, fishermen and pastoralists in Africa.
For more ideas, take a browse through the resources in our database tagged with Family, Farming, or Fishing.
If you have other suggestions for resources or activities to teach and learn about family farming, please let us know in the comments box below.