We are living in the 21st century, and there are still over 800 million people in the world who are undernourished, whereby over 90% of them are living in Asia and Africa. A large number of them are children – 300 million children go to sleep hungry every night. Furthermore, over 3 million children are dying every year due to malnutrition. Therefore, issues concerning food and nutrition security should be on the top of the list for humanity to solve and provide innovative solutions to tackle this persistent dilemma.
The world’s population is forecasted to be over 9 billion by 2050, and nearly all of this population increase will occur in developing countries. Smallholder family farmers can be part of the solution to global food and nutrition security. Currently, there are some 500 million smallholder farms worldwide, and more than 2 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. These smallholder farms produce about 80 per cent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Also, smallholder family farms are likely to continue to dominate the EU farm structure in the foreseeable future; and these farms accounted for 85 per cent of all EU farms and 71 per cent of total EU agricultural production in 2010.
The contribution of family farms and especially smallholder farms to food and nutrition security has been gaining global attention, both in Europe and in the context of less developed countries. It is evident that agricultural growth based on small-farm efficiency is one major body of thought that has dominated the landscape of rural development thinking.
Smallholder farms and women in agriculture manifest an impressive resilience, but they also face a range of constraints. Lack of access to productive resources such as land, water, inputs, training and financial services will prevent them from becoming competitive and capable of creating better lives for themselves and their families. Global food production may increase significantly and the progress to lift millions out of food and nutrition insecurity may be faster by giving these productive resources to smallholder farmers and women in agriculture.
Growing population, climate change and limited resources need a solution dealing with both technical-scientific aspects and social-economic aspects. A multidisciplinary or even trans-disciplinary approach is needed for sustainable intensification not only to produce more food, but also to use less resources as well as to increase the nutritional value of the food produced. How food is produced, who produces it, what and how much is consumed and by whom, are all factors that have far reaching consequences for people’s health, for human development, and also animal welfare in food production. Food production should be both sustainable and resilient to enable a system of food production that is environmentally, economically, and socially or ethically acceptable to the world population. We must progress and strive toward equity in food consumption for people in different walks of life and in the wide-ranging corners of the world.