How does the global context of agriculture affect our food supply?

If you have 150 Holstein cows, how many litres of milk could you produce for a day?



family farms and the global food supply

Family farming can be considered  part of the solution to meeting the world’s food demands. The United Nations estimates that family farms provide about 56 percent of all global agricultural production.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations asserts that “family farming preserves traditional food products, while contributing to a balanced diet and safeguarding the world’s agro-biodiversity and the sustainable use of natural resources.”

Family farms provide opportunities to boost local economies and contribute to the availability of healthy food. Almost half of the world’s households depend on family farming for their livelihood. Of all the rural inhabitants in developing countries, the majority belong to families working in agriculture. It is important to note that women account for almost half of developing nations’ agricultural labor resources.

Consider the link between family farms and global food security. 


Family farming is inextricably linked to national and global food security. Both in developing and developed countries, family farming is the predominant form of agriculture in the food production sector.  Family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities, and it is linked to several areas of rural development.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2014). Family Farmers: Feeding the world, caring for the earth: FAO Online. 

Why are family farms considered to be essential for increased and sustainable global food production?




the UN Decade of family farming

The United Nations has declared 2019 to 2028 the Decade of Family Farming. This initiative highlights what it means to be a family farmer in a rapidly changing world and the important role family farms play in eradicating hunger and shaping our future of food. Family farming offers a unique opportunity to ensure food security, improve livelihoods, better manage natural resources, protect the environment and achieve sustainable development, particularly in rural areas. Find out more by clicking here


addressing environmental opportunities

Agricultural activities have environmental impacts. Climate change and high energy costs emphasize the need for sustainable farming practices.

These practices emphasize efficient energy use, water consumption and manure management. A focus on sustainability encourages farmers to identify and address environmental risks and opportunities. Many of these sustainable practices are being implemented on family farms. 

Check out this excerpt from the federal government’s consultations on a national food policy. How are these types of practices consistent with the development and support of sustainable family farming as promoted by the FAO?



The egg industry reported that over the past 50 years it has reduced its environmental footprint by half while doubling production. The industry noted that its investments in research will enable it to identify more environmentally sound practices. Likewise, Chicken Farmers of Canada is completing a life-cycle analysis of the sustainability of its industry in order to make targeted environmental improvements. The environmental impacts of the Canadian livestock and crop sectors are among the lowest in the world thanks to research and increased productivity.

A good example is the widespread adoption of zero or minimal till farming, which keeps carbon in the ground and promotes healthy soils. In 1991, only 7 percent of western Canada was seeded with no till practices. Today, this number has grown to 65 percent, allowing Canadian farmers to sequester millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases in their fields every year.

Beyond the benefits of sequestering GHGs, it is important to understand that this change in practice has also resulted in improved soil health, which means the soil can now support a healthier crop, and possibly more importantly for farmers, leaving our soils in better condition for the next generation.

House of Commons (December 2017, 42nd Parliament, 1st Session). A Food Policy for Canada: Report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

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