Agriculture ministers from 21 different countries have adopted the text, including those of Romania, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Ivory Coast, Mali, South Africa and Brazil.
Together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), these countries committed to implement public policies in favour of family farming, claiming it will help feed a significant part of the world population.
95% of the world's farms are smaller than five hectares according to official French figures. Farms larger than 10 hectares only exist in America and Europe.
“In sustaining agricultural production, there is nothing more powerful than men and women committed to their farming professions,” the said the French agriculture minister, Stéphane Le Foll, who was speaking at a seminar organised by French farming associations and the ministry.
The list of countries which have committed to this type of farming should continue to grow in 2014, which was labelled year of family farming by the United Nations.
“It is important to make other countries sign because it is a major challenge in the fight against hunger in the world,” Le Foll said.
Family farming is an important part of the global food production. These small farms managed by families produce 70% of the world food supply. But out of the 842 million people who suffer from hunger, three quarters are peasants.
40% of the world's working force currently lives off family farming, but the disparities between North and South are still huge. Family farming occupies 59% of the working population in China, and 53% in India and Africa. In contrast, less than 5% of the workforce in Northern America and Europe live from this activity.
“If we want to answer the question of feeding the world and world hunger, the best system is family farming,” Le Foll claims. “Behind the capitalist farming system, there is of course profit but also geographical specialisation of land and production.”
“The goal now is to build truly sustainable agricultural systems that can meet the future food needs of the planet,” the director general of FAO, José Graziano da Silva added. “And nothing is closer to the model of sustainable food production than family farming.”
International support for family farming also focuses in the number of jobs this sector could create in the coming years, especially on continents where the population is growing, such as Africa.
A study co-authored by the World Bank foresees a generational shift in Sub-Saharan Africa in the medium-term, with a massive influx of young people expected on the labour market. 25 million people are expected to enter the job market each year until 2025, meaning Africa will have to integrate 330 million new job seekers by then. Of those new jobs, about 200 million will have to be found in rural areas, according to the study, which means Africa will essentially remain a rural continent at least until 2030.
Hungary will kick-start celebrations of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming with a Global Forum and an exhibition that will take place in Budapest from 4 to 6 March.