Farming First is a coalition of multi-stakeholder organisations, not an organisation. The coalition exists to articulate, endorse and promote practical, actionable programmes and activities to further sustainable agricultural development worldwide. There is no secretariat and it is not intended that one will be created.Farming First enjoys the support of 131 organisations representing the world’s farmers, scientists, engineers and industry as well as agricultural development organisations.With one shared voice, Farming First highlights the importance of improving farmers’ livelihoods and agriculture’s potential contribution to global issues such as food security, climate change, and biodiversity. It also aims to build synergies amongst its supporters in promoting Farming First’s mission.
The Farming First plan was developed as a joint call to action in response to the global challenges posed at the 2009 United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-17).
For the first time in CSD’s history, three of the nine major civil society groups — which offer policy recommendations to the UN delegates — have formed an agricultural coalition to present a joint plan, which is farmer-centric, comprehensive, and inclusive of all groups along the food production supply chain.
While CSD-17 provided the initial platform for the conception and launch of Farming First, the Farming First principles provide a relevant resource for many international fora. We hope it can provide the basis for collaborations at the international level across a range of settings.
Together, these supporters illustrate the strength and value of a multistakeholder collaboration as it acknowledges the specific concerns of each of these groups while building consensus and a common framework for future action. It also shows the importance of including civil society’s voice within these international negotiations.
As partners, we aim for our programmess, projects and activities to feed into the realisation of the six principles of the Farming First plan and we encourage others from various fields to join as supporters of Farming First to strengthen our approach and collaborative potential.
Governments have welcomed the Farming First initiative as they see it as an opportunity to raise awareness of the collective contributions of some of the most important agricultural and rural stakeholders: namely, farmers and cooperatives, researchers and extension workers, companies and entrepreneurs.
The Farming First framework proposes six interlinked imperatives for sustainable development:
- Safeguarding natural resources
- Sharing knowledge
- Building local access and capacity
- Protecting harvests
- Enabling access to markets
- Prioritising research imperatives
Returning farmers to the centre of policy decisions is fundamental to sustainable development. Governments, businesses, scientists and civil society groups must focus attention on the source of our food security. All these groups must work together to enable the many millions of farm families, especially smallholders, to grow more crops sustainably through effective markets, more collaborative research and committed knowledge sharing.
A broad-based, knowledge-centred approach to agricultural development is needed. The approach starts with focusing on farmers and the tools and information they need to steward land, grow crops, bring in their harvest and then get it to market. While modern agricultural technologies and management approaches have doubled the production of world food calories over the past half-century, many smallholder farmers struggle to achieve even the most basic level of subsistence.
New investments, incentives and innovations are needed to achieve greater social and environmental sustainability, while delivering increased agricultural production. These benefits must be made available to all farmers and agricultural workers, recognising their role as guardians of our shared environment, biodiversity, and ecosystems. There is a need for a radical shift in thinking which places the farmer at the centre of sound and sustainable agricultural practices.
This approach – delivering productivity and sustainability – must also lead to a more equitable and efficient production and distribution systems. Combined with better functioning markets and sustainable local and regional infrastructure, an enhanced farming system will contribute to improved economic development, providing food security, decent work, fair prices and improved land management.
To succeed, any new approach must be based on a stable policy environment within which farmers can work and invest. This, in turn, requires us to establish stable, long-term policy and regulatory frameworks for the development of agriculture; to enhance national financial allocations; to direct international development assistance towards the agricultural sector in developing countries; and to undertake comprehensive stakeholder consultation processes in the design and implementation of agricultural programs.