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Extreme weather and low income hurt farmers who make 80% of food

The world is falling behind in meeting its agricultural and natural resource management goals, FAO says.
The number of undernourished people across the globe rose to more than 820m in 2018, the highest level in eight years, FAO says. Picture: Shutterstock

Small farmers who are key to world food output are producing and earning less as they face challenges to access land and financial services, the United Nations said.

That’s exacerbating food insecurity across the globe at a time when extreme weather is already hurting farm productivity, according to the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation in Rome. The world is also not on track to meet many goals for sustainable agriculture and natural resource management, the FAO said in a report on Thursday.

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It’s critical that small-scale food farmers — who account for about 80% of farm output — earn and produce more to reverse the trend of rising hunger, according to the agency. It said on Monday that the number of undernourished people across the globe rose to more than 820 million in 2018, the highest level in eight years.

“Productivity of small-scale producers is systematically lower on average than for larger food producers and, in most countries, the incomes of small-scale food producers are less than half those of larger food producers,” the FAO said.

Meanwhile, the global farming industry remains behind on several goals that would create sustainability in agriculture. This includes not having enough plant-genetic resources in conservation facilities and genetic diversity in livestock breeds. 

Extinction risk

On average, 60% of local livestock breeds are at risk of extinction in the 70 countries for which the UN had risk-status information, according to the FAO’s report.

“Ongoing efforts to preserve both plant and animal genetic resources appear inadequate given the unprecedented threat posed to their diversity by increasingly rapid environmental and social changes,” the report said. “Genetic diversity in live animal breeds is important to agriculture and food production because it enables livestock to be raised in various environments and to provide a wide range of products and services.”

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Some local context would help. How does South Africa fit into this picture? Would be interesting, especially as we apparently only have less than 30 000 productive farmers left in this country trying to produce food for more than 50million people AND satisfy an export market so they can continue to survive!

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