The Government of Malawi, the United Nations and partners are marking World Food Day and African Day for Food and Nutrition Security by celebrating the importance of family farming in reducing poverty and improving food security through small-scale, sustainable agricultural production.

World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16 October by the United Nations Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme as well as by governments around the world. The theme of this year’s World Food Day is ‘Family farming: feeding the world, caring for the earth’.  Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security is celebrated on 30 October and this year has the theme of ‘Accelerated Action for a Hunger Free Africa’.  This year marks the fifth commemoration of the Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security and coincides with the 10th anniversary of Declaration of CAADP.   In Malawi, the two days are being honoured together to galvanize support in meeting the UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge and AU Heads of State and Government declaration,  ‘Hunger Free Africa by 2015’.

Family farmers are responsible for at least 56 percent of agricultural production globally. They form the backbone of food production, while preserving traditional food products, contributing to balanced diets, protecting the earth’s agro-biodiversity and pioneering sustainable use of natural resources.

Despite their great importance, however, family farmers – especially female farmers – are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Increasingly, their livelihoods are threatened by climate change-related extreme events. This calls for accelerated action to overcome these obstacles and committing more resources to deliver services to them.

Government, UN and partner-led programmes aimed at achieving food and nutrition security and enhancing resilience offer solutions to these challenges and can bring prosperity to family farmers and smallholders.

“Clearly, family farmers need to produce enough food not just for themselves, but also for people in rural areas not involved in farming or city dwellers,” says UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director General, José Graziano da Silva. “They also need to generate income – money to buy inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, but also to guarantee decent livelihoods including paying for their children’s education and other needs. When family farmers are stronger, it’s a win-win situation: more food available locally translates into more food security and into the possibility of producing and buying food for and in local markets.”

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014 report confirms Malawi has reached Millennium Development Goal hunger-reduction target before 2015, proof of the progress possible when government and partners work together for lasting change.

“Despite challenges, we are making real progress in the fight to end hunger and chronic malnutrition,” says UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “Thanks to the work we do with our partners on emergency preparedness, support to family farmers, nutritional assistance – particularly in a child’s first 1,000 days – and building the resilience of communities to withstand shocks, millions of people are now better able to focus on building a future free of hunger for themselves and the next generation.”

The goal of a Hunger Free Africa is set to motivate firm action toward improving food security and nutrition indicators and targets. For this to happen, partners at all levels must concert efforts to develop and implement comprehensive plans of action for improving food availability, access, quality and sustainability. Hunger Free Africa by 2025 can be achieved through “sustainable, resilient and diversified livelihoods and diverse diets that meet their nutritional needs”. This requires implementing a comprehensive programme supported by sound national policies, which are designed through inclusive processes and information systems. Such programmes must target the poor, hungry and malnourished people, typically: children, women, female-headed households, youth, smallholders, pastoralists and peri-urban people.

In Malawi, women make up to 70 percent of the agricultural workforce and contribute to 80 percent of food for family consumption. In recognition of this valuable contribution, UN Women is this year joining the celebration to promote the role of the rural woman and her contribution to family food security. A communiqué developed by women farmers in honour of International Day of Rural Women (celebrated on 15 October) will feed into October’s food and nutrition security celebrations.

“‘We must enforce and protect the rights of rural women,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “When women have access to land, there are improvements in household welfare, agricultural productivity and gender equality. And greater progress is made against poverty, gender-based violence and HIV/ AIDS. It makes everybody better off.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development will this year commemorate World Food Day and African Day for Food and Nutrition Security with FAO, WFP, UN Women and partners on Friday 31 October 2014 at Mchuchu Primary School, T. A. Kalumbu in Lilongwe District. The general public is invited to take part in the commemoration event.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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