Press Release
October 16, 2015

Villar Welcomes Renewed Commitment of Global Agriculture
Stakeholders on Increasing Support to Small Farmers

Villar Delivered the Asian Group's Statement at the Plenary Session
of the 42nd Committee on World Food Security in Rome

Senator Cynthia Vilar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, on behalf of the Philippines and other Asian countries, expressed the region's appreciation on increased focus on small farmers, particularly during the 'High-Level Forum on Connecting Smallholders to Markets' organized by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) early this year.

"We are glad that there is renewed focus on smallholders, including family farmers, which as we in the Philippines and neighboring countries are very well aware of are the heart of our agricultural sector. Much is needed to be done in order to help them. Ensuring access to markets as well as technologies is very crucial indeed," said Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Villar also delivered and presented the official statement of the Asia Group at the ongoing 42nd Plenary Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome. The group emphasized that smallholder agriculture is the backbone of food security and nutrition in most countries in Asia.

"Agriculture in the region is largely characterized by smallholders cultivating plots of lands less than two hectares. Smallholders' contribution to the total value of agriculture output is significant in many Asian countries. It is in this light that we put premium and priority on the issue of smallholder agriculture, in general, and integrating this vital sector of the economy to the markets, in particular," cited the statement read by Villar during the CFS plenary session.

"Access to markets and the need to obtain bargaining power often play a catalytic role in triggering collective organization of farmers" often through which they gain political voice in decision-making," it further cited. In facilitating access of smallholders to markets, the group agreed with the results of the stakeholders' forum that "well-functioning rural cooperatives and farmers' organizations" play a key role.

Villar added that discussions at the CFS also show that strengthening support to small farmers is crucial to food security as well as in poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. According to FAO, 50% of food globally is produced by family farmers. And based on reports of the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on Water for Food Security and Nutrition, of the 1.4 billion extremely poor, 70 per cent live in rural areas and smallholders constitute 75 per cent of these rural poor.

"It is no different in the Philippines, an agricultural country, where two-thirds of the population are directly and indirectly involved in agriculture. These farmers, fisherfolks and agricultural workers remain the poorest and lowest paid. If we succeeded in lifting them out of poverty, the impact in the economy will be very significant," said Villar.

The Asia Group also highlighted in their statement at the CFS that the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) has promoted greater awareness of the crucial contribution of the more than two billion smallholders, including family farmers, to sustainable development, food security and nutrition. And the "strong political commitment" and momentum elicited by IYFF should be sustained.

The CFS is an intergovernmental body that serves as a forum for the review of food security and nutrition policies. It also gives the opportunity for participants from civil society and the private sector to express their views in policy decisions.

The highlight of the four-day meeting are the keynote remarks of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Kanayo F. Nwanze and World Food Programe (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin, as well as discussions on nutrition policies and initiatives to eradicate hunger by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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