Rural advisory services (RAS) are increasingly recognized as critical to agricultural and rural development. RAS work with farmers and other important stakeholders in rural economies. They provide rural communities with a wide range of skills and knowledge, and facilitate interactions among the different actors to help them access support and services required for improving their livelihoods. Family farmers are one of the important clients of RAS as they are the most predominant type of farmers worldwide. Out of a total of 570 million farms estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the world, 500 million can be considered family farms (FAO, 2014b). The declaration of 2014 of the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) by the United Nations General Assembly reflects a growing global consensus that family farming is critical to feeding a global population that is expected to reach more than nine billion people by 2050. Family farms occupy around 70 to 80 percent of farmland and produce about 80 percent of the world’s food in value terms (FAO, 2014b). Similarly, family farming is the main source of employment worldwide. At the same time, the majority of family farmers still live in poverty and food insecurity (AFD, 2014). RAS can help such farmers in their efforts to enhance productivity and income from farming and other activities to support their livelihoods. The UN General Assembly invited FAO to facilitate the implementation of the 2014 - IYFF, in collaboration with its partners. Among its other initiatives for IYFF, FAO worked with the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) in highlighting rural advisory services for family farms. This was done by jointly organizing two international events on the topic of “Rural Advisory Services for Family Farms”– one in Buenos Aires on 26 September 2014 during the 5th GFRAS Annual Meeting and one in Rome on 27 October 2014 during the Global Dialogue on Family Farming. To continue and expand the dialogue to a larger global audience, FAO hosted an e-conference on “Tailoring rural advisory services to family farms” from 1 to 18 December 2014, which allowed participants to share their knowledge, ideas and experiences on this topic. Results of the events and e-mail conference were used in the preparation of this present document to elaborate how RAS supports family farms and where its capacity to do so could be strengthened.
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