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Poverty and vulnerability combine in a vicious circle for many family farmers. To break that and turn it into a virtuous cycle, resilience must be built into farming and the systems in which farmers operate. There is an urgent need for a change in mindset regarding family farming, agriculture and food systems in general, and resilience must be the central concept in this new thinking.

Shocks to agricultural systems come in multiple forms, as do the ways that can be used to resist them. These are the many faces of resilience – resilience to changing climates, land degradation and other environmental factors; resilience to economic shocks from volatile markets and financial crises; and resilience to social pressures such as outmigration.

Farming Matters issue 30.2 shows how farmers have experimented, adapted, and improved their resilience to one or more of these shocks. Examples include the development of informal markets for farm produce, making better use of traditional knowledge, and diversifying farming systems with bees and trees. Governments can also assist by providing social safety nets. But governments can do much more, and one significant way would be to correct the imbalances in the global food system that work against the ability of family farmers to break out of the vicious circle.

Farming Matters | 30.2 | June 2014

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