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Back to: Hungry for land


Hungry for land:
Small Farmers Feed The World
With Less Than A Quarter Of All Farmland

Barcelona Spain

1 Graziano da Silva, opening speech at the Global Forum on Family Farming, Budapest, 5 March 2014.

2 Sarah K. Lowder, Jakob Skoet and Saumya Singh, “What do we really know about the number and distribution of farms and family farms in the world?” Background paper for The State of Food and Agriculture 2014. FAO April 2014. Figure quoted on page 8. See also: FAO, "Family farmers - feeding the world, caring for the earth", 2014,

3 Beverly D. McIntyre (editor), IAASTD "International assessment of agricultural knowledge, science and technology for development: global report", 2008, page 8,

4 Wenbiao Cai, a professor at the University of Winnipeg, states in several studies that small farms account for most of the farmland in the non-industrialised world. Other examples include allies of small farmer movements like Miguel Altieri, who says that small farms in Latin America "occupy 34.5% of the total cultivated land" (, or Greenpeace, who say that "Small-scale farmers form the larger part of global agricultural land" (

5 A number of people generously took time to review and comment on earlier drafts of this report or help us with certain problems. Their inputs were very useful and we are grateful to all of them. They include: Maria Aguiar, Valter Israel da Silva, Thomas Kastner, Carlos Marentes, Pat Mooney, Ndabezinhle Nyoni, Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Mateus Santos, Chris Smaje and Liz Aldin Wiley.

6 When we talk about "farmers" or "peasants" in this report, we mean food producers including people who raise livestock, such as herders or pastoralists, fishers, hunters and gatherers.

7 The land distribution dataset compiled by GRAIN can be downloaded here.

8 Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Norway.

9 Peter Hazell, “Is small farm led development still a relevant strategy for Africa and Asia?”, 2013:

10 For example, FAO affirms that “Eighty percent of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is managed by smallholders” in "Smallholders and family farmers", 2012:

11 The discussion of some specific country cases can be seen in “Land Tenure and Administration in Africa: Lessons of Experience and Emerging Issues” by Lorenzo Cotula, Camilla Toulmin and Ced Hesse; in “Paradigms, processes and practicalities of land reform in post-conflict Sub-Saharan Africa” by Chris Huggins and Benson Ochieng; in “Land tenure and violent conflict in Kenya in the context of local, national and regional legal and policy frameworks” by Judi Wakhungu, Elvin Nyukuri and Chris Huggins; in “Land reform in Angola: establishing the ground rules” by Jenny Clover, as well as in “Land reform processes in West Africa: a review” by SahelSahel and West Africa Club Secretariat

12 This is the case, for example, of Botswana (2011 Annual Agricultural Survey Report) that does not account the land used for traditional livestock rearing, although traditional herds of cattle and goats are composed of more than 4 million head. It is also the case of the World Bank, which states that “Land abandoned as a result of shifting cultivation is excluded” from their definition of agricultural land.

13 EUROSTAT, Statistics in focus 18/2011, "Large farms in Europe",

14 Unless otherwise stated, figures on countries of the European Union are based on the Agricultural Structure Survey of 2007, as published data from the 2010 survey did not allow us to do the necessary calculations.

15 ECVC and HOTL, "Land concentration, land grabbing and people’s struggles in Europe", 17 April 2013.

16 O. Nagayets, "Small farms: current status and key trends", 2005

17 Statistics Bureau, Government of Japan, “Agriculture”,

18 Government of Australia, “Australian farmers and farming”, Dec 2012,

19 Stephanie Mulet-Marquis and John R. Fairweather, “New Zealand farm structure change and intensification”, Lincoln University, 2008,

20 I Wayan Rusastra, "Land economy for poverty reduction: Current status and policy implications"; Capsa Palawija News, April 2008; Indonesia Agricultural Census 1963, 1993, 2003. Main Results; Lani Eugenia, "Significance of family farming in the Asian Region: The Indonesian agriculture sector"

21 State Statistical Committee of the Republic of Azerbaijan. "The Agriculture of Azerbaijan. Statistical yearbook 2012"

22 "Preliminary report on agriculture sample survey 2005", Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, 2005

23 All figures for countries of the European Union were obtained from EUROSTAT, and Country specific data can be found by searching “farm structure survey [name of country]”

24 See Argentine government statistics at and

25 Government of Chile, Agricultural census,

26 A.M. Ibañez. "La concentración de la propiedad rural en Colombia: evolución 2000 a 2009, desplazamiento forzoso e impactos sobre el desarrollo económico" (PRIO, Policy brief 5/2009); Oxfam. "Divide and purchase. How land is being concentrated in Colombia"; Y. Salinas. "El caso de Colombia". Study on landgrabbing commissioned by FAO LAC Regional Office

27 Government of Uruguay, “Censo 2011”,,5,149,O,S,0,MNU;E;55;1;MNU and “Censo general agropecuario 2000”,

28 Tables with government data can found at

29 James MacDonald et al, "Farm size and the organisation of US crop farming" Economic Research Report No. 152, USDA, Aug 2013,

30 See World Rainforest Movement, “An overview of industrial tree plantations in the global South: conflicts, trends, and resistance struggles”, 2012, for a discussion on this.

31 EJOLT, “The many faces of landgrabbing”, EJOLT briefing, 10 March 2014.

32 Nikos Alexandratos and Jelle Bruinsma, “World agriculture towards 2030/2050. The 2012 revision”, FAO, 2012

33 Corley, R.H.V. (2009): How much palm oil do we need? Environmental Science & Policy 12: 134-139

34 Other agencies like the International Land Coalition-led Land Matrix put the figure at 203 million hectares but over a ten year period (2000-2010):

35 See for a range of published reports and day to day accounts.

36 See the land distribution dataset compiled by GRAIN.

37 See, for example, Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD. "Small farmers can feed the world"; UNEP, "Small farmers report"; FAO, "Women and rural employment fighting poverty by redefining gender roles" (Policy Brief 5)

38 National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus, "Agriculture of the Republic of Belarus" 2013

39 Statistics Botswana, "Stats brief", 2009 and 2010 annual agricultural surveys preliminary results

40 Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estadistica, "Censo Agropecuario 2006",

41 Eduardo Baumeister. "Características económicas y sociales de los agricultores familiares en América Central." INCEDES, 2010.

42 Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas de Chile,, "Censo Agropecuario 1997".

43 Braulio Machin Sosa et al., ANAP-Via Campesina, "Revolución agroecológica, resumen ejecutivo"

44 Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas y Censos, Censo Nacional Agropecuario 2000,

45 IV Censo Agropecuario 2007-2008. Ministerio de Economía de El Salvador.

46 Hungarian Central Statistical Office, "Total Standard Gross Margin of farms engaged in agricultural activity by type of farming and size class, 2007" 2/2 (Million HUF).

47 Agency on Statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Statistical Yearbook "Kazakhstan in 2009"

48 Hans P. Binswanger-Mkhize et al (eds). "Agricultural land redistribution. Toward greater consensus". 2009.

49 National Institute of Statistics, press release No. 149 of July 2, 2012, "General agricultural census 2010"

50 Russian Federation Federal State Statistics Service, Russia in Figures 2011.

51 Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Dept of Ag Economic Research, Economics and Management. Discussion paper No. 16.08. "The economic effects of land reform in Central Asia: The case of Tajikistan"

52 State Statistics Service of Ukraine. "Main agricultural characteristics of households in rural areas in 2011"

53 Olivier de Schutter, “Agroecology and the Right to Food”, Report presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council [A/HRC/16/49], 8 March 2011,

54 See, for example: Michael Carter, “Identification of the inverse relationship between farm size and productivity: an empirical analysis of peasant agricultural production”; IFAD, “Assets and the rural poor. Poverty Report 2001”; Giovanni Andrea Cornia, “Farm size, land yields and the agricultural production function: An analysis for fifteen developing countries;” H.N. Anyaegbunam, P.O. Nto, B.C. Okoye and T.u. Madu, “Analysis of determinants of farm size productivity among small-holder cassava farmers in south east agroecological zone, Nigeria”.

55 The nine countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. See "Large farms in Europe", Eurostat Statistics in Focus 18/2011,

56 Czech Republic, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Sweden. Ibid

57 These figures are obtained by extrapolating the productivity of small farms indicated in the sources for table 4 to 100% of agricultural land.

58 Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, University of Wageningen, personal communication, 25 March 2014.

59 For a discussion of food systems and the climate crisis, see: GRAIN “Food and climate change, the forgotten link”, Sep 2011.


61 Government of El Salvdor,

62 EU Agricultural Economic Briefs. “Women in EU agriculture and rural areas: hard work, low profile”, Brief No. 7, June 2012.

63 FAOSTAT. Search done within "resources" and "population", using annual time series.

64 FAO, "Women and rural employment. fighting poverty by redefining gender role", 2009.

65 Ministry of Food and Agriculture of Ghana. Agriculture in Ghana. Facts and Figures 2010. Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery of Madagascar. Recensement de l' Agriculture. Campagne Agricole 2004-2005

66 FAO and National Institute of Statistics of Cambodia. National Gender Profile of Agricultural Households, 2010.

67 IFAD, Republic of the Congo. Country strategic opportunities programme, 2009 EB 2009/98/R.20.

68 FAO, Gender Team for Europe and Central Asia. “The crucial role of women in agriculture and rural development”

69 International Organization for Migration. "Rural women and migration"; B. Dodson et al. "Gender, migration and remittances in Southern Africa"; A. Datta and S.K. Mishra. “Glimpses of women's lives in rural Bihar: impact of male migration".

70 Cheryl Doss et al. "Gender inequalities in ownership and control of land in Africa. Myths versus reality"

71 See

72 On this, see for example the discussion by Celestine Nyamu-Musembi in "Breathing Life into Dead. Theories about Property Rights: de Soto and Land Relations in Rural Africa", Institute of Development Studies. 2006

73 The land distribution dataset compiled by GRAIN can be downloaded here.

See FAOSTAT glossary at

Published in In Motion Magazine July 9, 2014

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