Reflecting on traditional farming systems during World Food Day

20 okt 2014

With World Food Day in 2014 focusing on ‘Family Farming: feeding the world, caring for the earth’

An article in the Jakarta Post looks at how we can achieve food security through sustainable smallholder agriculture.

Local response to food security

Smallholding, says the article “does not necessarily chart a course to future food scarcity, low productivity or small economy. It can indeed be an appropriate and responsible local response to food security and sustainable management of resources.”

“Traditional farming systems tend to feature and uphold higher biodiversity and agro-biodiversity,” such as through making use of a diversity of cultivars and practicing agroforestry or ecological agriculture. Family farming plays an important role in protecting the environment and enriching its biodiversity; reinforcing sustainable agriculture and a healthy food system.

The article goes on to discuss how food is central to culture, tradition and identity, and how food systems shape and enrich the environment, landscapes and social structures.

Forest-agriculture system in Indonesia

The example of the traditional ladang farming system in Kalimantan, Indonesia is given as an example. This forest-agriculture system combines native and introduced species for food and other products, including rice, millet, sorghum cassava, taro, sweet potatoes, corn and vegetables combined with local fruit varieties. The success of this system depends on maintaining a balance between production and a healthy ecosystem.

Such systems, says the article, “need to be maintained so that they can serve as a basis for sustainable and resilient agriculture and food production”.


, World Agroforestry Centre


A true challenge to feed the world

Demand for cereals, for both food and feed, is projected to grow some 50% by 2050 compared to today. Analyses show that we might face a significant deficit of productive land already by 2030.

The overarching challenge can be described as a question of how to manage land and water to supply the demands of a growing world population for food, fibre and fuel, while at the same time protecting the natural ecosystems that sustain life on the planet. Prospects for increasing food availability lie mainly in intensification of production from land already under agriculture and in expansion of agricultural areas.

The traditional systems have many advantages and are of great importance on the local scale, but it is seems to be a true challenge if they alone should support the intensification of the production necessary to feed the growing world population, see e.g the report by SIFI  The global need for food, fibre and fuel


Editor, Dr. Fredrik Ingemarson, SIFI

Picture: FAO