In many African societies, children have their own agricultural tasks, as herding livestock.
Photo: R. Birner

16.06.2014

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Family farms are especially well suited to meet the challenges of labour organisation in agriculture. In early stages of development, they play a particularly important role in creating productive employment for the major share of the population. Moreover, they have strong incentives to use their resources sustainably so as to pass them on to future generations. Yet, family farms should not be romanticised. Often, they only survive by working longer hours and accepting lower incomes than people employed in other sectors of the economy.

Farming requires three main factors of production: land, labour and capital. We can distinguish different organisational forms of agricultural production according to the question: Who owns the land and the capital, and who supplies the labour? The most important feature of the family farm is the family organisation of labour. According to the definition presented by FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva (see article "Family farms are key to feeding the world"), a family farm is “managed and operated by a family and predominantly reliant on family labour, including that of both women and men”. Family farms do not necessarily own the land that they cultivate. They may rent it under different land tenure arrangements. In developing countries, family farms are often operated under share cropping arrangements, where they have to give a share of the farm output to the land owner. In early stages of development, family farm capital is limited, consisting mostly of animals and agricultural tools.

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