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b. Average farm size per region 

b. Average farm size per region 

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Modern food production may be considered an epitome of the paradoxes that humanity is facing as we edge on into the twenty-first century. It is as much the source of problems that plague modern societies as it can be its solution. While more food than ever is produced, more people than ever suffer from some form of malnutrition. Even though agribus...

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... it is one of the largest millers in the USA, trades its own grain, and processes and retails food. Hendrickson and Heffernan warn that in a food chain cluster, "the food product is passed along from stage to stage, but ownership never changes and neither does the location of the decision-making". The most recent comprehensive meta-study to estimate the number, size and distribution of farms worldwide, conducted for FAO by Lowder, Skoet, and Raney (2016), calculated that there are over 570 million farms in the world, of which the majority are small (84 percent of farms are less than 2 hectares in size) and family-run. The average farm size varies greatly between regions (Figure 7b). On the whole, the study found small farms (under 2 hectares) to control only 12 percent of agricultural land worldwide. This means that only 16 percent of farms occupy 88 percent of all farmland, as exemplified in Figure 8. But, whereas in most of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific (excluding China), the majority of farms are smaller than 2 hectares and the control over the land is more evenly distributed among the classes of farms (with few very large farms), in Latin America and the Caribbean, farms are on average larger and very large farms (over 1,000 hectares) control practically half of all agricultural land. The authors conclude there is a trend for the concentration of land in the hands of large-scale farms in higher-income countries, while simultaneously, average farm size is decreasing in most lower-income countries. They did not manage to corroborate the oft-cited claim that "small farms feed the world". This does not mean the claim should be rejected, but more studies are needed to prove the importance of small farms in the provision of domestic food needs. Most importantly, it is urgent to distinguish between the production of cash-crops . They find that Africa is the most targeted continent, with 42 percent of concluded deals, followed by Eastern Europe, while the top individual target countries are Indonesia, Ukraine, Russia, Papua New Guinea, and Brazil -these five countries represent 46 percent of the total area sold. Rather than giving use to abandoned agricultural land, the land deals actually target some of the best croplands, often in highly populated areas, which creates an unfair competition for land between foreign governments and corporations and local, poor communities. The UNCTAD report on agriculture (2013,(238)(239)(240)(241)(242)(243)) presents cases in Africa where farmers were removed from land that was leased to foreign investors, often at ridiculously low prices or even for free (in the most flagrant case, in Ethiopia, 700,000 indigenous people were being forced into villages to free up land for investors). The Land Matrix finds land acquisitions by foreign investors favour capital-intensive, low labour-intensive production methods: where crops have already been planted on acquired land, they are most often so-called cash crops: oil seeds (with oil palm being highly popular), corn, wheat, and sugar crops. The Land Matrix initiative warns most of these crops can also be used for energy purposes. The private sector is overwhelmingly the beneficiary of these land acquisitions (70 percent of buyers). GRAIN warns that the main investors in land are now from the financial sector, rather than countries or agri-business corporations. In particular, there has been a significant rise in farmland investments by pension funds, while another major player is the development finance institution, a less than transparent international actor that provides assistance in development, based on aid funds from wealthy countries that it invests for a profit (GRAIN 2016). ETC Group, a longtime corporate watch group in the global agro-industrial sector ...


... The objective of this study is to contribute to one possible Food Future for Portugal, that of strong sustainability, by drawing on scientific knowledge (e.g. on the functioning of food systems 14 , the political economy of food 15 and lessons from agro-ecology) as well as practical knowledge and experience of the actors involved in innovative sustainable farming initiatives and the respective food chains, so as to develop decision-making tools that are of use to all actors. By strong sustainability-a term coined to counter the hollowing of the sustainability concept-I understand the conducting of human activities not only with respect for ecosystems and all manner of lifeforms but also with the active promotion of their thriving, while ensuring that social, economic and ecological costs and benefits of these activities are equitably distributed. ...
Research Proposal
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The specific objectives that help shape the research are: 1 - the development of an inventory of innovative sustainable farming initiatives in Portugal. The cut-off criteria for selection will be the size of the enterprise (no bigger than SME) and its ecological and social footprint (indicators such as water efficiency, water recovery, soil regeneration, all-round productivity per hectare, energy consumption, job creation). Other criteria for the initial selection have to do with region, gender and years of education of initiators, so as to involve a broader spectrum of entrepreneurs; 2 - the participatory creation and testing of a socially and ecologically valid performance assessment matrix to help characterise and evaluate the potential of different sustainable farming initiatives. The purpose of this assessment tool is to assist different actors in evaluating how well a particular initiative performs on a range of attributes that are important to the different actors and that may be used to decide whether an initiative is living up to its promises, and if not, where the bottlenecks lie; 3 - the collaborative identification of the best forms of organisation for small-scale ecological farming initiatives. Small may be beautiful but can be overshadowed by projects that favour economies of scale.