In India, a farm woman pauses to take a drink of water. (FAO photo)

Understanding global farm economics is an important part of organic living. At the dawn of the third millennium, roughly 75% of the world’s 852 million men and women suffering from hunger are found in rural areas and depend on agriculture for survival. Most are landless farmers or have such tiny or unproductive plots of land that they cannot feed their families.

For many of these poor farmers, new development opportunities in rural areas would allow more equitable access to basic land and water resources, while offering an escape from hunger and poverty, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Next week’s International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD), to be held March 7–10 in Brazil, will focus on these problems.

“We have just 10 years to reach 2015—the target date set by the international community to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world,” says ICARRD Executive Secretary Parviz Koohafkan. “Since the very poorest are landless farmers everywhere, it will not be possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals unless we find sustainable solutions to the challenge existing in the world’s rural areas. It is an appointment we cannot afford to miss.”

Convinced that agrarian reform must be tailored to meet the needs of individual countries—and that there is no magic formula for resolving global land problems—conference organizers aim to foster alliances among governments, small farmers’ organizations, international institutions, donors and civil society to help the world’s poorest people gain better access to basic productive resources.

The conference will explore the following issues and conclude with a final declaration and action plan:

  • Policies and experiences that have improved resource access by the poorest people
  • Local natural resource planning and management capabilities
  • New development opportunities to strengthen rural communities
  • Combining concepts like agrarian reform, social justice and sustainable development
  • The primary role of food sovereignty and its contribution to more equitable resource access