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Online Discussion: Women and Family Farming – Moving Forwards from the IYFF

2014 has been declared as the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF). As this year closes, it is timely to take stock of how gender dynamics and women’s rights have been considered in the framework of studies and activities related to the IYFF, and what lessons can be learned for addressing gender issues in family farming going forwards.

Crucial in this context are the assumptions related to the idea and definition of family and family roles, dynamics and structures. Family arrangements can vary (and change) according to family specificities and features at different times (total number of members, number of generations, numbers of adults and children involved in domestic/farming tasks, numbers of women and men involved, other family income sources, literacy and education levels, etc.). All this matters very much from a gender perspective. 

Gender issues such as these have been given some attention in the framework of studies and activities related to the IYFF, but in a context of strong concerns about land grabbing and food security, the debate has tended to focus on small farmers as a whole vs corporate capital and large farms.

In order to bring more attention to gender dynamics and women’s rights as the IYFF draws to a close, a discussion paper was conceived, based on the ILC case studies commissioned for this IYFF (all the papers published in the framework of this project are available here). Among these, three in particular, from ChinaIndia and Nicaragua, incorporate attention to gender issues in a positive way, and are strongly grounded in empirical fieldwork. The discussion paper explores the lessons from these case studies within the context of other studies and activities focused on family farming throughout the year, and set against the background of an extensive historical literature on gender dynamics within farming families.

Using this discussion paper as a point of departure, ILC will launch an open online debate/discussion hosted by the Land Portal  (from Dec. 10 until Dec. 19) with the aim of provoking more thought and engagement on how to address gender dynamics and women’s rights in all policy-making and interventions around family farming.

Following the online discussion we will publish a revised version of the discussion paper with a summary of the key points raised and recommendations made by those participating.

Please read the discussion paper and share your thoughts on the following questions:

  • What assumptions are made in discussions of family farming about the structure of families and their internal dynamics and composition? 
  • What importance is given to different types of productive and reproductive (unpaid care) work within families?
  • What lessons can we learn from historical experience and from the existing body of knowledge and literature on the complexities of rural households and farming families?
  • How can women’s issues be properly addressed in the policy and intervention framework of family farming?

We invite and urge you to participate in this discussion. We look forward to a stimulating debate, and in particular hope that you will share your knowledge, experience and perspectives on these complex but so critical issues.

How can I contribute?

You can participate by leaving a comment on this page. We encourage you to join the Land Portal for future debates! If you have problems posting, please send us an e-mail (

 ILC Secretariat