World Food Day | Who really feeds us?

October 16, 2021
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This World Food Day, we’re celebrating the people who really feed the world: small-scale family farmers.

World Food Day | Who really feeds the world? - photo of two women, one older and one younger, crouching behind baskets and gourd bowls full of different kinds of seeds.
Sitan Diarra and Sitan Coulibaly, small-scale family farmers in Mali

“How will we feed the world?” is a question you’ve probably heard. The global population is growing and we need to double our food production to keep up – right?

Actually, no.

Today’s industrial food system produces a lot of food, much of which is wasted. Dig a little and you’ll find hunger is not about food scarcity – it’s about injustice in the way land and food are shared. Expanding industrial agriculture won’t address the root causes of hunger.

This World Food Day, we’re celebrating the people who really feed us: small-scale family farmers.

Scroll through the images below to learn a bit more about the people who nourish the world.


Show your support for these farmers this World Food Day. Donate today!


World Food Day - Who really feeds the world?  The vast majority of the world's farms are small  94% of farms are 5 hectares or less

This World Food Day remember, the vast majority of farms are small. Ninety-four per cent of farms are five hectares or less, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

But depending on the country/context, the definition of a “small farm” can vary widely. But even looking at the world’s smallest farms (less than two hectares), they make up 84 per cent of all farms.

World Food Day - Who really feeds the world?  2.5 billion people live or work on small family farms  That’s nearly 1 in 3 people

Agriculture provides livelihoods for 2.5 billion people, and is the largest source of income and jobs for poor, rural households, according to the FAO and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

World Food Day - Who really feeds the world?  Small-scale farmers grow 70% of the world’s food  on 25% of the world's agricultural land

Small-scale farmers* grow 70 per cent of the world’s food on 25 per cent of the world’s agricultural land.

Conversely, the large-scale, industrial food system uses 75 per cent of the world’s agricultural land while only providing 30 per cent of the world’s food AND destroying 75 billion tonnes of topsoil annually, cutting down 7.5 million hectares of forest and accounting for most of the world’s agricultural fossil fuel use. ETC Group estimates that only a quarter of this food actually makes it to people’s plates.

* small-scale producers, usually family- or women-led, that include farmers, livestock-keepers, pastoralists, hunters, gatherers, fishers and urban and peri-urban producers. This definition from ETC Group includes not only those who control their own production resources, but also those who work for others to produce and supply food, and who have often been dispossessed of their land.

World Food Day - Who really feeds the world?  2.1 million crop varieties  have been bred by farmers saving seeds

Generations of small family farmers, seed savers and food providers have bred 2.1 million varieties of 7,000 crop species.

These are the people responsible for stewarding the immense diversity of food we have today!