Recognizing Family Farmers on World Food Day

Today Heifer International is standing with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to celebrate World Food Day, a day of action against hunger. The theme, “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth” is one that highlights our 70 years of experience with family farmers the world over. 

Since 1944,Heifer has been putting the power to produce more food into the hands of smallholder farmers to feed themselves and their communities. Heifer founder Dan West’s observation—that poor families needed cows, not cups of milk—paved the way for our organization to serve more than 20 million families.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, family farming includes all family-based agricultural activities. Family farming is a means of organizing agricultural, forestry, fisheries, pastoral and aquaculture production, which is managed and operated by a family and is predominantly reliant on family labor. 

Research conducted by the FAO in more than 93 countries shows family farmers account for an average of 80 percent of all holdings and are the main producers of food that is consumed locally. Heifer project families know this reality well.

Recently leaders at Heifer started to question the assumption that we have helped lift a family out of poverty by improving their incomes by a certain percent. The global extreme poverty level of $1.25 per person per day is not the yardstick by which we should measure the success of our work. If a family’s annual income is $600, and we double it, that’s not enough if a decent standard of living where they live costs $6,000 a year. 

Program officers at Heifer are researching, on a country-by-country basis, how much a family needs to earn to afford a dignified life, and how far from that number Heifer participant families live. It’s going to be a radical shift, requiring us to examine how much our interventions move the dial on income. It could be as simple as providing families with six beehives instead of only two, or as complex as redesigning entire programs.

This World Food Day, we are celebrating the family farmers we work with both at home and abroad, and working to raise awareness that what they do matters to all of us.


Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. For 70 years, training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 30 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit, read our blog, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or call 888.5HUNGER (888.548.6437).


Allison Stephens

Public Relations