The Harvest of Hope initiative is a vegetable box scheme in Cape Town, South Africa, set up as a social enterprise by a local NGO. By promoting ecological urban farming, Abalimi Bezekhaya (meaning ‘Farmers of Home’ in Xhosa) improves income and household food security, and empowers disadvantaged households by building their confidence and capacities in farming. Building a sense of place and strengthening community ties, neither so common in South Africa’s urban areas, are keys for success of this approach.

As cities continue to expand and ever more people migrate to urban areas, current unsustainable patterns of urbanisation and ineffective policies are no longer acceptable. The typical approaches that maintain the separation between rural and urban neglect all of the ways that connect both worlds. And nowhere else are rural and urban areas more linked than within the food system.

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Butana is a dry plateau in northern Sudan, east of the river Nile. Covering 65,000 square kilometres, less than 10% can be described as ‘woodland’ in the vaguest sense of the word, and even these trees are disappearing rapidly. The Butana Integrated Rural Development Project began in 2008 with the aim of supporting the livelihoods of poor family farmers by strengthening their resilience in the face of recurrent droughts. And improving tree cover was a key means of achieving this.

One way that family farmers improve their resilience to both climatic and economic shocks is to diversify what is produced. More and different crops and livestock, particularly local varieties and breeds are being promoted. Two other options stand out too – bees and trees. These have the added advantages of complementing the production of agricultural crops and enhancing the agroecosystem. In Zimbabwe, the Ruzivo Trust has been promoting beekeeping, and the results are showing the sweet taste of success. Bees can help farmers break out of poverty.

India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is the largest public-works based employment programme in the world. Unanimously enacted by the Indian parliament in 2005, implementation began in February 2006. With an annual budget of six billion US dollars, it now supports some fifty million rural people – larger than the population of Senegal, Mali and Niger combined. This article focuses on the successes, issues and potential of the Act to improve the well being of workers and family farmers.

Near Cochabamba in Bolivia’s Andean high plateau, a group of agroecological farmers are leading the way by developing and sharing innovative practices that help their communities break out of the vicious cycle of increased poverty and vulnerability. But challenges remain. Read this story published in Farming Matters, June 2014.

The Alentejo is the largest and poorest region of Portugal. Cooperatives and other social initiatives that arose after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 were later closed under pressure from the European Union. It was hoped that massive investments would make Portugal a role model for economic development, but the financial crisis has revealed the flaws in those dreams. And more complex legal regulations make life even harder for traditional small scale producers. However, they continue to use and defend local markets even in the face of criminalisation.

In August 2012, the Seidu family had to cope with the bad harvest. Like many farming families in northern Ghana, they had to adopt the ‘one-zero-one’ strategy for the children and the ‘zero-zero-one’ strategy for themselves. ‘One’ represents a meal, ‘zero’ is no meal. So during the lean season, their four children had breakfast in the morning, nothing at midday, and a meal in the evening.

Land is more than a production resource. In the rural areas of countries like Nepal it determines an individual’s socio-economic status, and is therefore strongly related to power issues. Landlessness and insecure land ownership are the major causes of poverty, social injustice and food insecurity. Tackling these issues therefore means influencing policies in favour of more land rights.

Since the mid-1990s, the International Land Coalition (ILC) has been working to promote equitable and secure access to land for poor men and women in order to combat poverty and achieve food security. With more than 120 institutional members, the Coalition is committed to amplifying the voices of civil society organisations so that they can contribute to both the international debate on
land and to national land processes.