An Open Letter of Thanks to Small Farmers Worldwide

M.J. Altman
October 16, 2014
Photo: WFP/Henry Bongyereirwe

Gary from Missouri—WFP USA supporter (and uncle of WFP USA’s own Lauren Parks!)—shares his #FarmerSelfie to show his appreciation for his fellow farmers around the world.

“Glad to help from rural America. We feed the world.” 

This World Food Day, my colleagues and I are toasting the farmers who grow our food while remembering the 800 million people worldwide who go to bed hungry each night.

This year’s theme focuses on family farms, which produce more than 80% of the world’s crops, according to the Food And Agirculture Organization of the United Nations. Yet small farmers in low-income countries make up more than half of the planet’s hungry people—largely because they lack the infrastructure, support and training needed to be successful.

That’s why the United Nations World Food Programme launched Purchase 4 Progress in 2008 to boost harvests in 20 of the world’s poorest countries. The program provides farmers like Grimsdale Chiokoma Chonpure in Zambia, below, with smarter seeds, better tools and improved infrastructure, including water reservoirs, irrigation canals and warehouses.

Zambian farmer Grimsdale Chiokoma Chonpure used to till his fields by hand using an ox-drawn cart until WFP’s P4P program provided valuable tools to help him modernize his operation. (Photo by WFP/Sophia Robele) 

In addition, WFP works with women’s agricultural associations in countries like Mozambique, Ethiopia and Liberia to promote gender equality and develop leadership skills. If female farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million.

Whenever possible, WFP also uses locally grown ingredients to source its School Meals program, which not only feeds hungry children in the world’s poorest classrooms, but also supports small farmers. Known as “homegrown school meals,” this approach boosts incomes by creating a stable, reliable buyer for their crops.

The future of agriculture—indeed the entire world—will depend on helping small farmers across the planet. By 2050, the global population is projected to reach nearly 9 billion. Feeding that many people means farmers will need to grow more food than has been produced in all of human history.

So today we’re asking our supporters to join us by posting a selfie or a photo of their favorite farmer on Instagram to show their appreciation for the men and women who work the land. When you share your photo, tell us why you support small farmers worldwide and tag it with #FarmerSelfie and #ToastAFarmer.

For my part, I’m toasting small farmers because I grew up watching the hard work and dedication of my Grandpa, below, who has been growing corn and soybeans in central Illinois for more than 60 years.


The author’s Grandpa, William, shares his #ToastAFarmer photo during the harvest in Illinois.

“Proud to share this day with farmers across the world. It’s one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs out there.”

Today, remember that behind every meal is a farmer.

To the families from Kansas to Kenya who work in acres not hours, thank you for the food we eat.

*MJ Altman was the editorial director for WFP USA from 2014-2018.