"Family farmers feed our communities and take care of our earth - they are crucial allies in the fight against hunger and rural poverty," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
By gathering digitised information on family farming from all over the world - including public programs, national and regional legislation, up-to-date statistics, case studies and academic research - the new Family Farming Knowledge Platform will allow governments to build stronger policies in support of family farmers and help policy dialogue with family farmers' organisations.
"There was a need to share knowledge on family farming-on the different kinds of policies that governments have implemented and the numerous activities of family farmers and their organisations in the field," said Francesco Pierri, Chief of the Advocacy Unit in FAO's Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development.
"There is a lot of information available on the web, but it's scattered - we wanted one single access point for all the information out there, for anybody working in this field to use," he added.
The initiative is among the main legacies of last year's International Year of Family Farming (IYFF), which put the spotlight on the contributions and struggles of family farmers in the global challenge to feed a growing population of 9 billion by 2050.
The platform will benefit from the collaboration of partnerships with diverse international entities including governments, family farmers' networks, UN agencies, NGOs and research organisations.
Governments will be a key partner in the initiative by providing a large portion of the content for the platform's legal database that allows users to browse through a catalogue of family farming-related policies and programs per country.
After successfully establishing the platform as an international information point, a second phase will expand the initiative to also host online policy dialogues.
Why family farmers
Family farms are owned or managed by families who depend predominantly on family labour.
While the category is diverse, including not only crop but also fisheries, forestry and livestock production, the vast majority are smallholders or peasant farmers - today, some 72 per cent of farms in the world are smaller than one hectare and only 6 per cent are bigger than five hectares.
They are essential to local food security and balanced diets and play a key role in maintaining biodiversity by preserving traditional food products.
They support the sustainable use of natural resources and are frequently seen as holding the key to breaking cycles of rural poverty because of their potential to boost local economies and family incomes.
Since the launch of the 2014 International Year of Family Farming, FAO and various partners recognised the need for a more permanent vehicle to address family farming issues and support policy makers in building strong strategies to fight hunger and make agriculture more sustainable.
In addition to the global challenge posed by climate change, common obstacles for family farmers include limited access to land, credit and technology and poor basic services like water, sanitation and electricity.
The new platform will continue the global conversation that was started with the international year and support knowledge-based action that helps family farmers keep communities food secure into the future.