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The rights we enjoy as a matter of course are a remote prospect for millions of smallholders and agricultural workers. Three quarters of the world’s poor and malnourished live in rural areas. The UN Human Rights Council adopted a declaration on the rights of small-scale farmers in 2018

Its aim is to promote the enforcement of human rights in rural areas. Unfortunately Germany abstained from voting, despite many appeals to lend its support to the UN declaration, as did most of the other EU states.

Small-scale farmers and agricultural workers struggle to survive

Small-scale farmers and people working and living in a rural environment produce some 70% of our food. For their pains they are not only not offered any assistance, but are instead greatly hampered in their work. They receive only restricted access to natural resources such as land and water and the appropriate technologies, and in most cases do not benefit from any advisory services. Subsidised food products from the industrialised nations flood local markets, the farmers often have to defend their land from seizure by third parties (land theft), and all too often it is transnational enterprises which control the supply chains from field to shelf. Add to this climate change, which is making an already difficult situation all the more precarious. Most small-scale farmers are women but few of them have title to the land they work on.

A viable future for rural agriculture

Small-scale farming is more than a purely economic activity. The eco-friendly farm-management methods employed improve the food situation, reduce poverty and mitigate the affects of climate change. It was not for nothing that the United Nations have already declared the years 2019 – 2028 the “Decade of  Family Farming”. This once again confirms that small-scale farming is a viable alternative to industrial agriculture, a system which has inflicted devastating damage on the environment. However, standard trading and agricultural policies still encourage large-scale industrial agricultural enterprises, even though it is primarily smallholders who feed the world. They are the very backbone of the world’s food production.

Naturland Fair gives priority to smallholders

This is why from its inception Naturland’s commitment to organic agriculture not only focused on the global aspect, but wove close ties with fair trade organisations, reflecting the importance it attaches to this in its certification to the “Naturland Fair” standards. When purchasing raw goods from economically disadvantaged regions, businesses which sell products certified to the “Naturland Fair” standards consider and give preference to goods produced by smallholder organisations. By favouring fair trade organic products, these businesses campaign for the removal of political and economic hurdles which hamper the development of small-scale farmers. They also help the growers’ organisations by providing educational and informational resources, and they represent their interests in the public sphere.

Naturland combines organic agriculture with social responsibility

Unfortunately there is often no guarantee that basic human rights are upheld, particularly so with regard to agricultural supply chains. Naturland recognised this early on, prompting it to introduce standards on social responsibility into its organic standards back in 2005, ensuring that the social conditions in all farms and processing facilities certified to the Naturland standards are covered for compliance with its organic standards during inspection throughout the world. Naturland’s standards on social responsibility govern working conditions and worker protection, in alignment with the UN conventions on human rights and children’s rights and the core labour standards of the ILO (International Labour Organisation). These include the prohibition of exploitative child labour and of all forms of forced labour, assurance of the freedom of assembly and access to trade unions. Further aspects are measures to be adopted to protect health and safety at the workplace, and opportunities for further education.

UN Declaration on the rights of peasants formally adopted by General Assembly | National Farmers Union (