Ten Maltese farmers: their passion for agriculture given life by Zammit Lupi photo exhibition

Friends of the Earth Malta (FoEM) collaborate with Darrin Zammit Lupi to present a photo exhibition showcasing the Malta’s smallholder farming community, as well as an online quiz to help us examine our knowledge of the existing legislation

In less than twelve months, the EU’s revised CAP will be enacted, designed to provide lasting benefits and sustainability for European member states at a time of increased focus on climate change and food security, as well as placing additional emphasis on climate justice — an increasingly critical objective aiming to prioritise smallholder (and, in particular, young) farmers and agroecological practises.  

The EU lists several primary objectives for the revised CAP agreement, including ensuring a fair income for farmers, increased sector competitiveness, improving the position of farmers in the EU’s food chain, targeted action on climate change, environmental protection (including the preservation of biodiversity), supporting generational renewal, ensuring and improving the vibrancy of rural areas, protecting food and health quality and fostering increased knowledge and innovation.  

As the EU’s smallest member state, Malta’s adoption of the revised CAP and associated European Green Deal and Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies stand to impact the country’s farming community in a deep and profound way.

In many ways, Malta may be viewed as a microcosm of the wider challenges facing the EU, with issues such as urban sprawl, sector support and an ageing farmer demographic liable to affect the country considerably.  

Under the revised CAP proposals, from the budget of €207.5 billion allocated to farmer income support, 10% of this budget will be directed at small-holder farmers, with 3% made available to young farmers. Both of these measures are desperately needed, with statistics revealing that despite producing the vast majority of food — 70% globally (when taking into account all farmers around the world) — between 2005 and 2016, the number of farms measuring under 50 hectares decreased by 29.4% in the EU. With other factors including a reduced income for smallholder famers (estimated to be 50% lower than the average salary), and a diminishing number of young people choosing farming as a career, the EU’s vital network of smallholdings is facing a potentially existential struggle.  

In parallel with these concerns, CAP also aims to address one of the world’s most pressing issues — climate change and, in particular, the vital reforms needed to combat it.

Based on recent estimates, agriculture accounts for 10.3% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, when examined in greater detail, it becomes apparent that the distribution within this figure remains imbalanced, with the majority of emissions contributed by large-scale industrial farms.

When combined with the fact that these farms enjoy the lion’s share of existing CAP funds (which are allocated according to size) — research shows that the top 20% of farms by size receive 80% of funding, with the top 2% (equal to approximately 121,000 farms) receiving 30% of available funds — the ability of regulators to force climate action in the agricultural sector remains limited.

In addition, the supplementing of large-scale farms further contributes to the erosion of smallholder farming, with bigger farms able to more easily compete due to their size and the economy of scale afforded by larger production and increased purchasing power.

This disproportionate weighting in funding also translates to increased financial power for industrial farming lobbyists, with all of these factors combining to create a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges facing both smallholder farmers, and the planet.  

Despite these difficulties, those committed to smallholder farming remain passionate about their occupation. Seen as a vital part of the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy, smallholder farms — sufficiently supported and, ideally, expanded — have the potential to increase agricultural employment, promote less intensive and more environmentally-friendly farming methods, shorten supply chains and guarantee long-term food security.

As part of the campaign surrounding the revised CAP, Friends of the Earth Malta has teamed up with the renowned Maltese photographer, Darrin Zammit Lupi, to present a photo exhibition which aims to shine a light on the lives of ten Maltese farmers. The exhibition will take place from 6th to 15th May in Valletta’s Republic Street, and between 26th and 29th May at Ghar id-Dud in Sliema, and features scannable QR codes that provide further information about the farmers’ stories.  

This exhibition is part of FoEM’s project entitled “Bring the dialogue – Green European DEAL and the CAP”, which highlights the importance of local agriculture and how policies affect the food that is produced. The exhibition is managed and curated by Samira Damato, farmer stories primarily compiled or written by Maria Eileen Fsadni, with structural design provided by Tom van Malderen and the site’s construction completed by Kiet Bonnici.

The exhibition will present portraits and stories of farmers in Malta, featuring three photos of each of the ten farmers exhibited. The individual stories focus on the farmers’ background, their passion for agriculture and their struggles in the sector, and provides context for the wider agricultural situation in Malta and Europe as well as how CAP affects farmers & biodiversity.  

In addition, FoEM is also running an online quiz to help raise awareness of the measures included in the revised legislation, as well highlight the important issues facing farmers and test our knowledge of the existing framework.

They are offering a €100 gift voucher to two lucky participants, which may be used to purchase local, fair trade and organic produce from local suppliers Core Green and The Veg Box. To learn which fruits and vegetables are currently in season in Malta, see this guide for details.  

While clearly a step in the right direction, the question remains as to whether the revised CAP agreement will go far enough in effecting real and sustainable change in Europe’s agricultural sector. The reality is that unless we radically rethink our strategy and long-term goals concerning farming in the EU, the continent runs the risk of not only failing to address the key challenges of climate change, but, in the worst-case scenario, exacerbating the problem it is trying to avoid. Only by engaging with these issues in a transparent and effective manner can we hope to avoid the most damaging effects of climate change, and support the continued existence of the smallholder farming community that remains the backbone of European agriculture.  

To find out more about Friends of the Earth Malta, visit their official website, and to view the images from the exhibition online, see here.