Family agriculture generate most of the food in the region, especially food that is intended for domestic markets, but poverty affects almost half of all rural inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean, says the FAO.
According to estimates made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in Latin American and the Caribbean there are 16.5 million family agricultural farms: nearly 80% of the total.
Occupying more than 60 million people, this sector is the main source of agricultural and rural employment, but also is concentrated with high levels of hunger and poverty.
The Regional Representative of the FAO, Raul Benitez, said that “to eradicate hunger in the region we must strengthen family agriculture and create inclusive agro-food systems.”
Benitez called to fight rural poverty and strengthen programs of social protection and rural development during a meeting that analyzed the progress of the main regional agreement to combat hunger: the Plan for Food Security, Nutrition, and the Eradication of Hunger 2025 of CELAC.
“We must prevent that those who produce our food are among those that suffer most from hunger and poverty in the region,” added Benitez.
Benitez stressed that the CELAC food security plan calls on countries to improve labor markets and give strong support to family agriculture.
Within the framework of the plan, the region believes there should be a network of public systems for the supplying and marketing of foods that acquires products from family agriculture.
In addition, multiple countries are generating links between social programs and school feeding with the associations of family agriculture.
The poverty of our food producers
ECLAC estimated that 46% of the rural population in the region lives in poverty and nearly 28% in extreme poverty. In comparison, in urban areas, poverty and extreme poverty levels reach 24% and 8%, respectively.
Farmers and family farmers recorded some of the highest levels of poverty found in the region. At the beginning of 2000, more than 80% of poor households in Bolivia, Honduras, and Nicaragua were poor households engaged in family agriculture.
However, the FAO said that since 2012 there has been a reduction in poverty in the categories related to agriculture in the region, although there is significant differences between countries.
In the case of agricultural workers, their own poverty decreased mainly in Chile and Brazil, countries recognized for their policies of support and inclusion of family agriculture.
“Brazil and Chile demonstrate that this sector has enormous unexplored potential, and that with the right policies, farming happens to be part of the solution to hunger rather than part of the problem,” explained Benitez.
Internationalizing family agriculture production
In the framework of the CELAC food security plan, the FAO and the Latin American Integration Association, ALADI, are supporting cooperatives and associations of family agriculture to internationalize their products.
“Many times, farming can meet all the necessary conditions to export their products, but they don’t have the necessary support require, so foreign markets appear to be unattainable,” explained Benitez.
Representatives of more than 44 cooperatives and associations of small producers from 16 countries already participated in a first training course in Montevido, where they learned business intelligence tools that will allow them to identify access conditions to intra-regional markets.
According to the FAO, the strengthening of production and organization capacities in farming, as well as their participation in markets of different scales, are key for the regional move toward inclusive food systems that contribute to proper nutrition.
“Family agriculture has the potential to commercialize products, fresh or processed but maintaining their nutritional quality,” said Benitez.
There are successful cases of agricultural SMEs with expertise in domestic and international markets, whose products are relevant to food security in the region.
Such is the case of the Corporation of Bio-Organic Producers and Marketers Taita Chimborazo of Ecuador (COPROBICH), which is certified to directly produce and market quinoa to six countries.
This SME not only provides a food originating in the region to multiple countries, but it has sold up to 20 tons to the Government program Alimentate Ecuador.
According to the FAO, an important aspect for the inclusion of family agriculture in the markets is strengthening its movement toward forming associations.
An example of this is the recent formalization of the Andean Producers of Quinoa, formed by associations of producers in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru, which aims to sustainably contribute to the productive and commercial partnership in the quinoa chain.