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farmers meeting

Poor farmers' groups: small is beautiful

In a village in Sri Lanka, some of the poorest women bring handfuls of rice to meetings of the local farmers' group. They throw the rice into a budket, which forms the group's savings. The rice is then sold at the local market to help fund group activities.

This simple sequence of events symbolized the "bottom-up approach" of FAO's People's Participation Programme. In Sri Lanka, poor farmers were encouraged to form informal groups of from eight to 15 people, organized around income-generating activities that the groups themselves identified such as land reclamation or small-scale processing. Specially trained group promoters taught members how to gain economic advantages by, for example, buying fertilizer in bulk and marketing crops together.

Almost 4 000 poor farmers, aided by village and district boards, participated in the Sri Lanka project. Similar small group approaches have helped landless farmers in Ghana, small-scale dair producers in Ecuador and poor fishing communities in Tanzania


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