Family farming at the 33rd FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean

The topic of family farming emerged throughout the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Santiago last week including at a side event specifically dedicated to family farming, which took place on 8 May.

The side event's main objectives included:

1. Supporting the development of agricultural, environmental and social policies conducive to sustainable family farming
2. Increasing knowledge, communication and public awareness
3. Gaining a better understanding of family farmers' needs, their potential and limitations, and ensuring technical support
4. Creating synergies for sustainability

Family farming is key to achieving the eradication of hunger and the sustainable development of agriculture.

In the region, family farmers produce the majority of food for local consumption, quantities which often exceed the needs of the entire region.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, 80% of all holdings are family farms; consequently the achievement of agricultural development and sustainable use of natural resources depends entirely on them.  Working with family farmers who develop diversified agriculture, forestry, aquaculture and livestock activities is crucial to achieving these aims, while conserving the world's biodiversity and tackling poverty and food insecurity.

It is also important to note that the family farming sector is the main source of employment in the region generating stability and new opportunities especially for youth in rural areas. 

In recent years, governments in Latin America and the Caribbean have started investing in family farming's enormous potential. This conference offered governments the opportunity to take a fresh look at the sector: family farming is no longer to be considered a synonym of poverty but a major ally in the eradication of hunger and poverty.

Family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean - initiatives and priorities

  • Chile - Strengthen the links between smallholders and other actors in the agricultural value chain to give more value to its production by developing programmes to enable water recovery and improve access to this key resource.
  • Nicaragua - Invest in services and programmes to protect this sector which is the main economic driver in the country.  Investments will include the improvement of road infrastructure, access to technology, education and health, as well as improving costs and family farmers' incomes (80% of producers are smallholders in Nicaragua).
  • Brazil - Governmental agricultural policies have been adapted to the specific needs of family farmers in Brazil.  Programmes such as the Food Acquisition Programme (PAA) and agro-industrialization initiatives where there is a strong link between social, agricultural and political marketing as well a strong civil society involvement.  Public procurement is one of the top priorities on Brazil's agenda. As Joao Intini, Director of the National Supply Company (Conab) said "we want to buy more products and better quality products from family farmers”.
  • Barbados- Assisting family farmers to gain access to markets. FAO has been working with Barbados in the establishment of a market information system to quantify what is being produced, how much, and when it is going to be harvested. In addition, FAO is helping to enhance the food security side and has given technical assistance in setting up food zones in Barbados. Barbados is now 'zoning land' by defining particular areas to dedicate solely to food production. In Barbados, 85% of landowners are family farmers.

Read the complete 33rd FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean Journal (in Spanish only) here:

Latin America and the Caribbean without Hunger, 7 May 2014

Family farming and sustainable development, 8 May 2014

Inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems, 9 May 2014