Latin American and Caribbean governments promote the development of family farming to achieve zero hunger

Family farming and local rural development is one of the three priorities that governments in the region established for the FAO work plan.

Governments in Latin America and the Caribbean showed their commitment to the fight against hunger by establishing family farming as one of the three regional priorities of the FAO work plan during the Organization's Regional Conference, held last week in Santiago de Chile.

According to a new FAO publication, the sector covers more than 16 million farms and 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, which when added to its contribution in terms of rural employment and food production makes it a genuine pillar of food security.

“Family farming is not only about the livelihood of rural families in situations of poverty, but is also an area of food security, partnerships and opportunities for inclusive rural development”, emphasized Nadine Heredia, First Lady of Peru, during the FAO Regional Conference.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean, hunger eradication and sustainable development is essentially all about family farming”, explained the FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva.

Chilean Minister of Agriculture, Carlos Furche, stressed that during the International Year of Family Farming 2014, IYFF: “The Chilean government aims to strengthen connections between smallholders and other links in the chain to add value to their production”.

The Argentine Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Carlos Casamiquela, also commented that: “Sixty-five percent of Argentine producers are family farmers, and produce 20 percent of the agricultural GDP, which makes this an important sector for our country in terms of society, the economy, land occupation and labour use”.

Mirna Cunningham, an IYFF Special Ambassador, referred to the importance of family farming to the indigenous peoples of the region: “It is very important for the 40 million inhabitants of the region, from over 600 indigenous groups, who help supply the food produced”.

A pillar of regional food security

The new book Agricultura Familiar en América Latina y el Caribe: Recomendaciones de Política (Family Farming in Latin America and the Caribbean: Policy Recommendations) contains best practices and experiences to help governments plan specific policies to enable the sector to fulfil its potential.

“Family farming is a key sector for achieving hunger eradication and a shift towards sustainable farming systems in Latin America and the Caribbean and throughout the world”, explained Raúl Benítez, FAO Regional Representative.

Family farming is a key sector of agricultural production in the Caribbean and the FAO is supporting governments in this subregion. “Eighty-five percent of the landowners in Barbados are family farmers, and the government is giving assistance to small producers to help them have access to markets. The FAO has worked with us with respect to establishing our market information system, which is critical for linking production with demand”, explained David Estwick, Minister of Agriculture of Barbados, during the Regional Conference.

The Nicaraguan Minister of the National System of Production, Consumption and Trade, Bosco Castillo, stressed that his own government also places special emphasis on family farming: “In Nicaragua, because 80 percent of producers are small-scale, we focus on them in particular. We try to improve their costs and yields and create the necessary conditions for their development, such as road infrastructure, access to technology, education and health”.

Sector statistics

  • Family farming accounts for approximately 80 percent of farms in the region.
  • It contributes high production percentages: from 27 percent in Chile, up to 67 percent in Nicaragua.
  • At national level, it occupies between 12 percent and 67 percent of agricultural land.
  • It generates between 57 percent and 77 percent of agricultural employment in the region.