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In Italy-funded programme, organized small farmers become entrepreneurs

At the opening of World Food Week, FAO highlights the success of the Italy-funded Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture Programme

Photo: ©FAO/Alessandra Benedetti
Lessons can be drawn from Italian initiative for focusing and scaling up, said FAO Deputy Director-General for Natural Resources Maria Helena Semedo

Rome, 14 October 2013 – At a side event on the first day of World Food Week, FAO today showcased the success of Italy-funded projects in East Africa, West Africa, Central America and the Caribbean that are transforming smallholder and family farms into small businesses.

The Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture programme has been ongoing in 34 countries since 2006, under the technical guidance of FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division. To date, countries have benefitted from nearly $50 million in support focusing mainly on policy guidance, capacity development and transfer of modern technologies and best practices.

Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General for Natural Resources said, in opening the event on behalf of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, “The Food Security through Commercialization of Agriculture (FCSA) Programme is of major importance to FAO. Its  achievements contribute directly to FAO’s new strategic vision for ending hunger and achieving sustainable development.  The program’s focus on enabling more inclusive and efficient agriculture and food systems at local, national and international levels underscores FAO’s new Strategic Framework to strengthen support to Member Countries’ fight against hunger.”

In a world where 842 million people still go hungry, but the food the world produces is sufficient, Semedo said, the problem is not supply of food.

The problem of hunger today and the solutions to hunger are different from anything from the past. Globalization has resulted in more tightly integrated supply chains and markets, sometimes requiring heavy investment in technology, from which smallholders and family farms are increasingly excluded.

“Increasing family farmers and smallholder producers’ participation in food and agricultural systems is critical to achieving FAO’s goal of a world without hunger,” Semedo said.

Giampaolo Cantini, Director General of Development Cooperation in Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “The figures [on global hunger] provide us with a little scarier picture. We cannot close our eyes. And thus we cannot avoid rethinking and reinventing the overall approach to food security by taking into account the entire complexity of food systems.”

This approach raises household income, supports sustainable use of natural resources, creates dignified rural employment, reduces food wastage and thus increases food and nutrition security. In a difficult global economic context, Semedo said, FAO is encouraging all partners to concentrate resources and efforts on successful initiatives that promote inclusiveness of smallholders in agrifood chains. Since more than 70 percent of people who are food insecure live in the rural areas of developing countries, this is all the more crucial.

Bright Rwamirama, Uganda’s Minister of Agriculture, noted that a key to the success of FSCA is the fact that it closely integrates the aims of the country’s own policies and strategies for development. The areas of action and the objectives mirror national policies. Rwamirama noted that the project resulted in a 30-35 percent increase in transactions for farmers’ organizations and an increase of 30 percent in household incomes.

Winston Magloire, from the Ministry of Agriculture of the Caribbean island nation Dominica, highlighted the development of pineapple value chains in his country as a key success under FSCA. As in other countries, training of farmers in modern techniques and technologies, supporting their organization into farmers’ groups and cooperatives, and facilitating their interaction with processor and consumer organizations has enabled local pineapple producers to compete with global brands in the wider Caribbean region.

Jorge Alberto Salinas Rodriquez, Director of El Salvador’s Office of Planning and Public Policy in the Ministry of Agriculture, reported similar outcomes from the programme in his country. Training, capacity building, and strengthening farmers’ groups and their links with traders and industry resulted in a profit increase of 50 percent for producers of jocote, an indigenous fruit and edible loroco flowers, while plantain farmers saw an increase in profit of 80 percent. Moreover, he said, the links between primary producers and traders meant that new niche markets were opened: jellies and jams, drinks and plantain flour are just a few examples where farmers can now leverage a new business opportunity that was going unmet.