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FAO’s role in strengthening rural institutions and organizations

Effective institutional frameworks and efficient rural organizations are critical for increasing agricultural productivity and profitability, and empowering small producers and family farmers. Strengthening rural institutions and developing organizational capacity at local and national level are therefore central to FAO’s efforts for ending hunger and reducing rural poverty.

Reducing rural poverty

The majority of the rural poor are small family farmers, fishers, livestock and forest users. They remain trapped in poverty for reasons of limited assets, and lack of access to productive resources, efficient services and markets. Rural organizations, whether formal or informal, empower smallholders and improve their access to inputs, resources, services and markets. They provide means for the rural poor to make their voices heard and influence policies.

Being marginalized and geographically dispersed, small producers have high transaction costs, and limited capacity to compete in markets, negotiate their rights, and participate in decision-making.

When small producers act collectively through smallholder organizations, natural resource users’ groups, women and youth associations, and other forms of rural organizations, they can reinforce their capacities, and benefit of wider social and economic opportunities.

FAO works with member countries and development partners to develop conducive policy and regulatory frameworks, innovative institutional arrangements, and functional rural organizations that enable small producers and family farmers to overcome social, political and economic barriers, and seize wider development opportunities.

As part of an integrated approach to reducing rural poverty, FAO’s efforts focus on supporting member countries to:

  1. Promote and strengthen collective action of small producers and family farmers to improve their access to resources, services, technologies and markets, and their participation in decision making.
  2. Support gender-sensitive institutional and organizational development to improve performance, equity, governance and economic viability of rural organizations and service providers. 
  3. Identify and promote good practices on effective institutional arrangements, involving public and private actors, for strengthening rural organizations and enhancing small producers’ productivity and livelihoods.
  4. Develop an enabling environment for effective rural institutions and organizations, including gender-sensitive policy and regulatory frameworks, and inclusive mechanisms for policy dialogue and people’s participation.
  5. Support the inclusion of rural stakeholders and local rural actors, with attention to the most vulnerable, in investment design and implementation by use of pro-poor social analysis.

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