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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Supporting small-scale agriculture
10/18/2012
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Farmer and family production is main source of food for millions of people.

According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, or FAO, although Latin America and the Caribbean produce enough food to meet the needs of its 600 million inhabitants, 49 million people continue to suffer from hunger.

While in the last 20 years Latin America and the Caribbean has been the region of the world with the largest recorded improvements in hunger reduction, the governments of the region continue to support agricultural exports, leaving behind small-scale agriculture, which is main source of food for millions of people and generates high levels of employment in rural areas.

As part of World Food Day, celebrated on Oct. 16, the FAO asked national authorities to support small-scale farmers, who are the world’s main food producers at affordable prices.

“In the last three decades, national investments in agriculture and development have decreased, and millions of small farmers have had to fight to adapt to many changes: climate, market and price,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO’s director-general.

The international humanitarian organization Oxfam also called for the support of small-scale agriculture that guarantees food security and urged Latin American governments to change their focus in agricultural policies, now centered on boosting food exports because of profitability.

Antonio Hill, the representative for Latin America from Oxfam’s CRECE Campaign, a campaign directed to boost small-scale agriculture, insisted that the governments of the region should take advantage of “the current economic growth that many countries are experiencing, adding to the 2013 budgets an increase in investment in family and rural agriculture, especially in women, who have much potential to increase their productivity in a sustainable way. This is the most viable change to eliminate hunger in the region.”

“Small-scale agriculture has to be viewed as profitable, first because it is the food pantry of the people in the region, and second, because it continues to be an important source of employment. Strengthening small-scale agriculture through major investments in agricultural technology or policies for adapting to climate changes is a change not only to decrease hunger but also to protect the region against the economic crisis in Europe and other parts of the world,” said Hill in statements to the agency Intercultural Communications Services, or SERVINDI.

The FAO warned against the continued volatility of food prices, and it did not rule out that this tendency will continue in the next few years. According to the FAO’s Food Price Index, since mid-year food prices have increased by 10 per cent, directly affecting the poorest sectors of society who allocate close to 70 per cent of their income to purchasing food.

To offset this tendency and to protect the most vulnerable, Oxfam invoked the governments of the region to “not yield to the private interests of the agrobusiness sector, which oftentimes go against the generation and production of basic food,” and to “invest in the sustainable productivity of small-scale farmers within the framework of food security policies that will guarantee the provision of food for everyone.”

“The close relationship between the demands of powerful interest groups and budget allocations in their interest is no secret,” said Hill. “The part of the story that remains untold is that governments cave in to these pressures at the expense of the rights of almost 50 million of the poorest and most vulnerable farmers and consumers in Latin America year after year. Either we change those tendencies or we throw away a more just food system.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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Increase the investment in family and rural farming, developed especially by women, is the most viable way to eliminate hunger in the region. (Photo: Silvia Ana Cabieses)
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