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Santiago de Chile, 7 Dec. States and governments have to facilitate, with public policies, family farming, an essential sector for the world economy and key in the fight against poverty, the climate emergency and food insecurity that threatens millions of people on the planet, warned Mario Lubetkin, FAO regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, on Tuesday.
In an exclusive interview with Efe, the Uruguayan manager, who took office in August, stressed that the results show that family farming “has an extraordinary capacity to multiply, rationalize and preserve, perhaps better than other forms of exploitation, a future sustainability”.
“Agriculture demonstrates high resilience, especially in the face of recent events. The agricultural sector was generally the one that suffered the least contraction during 2020 in the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, with growth even being observed in countries such as Paraguay, Colombia , Brazil, Bolivia, and Panama,” Lubetkin said.
At a global level, he explained, “family farming represents more than 90% of farms, occupies close to 75% of agricultural land, and produces more than 80% of food in terms of value.”
“If we focus only on Latin America, family farming groups 81% of farms,” he added.
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In a context in which the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have skyrocketed prices and complicated logistics, Lubektin is committed to greater State participation through public policies that favor small farmers .
It also calls for greater integration that allows different countries to share the positive experiences that they launched in times of pandemic.
“Our challenge is to help (small farmers) to generate greater confluences and better conditions for them and their work. It is clear that a single family producer does not have the strength to obtain new credits, (or access) technological advances, to be recipients of something that big companies already have,” he said.
Lubetkin gives the example of cocoa production. According to his data, family farming is responsible for 31.6% of production in Colombia and 60% of production in Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil.
But he warns that 80% of the poor and the person suffering from food insecurity live mainly in rural areas, dedicated to family farming, and that only 15% of these small producers have access to technical assistance, which prevents the modernization, slows down the development and innovation of crops and encourages the abandonment of the fields.
“Without innovation, without digitization, without technology, there is no possible economic investment that leads to a substantial change in quality,” he lamented.
“Only 12% of family farmers in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru are recipients of important credit lines that have to do with development capacity,” he specified.
“If we add to this the increase in the price of food and the increase in the price of inputs, and we limit ourselves to the issue of fertilizers, where Latin America and the Caribbean have a dependency of 85%, the results are to the view: the affected producer immediately enters the poverty line,” he insisted.
Lubetkin noted, however, that Latin American states are at the forefront of those concerned with family farming.
According to his data, “almost 50% of the plans approved globally belong to Latin American countries.”
“Nine countries have specific political programs or strategies to support family farming and 12 countries have incorporated family farming into their public purchasing system,” he added.
What FAO is doing, he concluded, “is trying to bring together good ideas from all of Latin America to try to find a common path.” EFE