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  • Small farmers hold the key to tackling hunger, according to the FAO.

    Small farmers hold the key to tackling hunger, according to the FAO. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 June 2015

The U.N. body has made a significant shift of perspective, yet failing to foster concrete changes.

Family farming must be a motor for the eradication of hunger, poverty reduction and for sustainable development in rural parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, said FAO’s Regional Representative Raul Benitez in Santiago de Chile, during a sidelines event at Food and Agriculture Organization’s Conference Wednesday.

“We do not view family farming as a problem of rural poverty, but as a central part of the region’s development agenda”, said Saboto Ceasar, minister of Agriculture and Rural Transformation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Ceasar’s statements were during the event that analysed the progress of FAO’s Regional Initiative on Family Farming and Rural Territorial Development.

According to FAO statistics, over 60 million family farmers in the region generate between 57 to 77 percent of employment within the agricultural sector.

In recent years, the role of workers at small-scale farms have been increasingly re-evaluated by world leaders, especially in Latin America where the election of left-wing governments was often supported by campesino movements.

World organizations like the FAO have followed the trend, implementing various programs aimed at strengthening access of family farmers to productive resources, rural technical assistance services, funding and insurance, markets and value chains.

So far, eight Latin American countries have been prioritized by the organization: Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay.

“FAO has moved toward a vision of political advocacy. The Organization has served as a crucial ally in the construction of public policy in our country”, said Adrian Zapata, executive secretary of Guatemala’s Rural Development Cabinet.

RELATED: Latin America's Future Tied to Sustainable, Subsistence Farming

However, experts recently told teleSUR that this family farming trend remains at a symbolic level.

“Under the name of familial agriculture, it was given the same treatment to subsistence campesinos, agroecological producers, medium-sized producers and capitalist farmers that produce commodities (soy for instance),” said Gonzalo Colque from the Land Foundation in Bolivia.

When the state or the private sector have started to co-opt the terms of Well-being (Buen Vivir) or Mother Earth (Madre Tierra), it helps to create a distinct imaginary, added Colque; however these concepts are also used to cover up the true economic processes that undermine those ideals.

For instance, under the pressure of the industrialized agriculture sector, the FAO presented the concept of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) at the 2010 Climate Change Conference, which campesino organizations denounced as a disguised way for the same corporate organizations to continue monopolizing the agricultural sector, while hardly changing their socially and environmentally unreasonable practices.

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