One of the recommendations produced at the Seminar “Alleviating poverty with market rules in the context of MERCOSUR”, held in Montevideo in 1997, was to create a Regional Coordination Unit (UCR for its Spanish acronym, or RCU) integrated by the block’s governments. The purpose of the Unit is to support the definition and coordination of political strategies to alleviate rural poverty in a framework compatible with the Treaty of Asunción within the regional integration process.

In this context, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) decided to move beyond the execution of projects and programs through the loans granted to the MERCOSUR countries, and to support the intra- and intergovernmental institutionalization of the policies that promote rural development and alleviation of poverty, making them converge to consistently honor the commitments derived from integration.

In 1999, IFAD approved a grant to the governments of MERCOSUR, plus Chile and Bolivia (“Institutional and Policies Support Program to Alleviate Rural Poverty in the MERCOSUR Area”), to install the Regional Coordination Unit (RCU) in Montevideo, at the “MERCOSUR Building”, the headquarters of the Block’s Secretariat (SM).

With the UCR’s Technical Committee (TC) installed, the Cooperation Project called IFAD MERCOSUR has worked since September 1999, with the participation of the block’s six countries: its four full members – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – and the two associated countries – Bolivia and Chile – all of which have representatives in the Steering Committee (CD2 ).

In 2003 the Government of Brazil summoned the Seminar on Family Farming and International Negotiations. In December that same year, during a meeting of the MERCOSUR Council in Montevideo,  COPROFAM3  (MERCOSUR Family Farmers Confederation) sent the MERCOSUR Ministers of Foreign Affairs a letter drafted in the framework of the activities of the FIDA MERCOSUR Program and in the light of the outputs of the Seminar held in Brasilia. Thus, IFAD approved a second grant for MERCOSUR, intended to fund the continuation of the IFAD MERCOSUR Program.

In 2004 the Government of Brazil proposed the creation of the Commission on Family Farming (REAF4), as an advisory group to the Common Market Group. It was finally created in June that year, technically and financially supported by IFAD through the UCR of IFAD’s Program for MERCOSUR.  REAF’s first two official meetings were held  in Foz de Iguazu and Brasilia, in July and December 2004, respectively.

In 2005 IFAD approved a third grant for MERCOSUR, to enable (a) the operation of the IFAD MERCOSUR Program as the REAF’s Technical Secretariat, and (b) the development of REAF’s working plans as an instrument to promote the dialogue on policies, providing REAF with enough means to ensure its quality and continuity, and allowing for the active participation of Small/Family Farmers Organizations (FFO’s) representatives.

In 2008, IFAD approved the fourth grant for MERCOSUR to keep REAF’s Technical Secretariat operational through the IFAD MERCOSUR Program. During the course of the previous conversations, IFAD requested that at this new stage the National Coordinators should identify and implement the changes required to reduce REAF’s financial dependency on IFAD. This position catalyzes a process that will result in significant institutional changes in REAF.

In 2009, in a decision endorsed by IFAD, MERCOSUR created MERCOSUR’s Family Farming Fund (FAF5), under the responsibility of the REAF. Since the FAF was approved, the member countries have incorporated their participation in the Fund into their national law.

Hence, in the new phase that started in December 2011, the REAF system ceased to depend on the support of the Technical Secretariat provided through the IFAD MERCOSUR Program and IFAD ceased to be the primary source of funding. From then on, the countries have been fully accountable for the operations and funding of REAF.

In 2012 IFAD approved a new donation to ensure the continuity of the IFAD MERCOSUR Program;  the Program has now a new mandate, which although complementary, differs from the initial mandate, and no longer dependant on REAF. The new donation was not granted to MERCOSUR, but to CLAEH6 (Latin American Center for Human Economy), hence reflecting that in this new stage the IFAD MERCOSUR Program has acquired a new institutional dynamics.


1 Unidad de Coordinación Regional
2 Comité Directivo
3 Confederación de Productores Familiares del MERCOSUR
4 Reunión Especializada de Agricultura Familiar
5 Fondo de Agricultura Familiar del MERCOSUR
6 Centro Latinoamericano de Economía Humana

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