"The idea seemed to be that either you were in agribusiness or you were marginalized”

reaf xx2

Ecuador is not a full member of Mercosur, and therefore participates as an associate in the Specialized Meeting on Family Agriculture sessions. IFAD Mercosur CLAEH Program spoke with Hugo Dután, who represented Ecuador in the XX REAF.

- Your country is processing the concept of family farming, but has already launched interesting partnership experiences, Dután said. He also hailed the actions of the International Year of Family Farming: "We will need all the creativity we can muster to celebrate and place producers in an important link."

In the Ministry of Agriculture, where Dután works, they were recently able to formalize the Ecuador Chapter as a work environment. The unit is being consolidated with the help of IFAD Mercosur Program.

According to Dután, IFAD Mercosur will support specific actions to work on the issue of family farming in the country. An idea that is being discussed for IYFF is for a thematic vehicle to tour the country, stopping at each village to explain what it is, and to distribute materials.

- The Ministry of Agriculture of Ecuador is generating actions aimed at celebrating the International Year, with regional elements and also a national action.

- Do you have an assessment of the current state of family farming in Ecuador? Has there been any progress on issues such as registration?
Hugo Dután: No, registration has been considered as a possibility. We are still engaged in a conceptual discussion of what is family farming. Although we are participating in the Specialized Meeting on Family Agriculture, the broad conceptual framework needs to be reprocessed for us.

dutan hugo 300- In order to differentiate producers from family farmers?

- Yes, but also to include them. Ecuador is a multicultural, multinational, multi-ethnic country. We aim to somehow shelter the indigenous peoples that claim their own nationhood. The properties owned by social organizations are another issue; these are production units that used to be individually owned, and which are being operated.

- They received them from the government?

- Yes, they are land transfers, at a cost.

- Are they given in ownership or leased?

- On freehold. So 200 partners share, say, 500 hectares.

- Is this experiment new?

- Yes.

- How long has it been going on?

- The plan was drafted four years ago, and it is being implemented, but the bulk of it has been recent; we are talking about roughly 25,000 hectares, plus 25,000 in tenure. In all, 50,000 hectares of productive land, which is very significant for a small country.

- How has the project worked out?

- The partnership projects involve 10,000 families. We're talking about 50,000 people.

- Is it working well?

- I think the operation runs at various paces. Some families were already in possession of the land and ultimately what they did was to legalize them. These continued with their production process. There are others who come from outside and from other experiences. Four organizations, which also shelter different cultural and ideological aspects, combined. So the four organizations are morphing into one single organization, this is in fact ongoing…

- Do the families live on site?

- In some cases they do, and in others they don’t. We hope to build small housing units in the same area.

- Is that also a program of the Ministry of Agriculture?

- The program is coordinated with the Ministry of Housing.

- What is the name of the program?

-Plan Tierras.

- Ecuador has participated in three editions of REAF. What is your opinion of this type of event?

- I think there are experiences at two levels. There’s the institutional experience of the Ministry of Agriculture and the officials, and the experience in the work groups. This allows for better connections between ministry officials, but the main experience is the way we handle demands.

We are very happy to notice that the public policy related to family farming, is being discussed. We do not have that; actually the meetings with peasant organizations were rather about demands, claims, requests for procedures to be expedited, but public policy was not being discussed.

On the other hand, this type of learning, of social organizations learning from each other has been very enriching, and people have noticed that a group’s particular claim is not enough unless it contributes to build public policy.

This is a guidance, an approach, a direction; it does not translate immediately into goods and services or something we might call the specifics of a particular organization, but is a necessary condition for the actions of the ministry and society to have sustainable viability.

That too is part of a path with a wider perspective than everyday communication. It is learning how to elevate the meeting of society with politics or government to political construction.
2014, the Great Year.

“Today family farming is being recognized by the UN, and by FAO as the executing agency for the International Year. Obviously this makes a difference, because we are granted the chance of not being merely an interest group.

This makes a difference indeed, and the added value is that we have gained global recognition, which is a lot.

It may seem that this was a type of agriculture on the way to disappearing: either you went into agribusiness or you held out as a marginal producer of goods, in a subsistence economy and doomed to disappear. So, at present, when the world says no, family farming is so important that it deserves to be devoted a year to study it, to deal with it, and in my view this presents us with a special challenge, not only making this agriculture visible, but highlighting the technological challenge it implies, in the sense that we can contribute with less pollution. There are thousands and thousands of producers whose small contributions add up to such volumes that they supply whole countries. Therefore I believe that this REAF has this connotation: to invigorate family farming. We have one year, 2014, to do it, to organize significant events, to mobilize. We need all the creativity we can muster to celebrate and to place producers in an important link."

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