The challenge of AIAF-2014

reto AIAF 2014

Even before it started, the International Year of Family Farming had already achieved some of its objectives. It succeeded in mobilizing social organizations representing family farmers in five continents, at least at the level of its leadership.

This has encouraged the development of several national and regional committees in various countries and regions. In specialized international organizations, such as the United Nations agencies, funds, international development banks and agencies of other regional systems, it has led to a virtuous debate on the characteristics of family farming as a socioeconomic class of work organization and agricultural production, and as a subject of accumulation in different economic processes.

These processes are beginning to impose a paradigm shift in the concept of rural development and poverty alleviation. This paradigm shift is based on two critical assumptions that must be known and shared:

• Family farming is not synonymous with rural poverty. It is a broad and heterogeneous category that exists globally and includes families of poor farmers, but also families with a huge capacity for work, processing, investment, management and management of production systems, with streamlined links with the markets.

• Family farming is part of the solution to the problems of poverty in rural areas. For that to happen, FF needs to be recognized and managed with differential public policies to guide investments and public services, not to compensate those excluded from the market, but for capacity building, encouraging private business partnerships, encouraging associations and generating appropriate technologies that incorporate value to products and facilitate trade.

AIAF should also be an instrument for consolidating new institutional frameworks and spaces for policy dialogue. There should also be new forms of social organization, social economy partnerships that may build up work, knowledge and capacities, enabling FFs to compete with those companies generated by the accumulation of capital and markets.


The experience in Mercosur, with the creation of the Special Meeting on Family Agriculture (REAF), has engaged several strategic players during its development and consolidation. These players include the governments of the countries of the bloc, led by Brazil, which has been clearly a pioneer in this field; social organizations of family farmers in the region, including COPROFAM, which since 1994 struggled to guide the process of regional integration to address the interests and needs of family farming; the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which since 2000 has been steadily investing in capacity building for the development of public policy dialogue, organizational and managerial skills, as well as economic and production skills in the region, strongly linked to family farming organizations.

Today the region has multiple public policy instruments that have been discussed at REAF, which have been tested and implemented by governments, as well as instruments also designed and implemented through IFAD projects with governments, which have been adapted and adopted by organizations of family farmers and which are now being scaled and designed as permanent public policies, with budgetary resources and strong political support. They are no longer theoretical or academic speculations; they have a human face economic and social outputs that can be measured.

This was not the case in the early 2000’s. The vision of a single agriculture and vertical policies for each category of production targeting the commodities market and technologies were aimed at their scale and growth in size to gain competitiveness, and it created exclusions that are not yet fully resolved. Today, however, the existence of two agricultures is admitted as categories for organizing work, organizing production, and as forms of accumulation and relations to markets.

The trend today is to work on horizontal systemic intervention policies that go beyond the farms or the pure farming production.

For these policies and the institutional space conquered to persist and thrive, the country requires a new generation of public policies for family farming. The experience in Mercosur involves working on several of these policies, including for example:

• Access and tenure of land, exploring partnerships for the production of key inputs such as pastures, forage, grains for feeding livestock, seeds.

• New lightweight formulas for partnerships, as trading platforms among cooperatives in the same country or from different countries.

• Public investments in infrastructure (hard), linked to investments in capacity building (soft), to support the management and administration of the former by family farming social organizations and cooperatives, allowing them to gain scale and competitiveness in partnership.

• New legal forms and formulas for food procurement, with the relevant participation of family farming.

• New interdisciplinary systems of technical assistance and rural extension that focus the integration of family farming in markets, value chains and food security.

• Rural Social Security Policies that may allow for the dignified retirement of senior workers, acknowledgement of the work and contribution of rural women, ensuring them a balanced role at work, in accordance with their own needs, in addition to a decent and timely retirement.

• Policies that create the legal and technical framework for a reorganization of rural work and that act as an incentive to replace the older generations with young social leaders and innovative rural entrepreneurs.

• Technologies suitable for family farms that incorporate the commercial production process as a matter of concern and resulting in added value to production and competitiveness. Conditioning, transportation, communications (ICTs), biotechnology, functions to incorporate to technology platforms for a competitive family farming.

• Adaptation of regional and international trade agreements through negotiations based on emerging technical underpinnings of a policy dialogue between and within countries, that enable and ensure fair trade based on new governance in the food trade. Organizations like the WTO and LAIA have a clear mandate in this matter, and driven by governments and social organizations, they should review the existing trade agreements and current rules in the light of the strategies of national and regional food security, where family farming has a strategic role in the production and supply of food.

• Policies for adaptation and mitigation of climate change through public- private investment in early warning systems, and climate risk management.

Every country and every region has additional examples.

For the AIAF not remain as a mere commemoration or an academic or rhetorical recognition, representatives of the public, law makers, political leaders from different philosophical orientations and political signs should meet and discuss these concepts, these new paradigms and these new public policy instruments. Most of these have already been tested and can be evaluated and probably scaled up, because pioneer rural social organizations of family farming, governments and IFAD have already done so in a number of countries and regions.

Álvaro Ramos
Regional Coordinator of IFAD’s Programme for Mercosur

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