"This is a future project and a project of life for future generations"Fausto Peralta, farm worker at La Clementina, Ecuador
Small family-based farms make up 83 per cent of agriculture in MERCOSUR countries. But they get the least assistance from their States and are rarely recognized in agricultural policy.
REAF gives family farms an official stake in policy development and a space to share knowledge across the MERCOSUR region.
Family farmers and policy development
REAF connects family farming organizations with national authorities to help develop policies that include small scale, local agriculture. By formalizing the involvement of small rural producers in the decisions that affect them, they don’t just gain a voice – they become an integral part of the decision-making process.
Knowledge sharing across countries
REAF also provides a space for technical collaboration and knowledge sharing among its members, so that small family farms from Venezuela to Argentina get the best of one another’s technical and operational knowledge.
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REAF can offer tools and methodologies that
- help position small-scale farmers as an important sector recognized in national agricultural policy
- support knowledge exchange between local farmers in different countries
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela
Specialized Meeting on Family (small-scale) Agriculture (REAF), IFAD, MERCOSUR
2000 - present
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Smallholder farmers and small-scale producers may struggle to participate in the recent trade growth of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) region, and are often excluded from policy dialogue. The Specialized Meeting on Family Agriculture (REAF) was created as a discussion platform for governments of member states and smallholder farmers’ organizations in the MERCOSUR area. Participants can discuss and develop policies for family farming, promote the organization of families, women and youth, and exchange knowledge and experience regarding credit policies, technical assistance, adaptation to climate change, access to land and trade.
Family farms represented 83 per cent of the total agricultural establishments in MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela). These producers and small-scale farmers are the originating point of most of the food consumed in the region, cultivating most of the agricultural land. However, they are often excluded from participation in policy dialogue because of their rural locations. They are also restricted from participating in the region's trade growth, because they frequently lack the resources necessary to grow export-oriented crops, or because their small enterprises are not linked to the export market. The challenge was how to better involve the poorest segments of the rural population in policy dialogue related to economic activities that affect their wellbeing.
REAF was created in 2003 to address policy issues related to family farming in the process of regional integration and increase the participation of farmers in policy dialogue. The platform facilitates policy dialogue between the governments of member states and small farmers’ organizations within MERCOSUR. The solution that has been developed includes:
- Consolidation of public policy formulation for the adoption of differentiated rules and regulations on family farming favoring the reduction of asymmetries among member countries.
- Development of a common agricultural policy inclusive of small-scale agriculture to establish strong linkages between REAF and MERCOSUR bodies.
- Creation of a platform for collaboration and technical exchanges among countries, and mechanisms for knowledge management and South-South Cooperation.
The achievements reached through the establishment of REAF include:
- Creation of National Registries of Family Farmers.
- Institutionalization of REAF and the strengthening of the existing institutions responsible for the specialized policies and their instruments.
- Formulation of the regulatory framework for the Family Farming Fund of MERCOSUR (FAF).
- Significant progress in defining the common criteria for inclusion in the National Registries of Family Farmers, and in defining who can benefit from specific public policies and investments in the MERCOSUR countries.
- Agreement on the design of a Common Family Farming Policy for MERCOSUR.
Main achievements on the institutional side:
- A similar policy dialogue platform set up in Central America following the successful performance of REAF and its recognition outside MERCOSUR.
- New forums for public policy dialogue on family farming created at the national level in MERCOSUR countries.
- Small-scale farmers’ rosters in Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina in addition to those in Chile and Brazil.
- Recognition of family farming from the highest executive body in MERCOSUR, defining it as a socio-economic sector to be addressed by differentiated public policies.
- Differential policies for young people, indigenous communities, access to finance, family farming labels, land tenure and rural settlement.
- Capacity building to favor both public institutions and small farmers’ organizations.
- Development of guidelines and programs for social investment.
Lessons learned and potential for replication
With 10 years of continuous work, REAF has produced results in each participating country. Tools were created to register the actors of family agriculture in each country and to pursue different policies for smallholders. The programme also succeeded in generating awareness and emphasizing the relevance of smallholders as an economic, political, social and cultural actors in rural areas.
One of the programme's most used methodologies is the learning and sharing of lessons, which the REAF Technical Group on Records has used to create its own space and agenda. Governments have also capitalized on this method to design and implement policies aimed at family farming.
The next challenge for REAF is to work towards transforming the policy dialogue into specific activities that will benefit smallholder farmers.
Jose Cevallos – Productor Ecuatoriano (Spanish)
Sebastian Alconada – Director Desarrollo Territorial, Ministerio Agricultura Argentina (Spanish)
Solution Additional ResourcesFIDA Mercosur website
Last update: 24/01/2019