Call for a post-pilot phase in Latin America

Miguel Garcia, Head of Agribusiness and Commercialization at IICA, and member of P4P’s Technical Review Panel, spoke at the P4P Annual Consultation in Rome on January 2014. Copyright: WFP/Ahnna Gudmunds

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) works with P4P in Latin America, providing technical cooperation, innovation and specialized knowledge to improve smallholder agriculture. In this blog, Miguel Garcia, Head of Agribusiness and Commercialization at IICA, shares his hopes for the future scale-up of P4P in the region.

IICA was founded in 1942, with a commitment to making agriculture more productive, inclusive and sustainable, improving the lives of rural dwellers in the Americas. We work with P4P under an umbrella collaboration on a regional and national level in Latin America, coupling our capacity development work with WFP’s purchasing power to provide smallholders with an incentive to improve their production.

A post-pilot phase for sustainable agri-foods systems

Through my role as a member of the P4P Technical Review Panel (TRP), I have seen the progress made by P4P. The pilot project has successfully increased the agricultural potential of smallholder farmers not only in Latin America, but around the world. However, as the pilot treatment period comes to a close, it is vital that we make use of the learning gained through the pilot to look to the future. I believe that the specific context of Latin America requires a continuation and scale up of P4P activities, in order to help develop sustainable agri-foods systems that offer alternatives to smallholder farmers.

A post-pilot phase is required to continue facilitating peace and development, environmental stability and food security. Persistent income and equality gaps have led to the prevalence of poverty and malnourishment across Latin America, primarily affecting smallholder farmers. These smallholders are also subjected to the pressure of drug dealers and human traffickers, creating increased tension for their lives and livelihoods. Because peace and development are linked to economic stability, continued support for these at-risk populations is a necessity in order to foster the continued growth of the region and prevent potential conflict.

This scaling up of P4P practices would also facilitate the promotion of farming techniques such as zero tillage as well as the conservation of biodiversity and genetic resources, in order to enable smallholders to produce better yields while preserving our natural resources. If we continue empowering smallholders to produce larger quantities of high quality crops, the high agricultural potential of the Americas can become an important contributor to worldwide food security as food needs steadily increase.

Moving forward after P4P

Further efforts to enable farmers to add value to their crops will pave the way for the creation of quality markets in which smallholders can earn higher profits. In order to accomplish this, smallholders require continued support to prevent losses through capacity development such as training on post-harvest handling and links to resources for the storage and processing of crops. It is imperative not only that quality markets be created, but that they be transparent and efficient, and that we facilitate the linkages between these markets and the farmers that we support.

As we move forward with the post-pilot phase, it is crucial that our endeavours be based upon regional, national and local culture, recognizing that each context has unique challenges, strengths and needs. Plus, a long-term regional agenda is essential for smallholder-friendly practices to be successfully and sustainably fostered in Latin America.  In order for our work to transcend political cycles, it must continue for at least 15 years.

Ownership key to fully engaging smallholders

On a national level, we must continue working with governments to ensure that the political environment is conducive for smallholders. The post-pilot phase must be owned by the national government itself, making it part of poverty reduction and social welfare programmes in order to enable social integration. This ownership will allow the post-pilot to take full advantage of the many mechanisms already in place, such as those which work with animal and plant health.

The scaling up of smallholder support requires not only government ownership, but also the empowerment of smallholders, allowing the farmers and their organizations to appropriate the post-pilot programming as necessary for their needs, and ensuring that they recognize it as their own. Enabling this ownership by both parties is necessary for the creation of a long-term, sustainable framework with which to support smallholder farmers, and in order to create sustainable agri-food systems which will ultimately contribute to environmental sustainability and global food security.

Blog post by Miguel Garcia, Head of Agribusiness and Commercialization, IICA.

(Note: These views are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of WFP.)

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