4, February, 2013

Latin America’s Rural Family Farmers: Evolutions in Access to Markets and Rural Income Structure

Over time, the rural reality in Latin America has changed, with family farmers now more integrated in markets and significantly less dependent on agriculture for income. What does this mean for family farmers today?

In order to understand Latin America’s current experience with small-holder farming, it is helpful to understand two key changes in the region’s rural areas that have been evolving mainly over the past two decades: farmers’ increased access to markets and diversification of their income sources. This Brief takes a closer look at these two key evolutions, assessing the impact on small farmers and some of the driving forces, in particular by analysing the liberalisation policies of the 1990s and 2000s that played a strong role in driving forward these changes. It concludes by presenting some of the present policy priorities as well as some lessons learned based on the Latin American experience.

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Key Lessons:

  • Reasonable harmonisation between macroeconomic and agricultural-orientated policies must exist to guarantee market operation, regardless of the regulations introduced to make family farm participation possible within the Latin American context. Family farming is a private operation that requires particular public institutional support.
  • The rapid expansion of product-transformation activities in the rural sector, the increasing integration of rural-urban exchange and the introduction of technical change in agricultural production - among other factors - boosted the diversification of activities and income sources in the rural sector.

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