Investing in farmers: Latin America and Caribbean share successes in agriculture human capital development


September 24, 2021

Investing in farmers – what’s known as ’agriculture human capital’ – is crucial to addressing major challenges in our global agri-food systems, whether that’s feeding the world’s growing population with safe, healthy and nutritious food or making agriculture more climate smart.

But what are the best ways to invest in farmers?

A recent webinar featured some successful initiatives from Latin America and the Caribbean that are strengthening the skills and capacities of farmers, especially small-scale farmers.

The findings are part of a larger global study on agriculture human capital investments carried out by the FAO Investment Centre and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with support from the FAO Research and Extension Unit and CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM).

The global study, which will be published this fall, looks at recent trends, including shifts in financing and increased digitalization. It also showcases nine case studies, along with 11 shorter promising initiatives. The case studies in Chile and Peru are already published, while the remaining seven will be launched later this year.

In his opening remarks, Frank Place, Director of PIM, pointed to the need for more knowledge on who is investing and how, and on high impact options for investing in farmers, women, youth and the very poor.

“We must continue evaluations of different agricultural human capital investment approaches and methods that account for economic returns but also social, human and environmental impacts,” he said.

He added that with the rise in digital agriculture and its potential to promote rural youth entrepreneurship, it’s important to understand the benefits and limitations of digital approaches for building human capital and the rural infrastructure needed to make it happen.

Lessons from Chile and Peru

The global report found that strengthening small-scale producers’ skills contributes to higher rural incomes, better health and nutrition, social cohesion and greater inclusion of women and youth.

In Peru, for example, local promoters known as Yachachiq, have helped boost the productive and entrepreneurial capacities of small-scale farmers by combining new skills with ancestral knowledge.

Since 2013, the Haku Wiñay/Noa Jayatai programme – meaning ‘let’s grow together’ in Quechua and Shipibo-Conibo, respectively – has reached more than 300,000 agricultural households and invested more than USD 500 million.

Alexandra Arca Zimmermann, an expert on public policy and qualitative research, said that farmers expressed feeling less marginalised and excluded thanks to the support, and that the programme has helped empower women to start their own businesses.

In Chile, the Productive Alliance Programme promotes sustainable commercial linkages between small-scale farmers and larger, export-oriented companies. Being able to comply with high quality and safety standards, including for Fair Trade and organic products, has opened up new markets to producers.

Rodrigo Perez Silva, an assistant professor in Chile’s Universidad Mayor’s Center for Economics and Social Policy, said that improved capacities and marketing alliances have resulted “in more stable incomes” for producers.

Greater research, greater investment

FAO Investment Centre Director Mohamed Manssouri said that “as the world faces future disruptions, challenges and opportunities, human capital needs will continue to change, meriting greater research and investment. We need greater investment in innovative and cost-effective programmes that strengthen and measure human capital development, especially in rural communities.”

“We hope this study is just the beginning and will fuel greater interest and inspire more research and analysis to help policy-makers, international financing institutions and other development partners make more and better investments in agriculture human capital,” he added.

Read the cases:

Strengthening smallholder producers' skills and market access - Productive Alliance Programme in Chile

Investing in rural households through community promoters - The Haku Wiñay/Noa Jayatai programme in Peru

This post originally appeared on FAO Investment Center website. This work has been supported by PIM as part of Flagship 1: Technological Innovation and Sustainable Intensification

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