Pandemic and Family Agriculture in Peru

Pandemic and Family Agriculture in Peru

‘Written by Daniel Rodriguez, María Fernandez and Gastón López’

The basis for the webinar was an article published on two blogs in Peru on this challenging topic that we wanted to share with ISG members.

We highlighted some essential statistics on the context of Peruvian rural society and territory:

  • 90% of producers are small-holders with less than ten has. Rural poverty incidence is near 50%.
  • Nearly a third of the family production units are managed by women
  • Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and has the highest number of different ecosystems. Socio cultural diversity is another characteristic of the Peruvian context.

We discussed the main findings obtained via  interviews with a number of professionals and staff of public and private agricultural  research and development institutions working in rural areas and with issues related to small-scale family agriculture.

The first impact of the pandemic was a sudden halt to field based activities which have been progressively replaced by digital community technology . Many indigenous families in the Amazon have sheltered deep in the rain forest for security reasons as there are almost no sanitary infrastructure near the communities.

Many young people studying or working in the cities returned to their rural homes.

Many communities and district-level authorities closed access by roads and river to protect their populations.   Government emergency measures were implemented with an urban bias paying little attention to the main providers of food in Peru.

Important changes have been detected in market forces were  detected:  some negative e.g. famers were paid less at the farm gate and food prizes increased in the cities as a consequence of limitations on transportation.

On the positive side new mechanisms of trade developed such as free food delivery systems and ambulatory door to door trade.

In the more affluent parts of the cities there is a trend to consume more healthy and organic foods. People of middle and lower incomes are allocating most of their resources to purchase food.

It is critical Government pay more attention to family agriculture especially under this emergency as it is both crucial to national food security  (70% of national food is provided by family farmers) and is a highly vulnerable social sector. National and grass roots organisations have long been demanding support to family agriculture.

The discussion introduced interesting topics that remain as questions for further enquiries and also revealed more specific insights on issues like:  increased family violence against women, rapid diversification of the potato market due to the closure of restaurants, poor intercultural communication systems between government to rural people. Examples of responses of other countries like South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada showed some common patterns as well as differences. There is a desire to collect more country cases to compare and learn from each other.

In Peru there is no doubt that technological changes are being accelerated by the use of long distance digital communications. Community level approaches like “the farmer to farmer extension systems” are becoming imperative under this new context. Covid-19, in a way, can be seen as an important opportunity for systemic change in support of family agriculture.