Tendencias y Perspectivas de la Agricultura Familiar en América Latina (Trends and Prospects of Family Farming in Latin America)

60 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2011 Last revised: 17 Aug 2012

Date Written: July 20, 2012


For a long time, fostering the prosperity of family farming has been among desirable policy goals in Latin America. The notion of family farming underlying those goals and the related analyses is rather imprecise and is frequently used very loosely. This paper critically revises the concept of family farming, and the strata that are usually defined within it, from subsistence farms to viable commercial farms with a family-ownership basis, as well as data from a variety of countries about the characteristics and quantitative importance of family farms in various countries, analyses observed trends in family farming since the 1950s across Latin America and the Caribbean, and discusses its prospects for the coming decades. Finally, policies implemented to foster family farming in various key countries are briefly revised. The conclusions of this analysis are not encouraging for those who see family farming as the road to rural prosperity: most family farmers in the region are poor subsistence farmers; their numbers are not increasing and mostly dwindling; their share of agricultural output is decreasing; mobility from the subsistence or infra-subsistence level to the viable commercial stratum of family farms is generally rare and difficult: most of the survivors or descendants of the 1950 population of subsistence farming households are now in urban areas, or hold other rural jobs, while those that were 'promoted' to commercial family farming are very few. Several decades of various policies in their favor, such as land reform or rural development, have had so far limited success, suggesting that some radical departures from accepted wisdom are needed in this regard.

Note: Downloadable document is in Spanish.

Keywords: agriculture, Latin America, family farming, peasant, smallholder

JEL Classification: J11, J21, J43, O13, O54, Q1, Q12, Q15

Suggested Citation

Maletta, Hector E., Tendencias y Perspectivas de la Agricultura Familiar en América Latina (Trends and Prospects of Family Farming in Latin America) (July 20, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1913473 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1913473

Hector E. Maletta (Contact Author)

Universidad del Pacífico ( email )

Av Salaverry 2020
Lima, 11

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