Brasilia, Brazil – The fourteenth meeting of REAF (Reuniao Especializada Sobre Agricultura Familiar no Mercosul or Commission on Family Farming in the Southern Cone Common Market) was held last November 15-19 in Brasilia, Brazil. MERCOSUL is an intergovernmental regional integration body comprising the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay with associate (expanded) countries of Bolivia , Chile , Colombia, Equador and Peru.
AFA Secretary General Esther Penunia observed the meeting, as invited by COPROFAM, a regional organization of women and men family farmers in expanded REAF.
A key program highlighted during the 14th REAF was Brazil’s Zero Hunger Program, launched in 2003 under President Lula de Silva. The program had two main intervention axes: (1) actions for extending access to food by the low income population together with the recovery of minimum wage and of employment; and (2) strengthening family farming.
Family farmers are recognized as the majority of farmers in MERCOSUL as well as the ones primary responsible for the food supply in the domestic market.
On November 17, a visit to a participating farmers’ dairy cooperative named Chegada a Cooperativa Agro-Pecuaria de Sao Sebastiao Ltd (COPAS) was held. This cooperative produces daily 15,000 liters of fresh milk through modern pastuerization system . Part of the milk produce is sold to the government for its school feeding program , while other parts are sold as beverages in local markets. Esther briefly shared the success of two AFA members: the Taiwan Dairy Farmers Association, who was able to help increase the incomes of dairy farmers through technology and marketing support and engaging the government for favorable price policies; and the Pecuaria Development Cooperative in the Philippines, a cooperative of agrarian reform beneficiaries who was able to penetrate the biggest supermarket chain in the country for its organic rice.
A visit was also made to a local school participating in the government’s school feeding program as well as to another association of fruit and vegetable producers called Chegada a Associacao dos Produtores de Alexandre Gusmao (ASPAG), also participating in the Zero Hunger Program.
Many of the activities during the 14th REAF meeting were workshop and plenary sessions on the topics: gender, access to land, climate change, and access to markets.
(Photos by Hector Torres from Chile)