LA PAZ – The candidate being backed by the Argentine government to head the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Manuel Otero, said that small farmers in the Americas must have access to specific technologies and join together to survive and progress.
“Normally, national research institutes generate technologies that are made for agribusiness growers, which is large-scale technology. There has to be an effort to create technology that will be appropriate for family farmers,” he said in an interview with EFE in La Paz.
Otero said that “if family farmers don’t join together, they’re going to continue being the adjustment variable in these economic models” and agribusiness will spread at the cost of the lands of those peasants.
So, he said that it is necessary for there to be laws to foster agrarian cooperativism in all countries in the Americas, something that could be pushed by the IICA leadership, which is tasked with “fostering and developing” institutions.
A veterinarian by profession and the former vice president of Argentina’s National Institute for Agriculture and Livestock Technology, Otero said that Bolivia, like most of the Americas, has a dual agricultural model, with businessmen oriented toward their export activities and small producers being the key to the country’s food sovereignty.
“There are many family farmers who occupy a not-very-large portion of land and who are fundamental in ensuring that Bolivians’ food supply is guaranteed,” he said.
He said that it is vital to ensure the placement of small producers’ crops in the market at fair prices and to help them get the appropriate technology, although he added that the IICA can only offer technical assistance and support in designing projects and in negotiating with multilateral financing institutions.
He acknowledged that the poverty of many of these farmers is an obstacle to the investment in technology, but he said that “the vicious circle must be broken and we must see how the conditions for promoting a virtuous circle can be created.”
After meeting with authorities in Bolivia, Otero will travel to Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Paraguay to try and round up the votes needed to head the IICA, where he said he wants to promote more inter-hemispheric trade.
“Our hemisphere is one with the least intrabloc trade,” Otero said, attributing this to “historical and cultural reasons” more than to the obstacles imposed by regulations.
He also said that he wanted to “review the extractive agricultural model based on monoculture,” where big farms predominate for crops like soybeans or sugar cane in various countries.
Otero also recommended the adoption of the new conceptual framework of “the bioeconomy,” whereby the biomass and agricultural waste products would be utilized to obtain – besides more food – energy and inputs for industry.