Agriculture is a very important pillar of the Uruguayan economy. Today, the country is exporting up to 70% of their agricultural products and is the world’s 2nd wool seller and short fibre pulp exporter, 5th dairy products marketer, and 6th rice and beef exporter. What is even more interesting about Uruguayan agriculture is that smallholder farmers are contributing significantly to Agriculture development and the economy of the country!
During the past years, I got the opportunity to work in both agricultural research and extension . Very often, one of the issues being encountered in the field was that farmers are not willing to collaborate among themselves as farmer groups or in cooperatives. As a result, technologies are not being adopted and their farming system and livelihoods of smallholder farmers are not getting any better.
Technical support is essential for improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers by helping them increase their production sustainably. But also very important is the collaboration among the farmers and to achieve their goals.
To have a better idea of how collaboration is making a huge difference in their production and livelihoods, we have a very good example from the small town of Villa Rosario in Uruguay.
The Suarez family cultivates the land that is owned by the National Institute of Colonisation. They have got support from the government in selling their products through the Uruguayan Secretary of wool and have also got financial support to invest in their farm.
Smallholder farmers working individually face several challenges and to change this situation, the wise step that the Suarez family and other farmers in Villa Rosario took is that they collaborated to produce prime lambs. This was a way to improve commercialization and to get the best price for their products on the export market.
With many years of technical advice and team work, they have been able to establish a detailed production and health protocol, which help them produce the best quality products.
According to Delqui Rojas, a cattle producer in Uruguay, the joint efforts of producers in the area has been fundamental. Every month, they get together in the house of a different producer and start to produce solely for that producer. With good planning, collaboration, and feedback sharing, they are able to improve their production and get better in the business.
Uruguay is the first country in the world to have an electronic information systems at meat plants and thanks to their traceability system, the consumer and other stakeholders know from which farm the meat is coming from.
Technical support and collaboration not only helps in increasing production, but also in producing safe and quality products!
Photo Credit: Aspen Ranch
Blogpost written by Nawsheen Hosenally, one of the GCARD Social Reporters.