Over 80 percent of Uruguay’s land area is used for livestock farming, dairy production, foliage and crop rotation, thereby generating about 70 percent of the country’s export[i] 13 percent employment rate and 9.3 percent GDP.[ii]
Most farms are family managed with beef and wool representing the major sources of livelihood sustenance for farmers. In 2007 Uruguay became the country with the highest number of cattle per head at 3.8 when it accounted for herds totaling 12 million.[iii] However, most of these cattle are owned by smallholder family farmers who exploit small plots of land.
The Government of Uruguay is working to improve the livelihoods of these smallholders by employing a strategy of assisting small holder farmers by providing them with access to land, technologies, and markets through the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Technology Transfer institute, on the condition that farmers work together as a community and live on the land and farm.
Before now there was low focus on policies that enable and encourage family farming, but like every other government policy most pertinent are the issues of viability and sustainability. In the long-run what is most important is increasing the livelihoods of the smallholders and increasing their income.
This brings to the fore the issue of youth engagement in agriculture. Is government support to family farms sufficient enough to stem the flow of youth migration to urban areas?
[i] Central Intelligence Agency. “Uruguay”. The World Factbook. Retrieved 5 January 2010.
[ii]Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. “Background Note: Uruguay”. US Department of State. Retrieved 23 February 2011.
[iii] “Uruguay has 3.8 cattle per capita, highest in the world”. MercoPress. 30 July 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2011.
Blogpost by Idowu Ejere, one of the GCARD2 social reporters.