Succession planning needed for family farms- FAO official

Last Updated on Monday, 6 October 2014, 16:28 by GxMedia

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative to Barbados, John Dipchandra (Deep) Forde speaking at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2014

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Representative to Barbados, John Dipchandra (Deep) Forde on Monday identified the need for succession planning in family farms at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) being held in Suriname.

“We want family farms where the word ‘succession’ is a very critical dimension of that family farm. We have to build a permanence, a continuity to family farms,” he said in his presentation titled “The Role of Family Farming in Caribbean Agriculture.”

Forde’s presentation was made at a seminar on “Caribbean Agricultural Transformation: The Role of Family Farming”- the major focus of CWA 2014 being held here from October 6 to 12.

He later told reporters that agricultural training institutions like the Guyana School of Agriculture (GSA) only train experts to serve farmers rather than allocate graduates land to become farmers. “We don’t train people to farm. We train people to go and advise farmers.”  He said the FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development would soon launch a programme aimed at encouraging youths to become involved in agriculture.

Another major constraint that he cited was the division of already small acreages among offspring. One solution, Ford suggested, could be the identification of new farming lands to cater for family structure and needs.

In the area of succession planning, he said consideration should be given to both on-farm and off-farm jobs in an era where the head of the family-farm does not encourage his or her children to become a part of the farm in the future. “A lot of that unfortunately is not the problem of the youth. That is the problem of the parents. That is the problem of the father and the mother who don’t want their children to go into agriculture because they see it as a dead-end,” he said, adding that parental responsibility appeared centered on the need to educate their children.

Forde acknowledged that one of the failures by experts is that they have not articulated public polices and targeted small farmers, resulting instead in the messages reaching the wrong target.

Stressing that small-scale farmers play a major role in feeding the rest of the population across the world, Forde appeared to suggest that mistakes have been made in the past by embarking on large-scale farming operations like Moblissa in Guyana.

Statistics show that 50 percent of small farming households have more than five persons, but most of them are men and female-headed single-parent households. Statistics show that the average of male farmers  is  48 years and the females 55 and 90 percent of their farms are less than five acres. Fifty-five percent of them are occupied by small farmers and 59 percent of the farms are classified as diversified.

Forde made out a case to revitalize agriculture because the Caribbean has lost banana and sugar markets in Europe that have underpinned the industry in the region. “We need new players in development. We need equitable public policy that recognizes the importance of production but at the same time people in the equation as part of inclusion

He also cited the need to produce safer food, the provision of enough land to make investments viable, supermarkets and warehousing facilities as well as the creation of cooperatives to take advantage of shipping container facilities. The FAO official urged players in the sector to focus on niche, Diaspora and high-end markets.