As a result of land reforms in the 1990s, Europe and Central Asia is largely a region of smallholders.

In some countries, large commercial farms exist side-by-side with many economically unprofitable smallholders. Yet small farms can achieve high levels of productivity and income – through improved organization, intensified and sustainable production, and integration into agri-food chains.

With appropriate support, family farms can be a model for achieving sustainable growth, ensuring food security and mitigating rural poverty.

An FAO Regional Initiative

This Regional Initiative uses a complex, multidisciplinary and area-based development approach, tailored to the Europe and Central Asia region. It takes into consideration the region’s heterogeneity and the special challenges it faces.

The overall goal is to address the key problems of rural people by empowering smallholders and family farms to improve their livelihoods. Elimination of rural poverty, improving the resilience of rural populations (with a focus on smallholders) and inclusive growth for rural economies based on sustainable use of natural resources are the basic principles of the Initiative.

The work focuses equally on technical issues (animal health, production, phytosanitary and so forth) and social, economic and environmental aspects. Inclusiveness – with respect to gender and vulnerable groups, for example – is also a key principle.

The Initiative tackles two main areas:  (1) policy, institutions and governance, and (2) farms and communities. Priority actions include strengthening governance and policies, building capacities, enhancing participatory approaches, supporting small holders in sustainable production technologies, supporting land consolidation processes, income diversification, and improving smallholder access to markets, rural finance and value chains.

The Initiative aims to achieve the following results:

  • Increased participation of farmers and rural communities in national development;
  • Enhanced sustainable and inclusive growth of rural economies;
  • Improved sustainable management of natural resources.

Activities are in the following areas:

  • sustainable management of agricultural land and water resources;
  • intensification of smallholders’ production in a sustainable manner;
  • strengthening the organizations of small producers and family farms;
  • enhancing rural services – such as advisory services and micro-loans.

Results are foreseen mainly in:

  • increased participation of farmers and rural communities in national development;
  • enhanced sustainable and inclusive growth of rural economies;
  • improved sustainable management of natural resources;
  • dissemination of sustainable agricultural best practices;
  • strengthened governance to support producers and resource managers;
  • enhanced and equitable access by smallholders to productive resources, services, organizations and markets;
  • development of inclusive and efficient agribusinesses and agrifood chains.