Supporting small-scale farmers as food systems are under serious threat

By Celsa Peiteado, World Wildlife Fund (WWF Spain)

The COVID-19 crisis has shown us the vulnerability of our production systems, and more specifically, the need to maintain a production of healthy, good quality local food, while supporting those with knowledge on cultural practices key for the agro-ecological transition to sustainable and resilient food systems. During the first half of this year, the Dehesas and Montados project closely monitored the impact of the pandemic on extensive livestock farming, and contributed to actions in defense of this sector, hard hit by the closure of slaughterhouses, direct sales points to consumers, local markets, restaurants and hotels in Spain and Portugal.

To alleviate the impact of the pandemic on dehesas and montados, we promoted actions (#SOSCampesinado campaign) aimed at demanding that the government and its relevant ministries (Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Consumption and Health) implement measures to support the agri-food production of small-scale farming and agro-ecology. We also worked to promote and highlight farmers’ efforts through the #AplausosqueAlimentan campaign, thanking them for continuing their work despite the many difficulties they are faced with.

Coupled with this, we analyzed the barriers and opportunities facing extensive livestock farming, especially sheep and goats, in a joint report between Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza, WWF Spain and IUCN. Among the highlights, and on which we are already working, is the need for public infrastructures (such as slaughterhouses and municipal cutting rooms) that allow farming products to be marketed directly by the farmers, as well as the identification of sanitary and hygiene regulations that are not suitable for application in small-scale production. Meanwhile, we continued working on the farm, helping with the movement of transhumant herds and calling attention to the difficulties that shepherds and livestock face every day through social media.

In Portugal, work has been increasingly focused on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) at the state level as policy and advocacy work was possible during the lockdown. Priority was given to the development of CAP’s future Strategic Plan: we met with state officials in charge, and presented proposals for the plan. At the same time, we partnered with Herdade do Freixo do Meio to promote meat and recipes using sustainably-produced food, and continued to develop payment for ecosystem services in the area by engaging with retailers to source meat from the region.

Feature image: © Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza