Wheat is an important crop for many families in Ecuador. However, domestic wheat production meets less than two percent of the country’s demand; according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about 98 percent of the wheat consumed in the country is imported. Since the 1970s, factors such as low yields and low prices for local wheat have cause the steady decline of Ecuadorian wheat production. In 2012, to address this situation and improve domestic wheat production, the Ecuadorian government–with the assistance of FAO–started the program Emprendimiento Estratégico del Trigo (Strategic Wheat Ventures) in the town of Alausí in the province of Chimborazo.
More than 1,200 small-scale family farmers were directly or indirectly involved in the intervention. Participating farmers were provided with better quality seeds and were invited to attend training programs in sustainable land management post-harvest and product marketing and quality control.
The benefits to the participants were far reaching, including “greater crop yield, higher sale prices, improved negotiating capacity of stakeholders, capacity-building and organizational development, higher income and increased food security, recovery of a traditional cultural activity in the wheat producing region, and promotion of the crop with an agro-productive chain approach.”
Emprendimiento Estratégico del Trigo, through the use of multidisciplinary teams and State involvement, has proven the great potential family farming has in crop production. The program has raised confidence regarding public policies addressing the development of small-scale family farmers and the involvement of the government at the local level. “The experience developed in Ecuador is an example of how family farming can become a key component of food security and development through the competitive substitution of imports within a context of rising international food prices”, Senior Policy Officer and Coordinator of the Family Farming Priority Group at FAO, Salomón Salcedo, stated.