A focus group discussion with members of the farmers committee in Takatalina/San Pedro.
Photo: R. Preissler

05.01.2016

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Despite years of persistent efforts it has so far proved difficult to establish sustainable systems of land management in Paraguay’s small farmer sector. The reasons for this are shown in a study by the Centre for Rural Development (SLE).

Alongside electricity generation, agriculture is the most important economic sector in Paraguay. The distribution of land ownership is extremely unbalanced, however: family smallholdings of less than 50 hectares represent 91 per cent of all farms but make use of just over 6 per cent of the total arable land area; large-scale farms of over 500 hectares represent 2.6 per cent of all agricultural holdings but work 86 per cent of the cropping area. Concentration of land ownership is still on the increase; cropping and pasture land are being expanded by bringing wastelands under cultivation and clearing forests. Consequently, wind and water erosion are causing progressive soil degradation, which has already resulted in substantial losses of yield. Conservation agriculture (CA) and agroforestry (AF) can counteract the trend and are already being practised on a good two-thirds of large farms, but are barely found in the smallholder sector as yet. Attempts are therefore being made, both by the state and as part of development cooperation, to establish both systems on Paraguayan smallholdings.

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