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Building the next generation of farmers in Africa

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PROPAC is supporting women working in cassava value chains, in Cameroon.

by Felix Nkwetta Ajong , Isolina Boto and Chris Addison

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By helping to integrate farmers into markets, and providing exposure to more information and emerging innovations, farmers’ organisations (FOs) can contribute to boosting employment and incomes across the food value chain, as well as fostering more inclusive growth.

The partnership between the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO), AgriCord and CTA with funding from DGIS and CTA has launched many initiatives focused on strengthening the management capacity of farmers’ organisations, improving services for members and supporting farmer-led businesses with a focus on three areas:

  • The digitalisation of farmers’ organisations and farmer-led businesses
  • Developing entrepreneurial skills to improve market access
  • Initiating policy dialogue to support the development of FOs.

This partnership between PAFO, CTA and AgriCord seek to identify and scale-up successful business models led by FOs. It promotes the use of data and ICTs by FOs, entrepreneurship and innovation while supporting, strengthening and consolidating the institutional capacities of FOs in agribusiness management.

Key projects

The results of the partnership were reviewed at a workshop – “Supporting capacity-development of African Farmer’s Organisations through improved Policies, Technologies and Capabilities” – in Brussels, 6–7 November 2018. The workshop brought together participants from African farmer-led agribusiness, FOs, policymakers, development partners and the finance sector, with discussion centred on three themes:

  • Digitalisation in agriculture and its benefit for smallholders
  • Promotion of agribusiness development and entrepreneurial skills for improved market access
  • The way forward, learning from successes and building coalitions.

Discussion about digitalisation focused on the exponential growth of data in agriculture, highlighting in particular how the effective management of data can benefit smallholders. Digital mobile platforms, for example, have reduced the time and cost of data collection and integration, allowing farmers to benefit from precise information about products and markets – helping to improve resilience, yields and profitability.

The need for farmers’ organisations, as well as individual farmers to own data and have the capacity to improve data collection methods was also discussed. It emphasised the fact that membership information is essential for FOs to develop adequate services for their members, manage their position in value chains, as well as for advocacy and lobbying and to establish partnerships and use data as bargaining power.

Turning to the subject of agribusiness development, the workshop discussion explored strategies for improving market access for small-scale producers with value-added products. The discussions emphasised linking farmers to a dynamic private sector that can provide agricultural inputs, infrastructure and technology for processing and distribution, financial services, and relevant agribusiness information.

Recommendations and way forward

On digitalisation:

  • Raise awareness in the development community of the importance of farmers generating and managing their data.
  • Support capacity building in ownership and legal aspects of farmer’s data.
  • Promote multi-stakeholder coordination in the collection and use of data.
  • Roll out/scaling up of successfully piloted and tested digital solutions with impact on the ground.
  • Organise EU-Africa farmer’s exchanges to learn from digital advances in EU context across EU Member States.

On agribusiness and markets:

  • Support FOs to seize the opportunities in growth in intraregional/global agricultural trade, especially in value-added products.
  • Build agribusiness related capacity within FOs through linkages with the agro-industry.
  • Identify best cases for blended financial products and strengthen capacity on finance.
  • Focus on certifications, innovations and incentives that enable FOs to reach a large number of smallholder farmers.
  • Study tours and networking events should be organised to show successful businesses and enable access to food technology, with a focus on youth and women-led initiatives.
  • Support national, regional and international dialogues/forums for policy advocacy and opportunities in export/international related trade policies.

On policy:

  • Support visibility /engagement of FOs in important public policy dialogues at national and international levels (EU, Parliaments, Regional groupings etc.) for conducive investment policies, agricultural subsidies policies and trade policies.

Next steps

The European Commission representative urged the FOs to use important events to showcase what farmers organisations can do. Policymakers need evidence of impact on the ground to attract funding, rebalance the benefits in the value chain, and lift farmers out of poverty. There is a need to have the buy-in of governments to put FOs high on the political agenda and show a change in policy agendas and policy settings.

A new element that was discussed was the potential of exchanges between African farmers and their European counterparts taking advantage of the EU experience in support of agriculture and some experiences taking place.

The conclusions highlighted the need to continue working in the three areas identified and to promote the exchange of best practices and lessons learned amongst the FOs across Africa. Efforts will be made to attract additional funding to upscale and expand farmers-led business successes.

Location:

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