Making the Connection: Value chains for Transforming Smallholder Agriculture – Session 12: Farmer Organizations in Value Chain Policy Making

ESFIM presented outcomes of its research -for-advocacy work in the UNECA/CTA International Conference “Making the Connection: value chains for transforming smallholder agriculture. Four National Farmers Organisations (NFOs) presented the process and the outcomes of their advocacy work and the role of evidence and research in it: JNC-Perú, CPM-Madagascar, FUPRO-Benin, and NASFAM-Malawi. Stephen Muchiri form the Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) chaired the session.


Session 12: Farmer Organizations in Value Chain Policy Making

November 6-9 November 2012

Stephen Muchiri, CEO, Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) in opening the session outlined the key role that farmers’ organizations have to play in advocating for change in policies and institutional arrangements to ensure that such arrangements meet the needs of their membership, specifically smallholders. He noted that farmers’ organizations often lack access to the information and evidence needed to develop pro-active proposals to influence relevant policy. Further local, regional and international markets are highly dynamic and the situation faced by small-scale producers in these changing markets is challenged. In this rapidly evolving context, Governments often lack the capacity to be policy responsive and National Farmer Organisations (NFOs) are equally challenged to be policy proactive.

Giel Ton, AGRINATURA/LEI Wageningen UR, the Netherlands, ( provided an overview of key lessons learned on the processes of linking demand driven research with the advocacy agenda of farmer organizations based on work undertaken through the Empowering Farmers in Markets (ESFIM) programme. This programme works in ten countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in support of national farmers’ organizations (NFOs) and their smallholder farmers’ market access and market inclusion agendas. He emphasised the diversity of priority policy issues identified by NFOs noting that these could be clustered into three broad areas: issues related with changes in the way that markets operate, and especially innovations that can help smallholders to get better prices for their cash crops; issues that are related with service provisioning; and the area of collective marketing through cooperatives or other types of collective organisations. He outlined a growing coalition of NFOs and regional farmer organisations interested in deepening and scaling-up the ESFIM approach and some of the key principles desirable to take forward future work.

Senior representatives of four of the ESFIM partner NFOs outlined the structure and mode of operation of their organisations, the participatory mechanisms by which priority policy issues were identified and the advocacy approaches currently being applied. Meike Carmen Willems, Development Cooperation Unit, Junta Nacional de Café (JNC) Peru( explained how JNC, together with the multi-stakeholder platform on agricultural policy – La Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano (CONVEAGRO), put forward a focussed advocacy strategy on the defence of tax preferences to cooperatives and on the governance of cooperatives in Peru. The advocacy strategy was a mix of research to systematize evidence on impact of taxation policies on the coffee cooperatives, high-quality analysis of the legal and administrative situation and opportunities for improvement, and meetings and street marches to get media and political attention to the issue. Hajasoanirina Rakotomandimby, Secrétaire Général, Coalition Paysanne de Madagascar (CPM) ( shared experiences of the work of CPM set in the socio-political environment of Madagascar. Specifically how priorities are defined to ensure that CPM is effective as a farmer representative body and the role that research evidence has played in taking the CPM agenda forward. The experiences of defining an improved Marketing and Information System was used to illustrate how research evidence has informed the CPM debate and how the outcomes will aim to improve smallholder market opportunity. Alexander Chikapula, Marketing Manager, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi (NASFAM) ( outlined the policy and advocacy programme concerning smallholder market access and national and export agricultural value chain development has been institutionalised within the structure of NASFAM. Two examples of successful advocacy were presented: the removal of VAT on imported agricultural equipment; and enhanced access to certified seed for small-scale farmers. Rufin Godjo, Directeur Exécutif, Fédération des Unions de Producteurs de Bénin (FUPRO) ( outlined the evidence generated to inform public policy of key issues surrounding the maize market in Benin with a specific focus on issues of cross border trade. These included work on market transparency, risk analysis and transaction costs within the market chains as well as determinants for successful storage including credit mechanisms and relevant technologies. The work provided an evidence-based foundation for FUPRO’s dialogue with government on better governance within the maize sector.

A rich plenary discussion followed which included: the important role of the cooperative movement and the need for capacity development for policy and advocacy; the extent to which NFOs are representative of the smallholder sector as a whole in a given country and the importance of wider social dialogue; the role that NFOs can and should play in the development of national agricultural investment plans (specifically in Africa) and how that role should be enhanced; the differing context in which different modes of advocacy may apply ranging from use of media and demonstrations to constructive and ongoing dialogue between NFOs and governments – no one advocacy approach fits all contexts and indeed the importance of sequencing of different approaches was noted.

Based on the presentations and the debate Felicity Proctor, Consultant, UK, summarised some of the key emerging points. Country policies differ in their political commitment to smallholders, in particular those smallholders located in remote areas. All presenters called to raise the profile of the smallholder farmer on the political agendas at all levels. It was noted in several presentations that farmer organisations in a given country benefit from working together to ensure that their voice is heard at national level. The importance of evidence to inform advocacy was reaffirmed noting that the type of study needed varied greatly, from original research to collect primary data, to the review of secondary data to inform the organisations to detailed analysis of national laws. Research needs to respond to the priority advocacy interests of NFOs. The processes of NFOs working with researchers and using evidence to inform policy has impacted on the manner in which the NFOs work in advocacy processes and has contributed to internal capacity development and organisation.

Concern was expressed by the NFOs over the lack of consistent and relevant partnerships with national research systems to increase the possibilities for NFOs to approach research issues form their perspective and generate ideas and documents that facilitate discussions. This limited partnership was seen by NFOs as one factor constraining their capacity to move from being in a ‘policy responsive’ to a ‘policy pro-active’ mode within the national debate. There was a call for new and sustainable funding mechanisms to enable farmer-led research for advocacy.