Progress achieved and future goals for IFAD-FO partnerships at national and regional levels: East and Southern Africa

This was a parallel regional working group session, that took place on Monday, 20 February 2012.
IFAD is currently providing financing to 19 countries in East and Southern Africa (ESA), for a total of USD 1.12 billion. Most of this funding is provided to sovereign governments, to implement investments in the rural sector which will benefit small holder farmers, fishers, herders and rural folk engaged in off-farm employment. As highlighted by Geoffrey Livingston, Regional Economist at IFAD, if these investments are to be effective, the participation of farmers, fishers and herders, directly and through their respective organizations is essential. Although these partnerships are growing stronger, Geoffrey highlights that there is still enormous space for improvement.
What are these FOs/RFOs and what are they doing?
Experience was shared by Stephen Muchiri , CEO of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF – see ). EAFF is a sub-Regional Farmer that strives to promote the interests of farmers within the region on various issues, including markets, productivity, capacity building and regional integration. Membership is voluntary and is currently approximately 20 million farmers. EAFF has a wide range of partnerships, including research organizations, NGOs, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), other RFOs, etc. Stephen highlighted the important policy role played by EAFF – both at the regional and at the national levels. This has included budget tracking, developing positions on controversial issues such as GMOs and land-grabbing, drafting policies.
CAPAD, as we are told by Annick Sezibera, is a confederation of 26 130 households cultivating crops (such as coffee, tea, cotton, oil palm) in Burundi. CAPAD offers its members services related to technical assistance; improving access to inputs and finance; support the post-harvesting; and dialogue with policy makers. The IFAD - CAPAD partnership began in 2009, through the IFAD/EC co-funded SFOAP "Programme To Support Farmers' Organizations in Africa." Thanks to this programme, the capacities of grassroots members were strengthened, particularly with regard to governance and financial management, and this has helped improve visibility, legitimacy and strengthen partnerships with other FOs.
With regard to the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU – see ), its vision is promoting a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable farming sector that ensures food security and contributes to economic growth in Southern Africa. In terms of core membership, it has 16 general interest FOs in 12 countries. It focuses on policy advocacy regional, global and continental matters; strengthening of capacity of farmers’ organisations; provision of agriculture-related information to members and stakeholders; and 3 cross-cutting areas, namely gender, HIV/AIDS and the environment.
How has IFAD been working with the FOs? And what are the areas for improvement?
It emerged that Regional Farmers’ Organizations (RFOs) are playing an increasingly more important role in the development of country-based IFAD strategies. RFOs are participating in project design processes, supervision, and monitoring and evaluation. In certain instances, RFOs are implementers and service providers for IFAD-funded projects.
Claus Reiner, IFAD CPM for Rwanda, highlighted that the support that IFAD can provide is important to ensure that the FO is taken seriously in the role that the members want to play, and making it responsive to their needs.
How do we expand and systematize some of these best practices within the division? What new practices/rules of engagement should we consider? Some suggestion were brought to the table yesterday (but of course the beauty of blogging is that this conversation can go on…. ):
• Clear guidelines for engagement with FOs, identifying suitable ways to work directly with the FOs.
• IFAD could promote a platform for engagement.
• IFAD could help to capitalise on good practices developed in the various countries –e.g., promoting South-South cooperation and KM.
• IFAD should consider lengthening the project duration of grants (required to put together the required infrastructure)
ESA is a big region. 20 million farmers may sound like a lot, but they make up for only 10% of all farmers. So these RFOs are really still quite weak in terms of representation. Greater involvement of RFOs in IFAD-funded investments are real win-win-win situations. It can result in better targeting, and more relevant programmes. This greatly benefits the host country government, IFAD and, of course rural people.
As Périn Saint Ange, ESA Division Director, concluded, FOs need to be practical and on the ground, otherwise the good intentions will not materialize. Currently, FOs do not have much time – they need to have projects with longer durations. They do not have enough funding. We would also want more and better coordination. From the demand side – we understand that what IFAD is doing is good, but we need to do more. This is indeed good news, as we plan on doing more. It is fundamental for FOs to remember that IFAD is owned by government. We can help provide a better platform for engagement, and most of the work needs to be done by the FOs, with the governments.