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Small family farms make up 85 per cent of all farms worldwide, and the people who live on them constitute the majority of the rural poor. To mitigate the challenges that come with working in isolation − and to increase profitability and productivity − these smallholders form organizations.
When smallholders and other resource-poor agricultural producers work together it becomes easier to access farming inputs such as seeds, plant material, water, fertilizers and pesticides, and to aggregate produce to reach larger markets. Farmers are then able to reduce costs and improve their bargaining power. And when farmers thrive, they're better positioned to improve their food security and move out of poverty. Other players in food systems benefit too.
Collaboration from the ground up
Organizations run by smallholder producers are not simply IFAD project beneficiaries – they’re strategic partners. Not only do they deliver services to their members and speak on their behalf, but also key actors in social and policy dialogue at the local, national and international levels.
IFAD recognises this central role of farmers’ organizations in smallholder development. To fulfil this role, they also need specific attention and support to bolster their effectiveness and sustainability. That’s why we are supporting them to build their capacity and strengthen their institutions to perform.
IFAD involves rural producers and their organizations in the design and implementation of strategies and the projects we support. We also help broker innovative public-private-producer partnerships that bring famers' organizations and private sector operators together to ensure public-private collaborations are also benefiting small producers.
Consultation and dialogue for inclusive development
The Farmers’ Forum is the overall framework of the partnership between IFAD and organizations run by smallholder farmers. The Forum facilitates a permanent process of consultation between these producer organizations, IFAD and governments, focusing on rural development and poverty reduction. At the global level, the Farmers’ Forum was established in 2005, and facilitates an ongoing, bottom-up dialogue between rural farmers' organizations from all over the world, IFAD and our Member States. It serves as an operational tool to orientate our operations and to foster partnerships between IFAD and farmers’ organizations.
Farmers' organizations collaborate with IFAD through the design and implementation of IFAD country strategies and investment projects. IFAD also channels funds to directly support their initiatives. Over the last decade, direct support has been organized at regional level through large grant programmes co-financed and in partnership with like-minded donors: Support to Farmers' Organizations in Africa Programme and the Medium-term Cooperation Programme with farmers’ organizations in Asia and the Pacific. Other operational partnerships support the engagement of farmers’ organizations in policy platforms. Examples include the REAF Mercosur programme in Latin America and support to the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation to draft and generate approval for the East African Community Cooperative Societies Bill to improve regional legislation on cooperatives. These partnerships in turn enhance the effectiveness of IFAD-funded programmes. Tellingly, the partnership between IFAD and farmers’ organizations today is part of the modus operandi of our work.
Twenty years on from the first Farmers’ Forum, four farming leaders weigh in
We asked four farmers’ organization leaders from around the world about current challenges, new developments and their hopes for the future at the eighth global meeting of the Famers’ Forum.
Technical Specialist, Farmers' Organizations in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (FO4ACP)