Third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum

The third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum took place on 15 and 16 February 2010 in conjunction with the Thirty-third session of IFAD's Governing Council. The Forum brought together more than 70 farmers' leaders from around the world, representing millions of smallholders and rural producers from all over the world who will interact with IFAD staff and selected partners. The Forum was opened by the President of IFAD, Kanayo Nwanze. Its closing session, in the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 February, will be open to the members of IFAD's governing bodies.

The 2010 edition of the Forum gave more space to operational matters. To this end, the two working group sessions focused on country and regional dimensions:

The forum used social reporting, which is an emerging philosophy which mixes journalism, facilitation and social media. Social reporting goes beyond posting agendas, papers, presentations and speeches on corporate websites. It is based on collaboration and live reporting from events by involving those "not in the room" to follow and contribute to the event. Social reporting uses a variety of techniques and tools such as story-telling, interviews, videos, photography, blogs, twitter, podcasts, posting documents to slideshare to tell the story.

The social reporter team reported live from the various sessions, allowing colleagues who could not attend to participate virtually. People posed questions using Twitter and sent questions to @ifadnews. Social reporters also wrote a number of blogposts.

Women in the spotlight

Following a recommendation of the 2008 Forum meeting, a special effort has been made by participating farmers' organizations to increase women's presence and voice in the event. A preparatory meeting is being held on 13 February to reflect on how to promote women's leadership in farmers' organizations. The commitment to have at least 30 per cent of women farm leaders participating in the Forum has been achieved.

Partnership and operational matters

As in 2008, IFAD has prepared a report to the Forum on the basis of a survey of Country Programme Managers and farmers' leaders to take stock of progress in partnerships over the last two years. The report will be presented at the beginning of the Forum. Some highlights of this report are presented in the following pages.

A Synthesis of Deliberations and recommendations regarding our evolving partnership will be agreed upon by participants and discussed with IFAD's management on Tuesday afternoon. This closing session will be open to members of IFAD's governing bodies.

The participants in the Farmers' Forum are invited to the Governing Council with observer's status. They will have the opportunity to participate in the regional events of the Governing Council on 18 February. The Synthesis of Deliberations of the Forum will be delivered to the Governing Council on 17 February, during the morning session.

After the closing of the Governing Council, two special side events will be held on Thursday afternoon, 18 February, with farmers' organizations and selected partners to discuss. The themes of the side events are: a) Provision of support services to farmers' organizations; and (b) The Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative of the World Food Programme and its collaboration with national farmers' organizations.

Crises and new opportunities

Two years beset by crises

Over the past two years, the interrelated food and energy crises have been exacerbated by the financial crisis and a global recession. The sobering consequences of this conjunction of crises were brought cruelly to the forefront by FAO's announcement that the number of hungry people had surpassed one billion in 2009.  And many more people have seen their livelihood and purchasing power significantly worsened. Furthermore, agriculture – the livelihood of the vast majority of  poor people in developing countries – is increasingly being affected by climate change, desertification, loss of biodiversity and a growing competition over land and water as the world's population runs towards 9 billion.

The international community reacts

Faced with this situation, last year the international community demonstrated a growing political and financial commitment to food security and agriculture. In L'Aquila, 26 countries and 14 multilateral agencies agreed on a coordinated Food Security Initiative. Last November, in Rome, the participants in the World Summit on Food Security reiterated their commitment to intensify national and international support to agricultural development and food security, in particular to smallholder farmers. As 2015, the target year of the Millennium Development Goals, is approaching, a renewed consensus is emerging to support poor rural women and men in their effort to overcome poverty, achieve their right to food, and adapt to and contribute to mitigating climate change.

Stronger organizations of smallholder farmers, fishers and pastoralists are essential to face these challenges and seize opportunities. Cooperation among rural producers improves their access to markets and knowledge. It allows for economies of scale and stronger bargaining power in value chains. It increases small farmers' capacity to manage resources and infrastructure and to influence policy and development programmes.    

IFAD's response

IFAD is facing these challenges with a sense of urgency and responsibility. Its membership agreed upon an unprecedented level of replenishment. Over the last two years the Fund has committed more than US$1.2 billion to finance 69 rural and agricultural investment projects of its member countries. National or local farmers' organizations participated in the design of 70 per cent of these projects and were involved in most of IFAD's country strategies formulated during the biennium. Direct grant financing to farmers' organizations for capacity building more than doubled compared to the previous biennium.

As world agriculture is at a crossroads and as IFAD begins to implement its eighth replenishment, the third global meeting of the Farmers' Forum is a unique opportunity to take stock of a "partnership in progress" and to reflect with farmer leaders on ways and means to further increase our development effectiveness and to strengthen the capacity of 500 million small farms worldwide to overcome poverty and hunger.

IFAD and farmers' organizations: Partnerships in progress

The report "Partnerships in progress 2008-2009" is based on a survey of all IFAD Country Programme Managers, 12 directors of IFAD funded projects and leaders of 24 farmers' organizations involved in the design and implementation of development projects or country strategies.

Key partners in IFAD operations

The survey shows that the positive trends observed in the previous biennium have been confirmed over 2008-2009: IFAD's overall commitment to involve farmers' organizations in the formulation of country strategic opportunities programmes (COSOPs) and in project design and implementation has been maintained throughout the last biennium and improved in terms of quality and intensity of collaboration. Farmers' organizations were involved in 86 per cent of new COSOP formulations in 2008-2009, and in the majority of cases (61 per cent) the involvement went far beyond a simple consultation: farmers' organizations were full members of Country Programme Management Teams or special workshops were organized with them.   

In the design of investment projects, farmers' organizations were consulted in 70 per cent of the new projects over the period. Here again, they were increasingly considered by IFAD and borrowing governments as "special players" warranting specific modalities of involvement (from 34 per cent of new projects in 2006-2007 to 55 per cent in 2008-2009).

The percentage of projects involving farmers' organizations as implementing agencies or service providers increased by 30 per cent. Leaders of farmers' organizations are members of Project Steering Committees in close to half of the projects approved over the last biennium.

Increased direct support

Furthermore direct support to farmers' organizations through grant financing has increased dramatically since the beginning of the Farmers' Forum process, from US$2.4 million per biennium in 2004-2005 to over US$12.0 million in 2008-2009.

Another positive trend has been the evolution towards fewer large grants supporting various national farmers' organizations through their regional networks or federations. It reduces IFAD's transaction costs for the design, approval and supervision of grants, contributes to the strengthening of regional groupings and fosters stronger coherence in overall partnerships with farmers' organizations.

The assessment of the impact of farmers' organizations' involvement in IFAD operations and of direct support to them shows positive outcomes in terms of institutional capacity, increased membership and improved dialogue within farmers' organizations.

Support to policy dialogue

IFAD continued to support the participation of farmers' organizations in policy dialogue at country, regional and international levels, including in recent global conferences and at the World Summit on Food Security.

In Latin America, the regional network of farmers' organizations (COPROFAM) has been supported to engage in the MERCOSUR Specialized Commission of Family Agriculture. In Central America, farmers' organizations have been supported to identify common interests and jointly engage in the discussion on the Central America Agricultural Policy. In sub-Saharan Africa, IFAD and the European Commission are jointly financing a large programme on institutional development and support to policy engagement at national, sub-regional and Pan-African levels.

Partnership between farmers' organizations, IFAD and governments has brought significant advantages in areas that are key to further improving IFAD's development effectiveness. It improves understanding of rural poverty and helps to better identify the target groups of projects. The contribution of farmers' organizations has ensured a stronger focus on small and poorer farmers. It has also given access to a wealth of local and indigenous knowledge and experience, which has enhanced project relevance. And it has contributed to increase project sustainability and local ownership.