Working Together to Tackle Challenges in Agriculture in Africa
"Citizen driven processes are ultimately the only viable route to any meaningful and sustainable change". During a Pan African policy dialogue meeting on the role of non-state actors, ACORD stressed the need for small scale farmers' engagement for the African Union's Comprehensive Agriculture and Development Programme (CAADP) to succeed.
L-R: Emmanuel Damilola (Ministry of Agriculture), Mahamat
Lamine N'Diaye (Oxfam) and Ousainou Ngum (ACORD).
ACORD, ActionAid and Oxfam jointly organised the dialogue that brought together more than 80 participants comprising of small-scale farmers, pastoralists, land alliance and women rights organisations, and government officials. Also present were the regional economic communities, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Regional Strategy Analysis and Knowledge Support Systems (ReSAKSS) and various international NGOs. The aim was to interrogate the implementation of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Policy (CAADP) with a view to recommend viable actions for its effective implementation.
"We have to ensure that the whole engagement at the CAADP level engages citizens: That citizens lead the conversations and develop an understanding of CAADP; so that the national CAADP ‘Compact' makes sense to them and has relevance to what they do. That way the related investment plans would be nationally owned and can be subject to public scrutiny." Ousainou Ngum, ACORD Executive Director emphasised.
Building capacity of women small-scale farmers
This point was echoed by a Nigerian small scale farmer who caught the attention of the audience when she emphasised the need to distinguish between the true ‘women small scale farmers' and the ‘women political farmers'. While the former are at the bottom of the chain of production, responsible for the production and processing of farm produce, the latter come in the form of middle women. The middle women are the women who buy products at a low price from the small scale farmers, or the women bureaucrats sitting in offices and claiming to represent the needs of women small scale farmers. At times these ‘political farmers' even attend international forums to advocate for the rights of the women small scale farmers.
There is a need to build the capacity of women small scale farmers themselves to own these processes and to advocate for their rights. Factors contributing to poor performance of agriculture in Africa include inadequate commitment and support to the agriculture sector, low production and productivity, lack of control and ownership of natural resources and the effects of HIV and AIDS on agriculture. The role of non-state actors in helping to address these and other issues were at the centre of the discussions during the three-day Pan Africa Policy Dialogue meeting on agriculture in Africa that took place in Abuja, Nigeria from 17th up to 19th October 2011.