From 4th to 7th May 2016, the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) held its 6th General Assembly meeting just across the mighty Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. The WFO is an international organisation that brings together national producer and cooperative organisations across the globe to develop policies that support farmers’ causes. Marnix Sanderse, business advisor Agriterra, was there.
Not only for me, Zambia was the best choice to host this year’s meeting: a peaceful country with welcoming people and a great agricultural potential with 42 million hectares of arable land and 40% of the total water supply in Southern Africa. “A great opportunity to showcase my country”, Dr. Evelyn Nguleka, current president of the WFO and hailing from Zambia, must have thought when the decision was made to host the WFO GA meeting here.
The meeting had the overarching theme “Partnerships for Growth”, promoting the importance of a holistic approach to the agricultural sector where different actors stand together for the same goals. One of these goals is to ensure that farmers of the world gain an effective position in the food chain. I attended the meeting due to the presence of member farmers’ organisations from 80 countries across the world, including LTO, whose chairperson Albert Jan Maat is also chair of Agriterra. Workshops were held on various themes, such as innovation, climate change, land tenure and capacity building. This last one was particularly interesting, as it is Agriterra’s reason of existence to strengthen farmers’ organisations and cooperatives and therefore, Agriterra’s presence was indispensable.
I had the exciting responsibility to co-organise a workshop inspired by the widely recognized importance of lobbying & advocacy in the agricultural sector and the need to improve farmers’ organisations’ lobbying capacities. Agriterra contributed by presenting the FACT (Farmer Advocacy Consultation Tool) approach that strengthens the lobbying capacities of farmers’ organisations in the developing country context. Two of Agriterra’s clients in Zambia, Cotton Association of Zambia (CAZ) and Dairy Association of Zambia (DAZ), were glad to present their view on applying FACT in their lobbying activities to influence decision-makers in the interest of their members. It turned out to be a successful workshop in which farmers’ organisations from various backgrounds shared their experiences in lobbying & advocacy.
In his designation as Agriterra chairperson, Albert Jan Maat stressed the importance of farmers being in the driver’s seat, such as through lobbying by farmers’ organisations. Following his plea to view farmers organized in cooperatives as business partners in the market place – Agriterra’s core business - the German DBV and the Zambian National Farmers Union outlined their lobbying experiences in Europe and Zambia, respectively. Afterwards, DAZ and CAZ presented their view on using FACT. The newly-graduated FACT-dignitaries showed that they were well aware of the opportunities of the approach to them and their members.
To me it was clear that the WFO meeting was a very valuable platform for Agriterra to present itself to farmers’ organisations across the world. But when walking about the venue, I realised this did not just depend on the efforts of DAZ, CAZ, Albert Jan Maat and myself. We were in good company. As the workshop came to an end, I was thrilled to hear that some of the attending organisations had been trained by Agriterra in FACT and had experienced positive results that they were happy to share. In so doing, the National Farmers Federations of Uganda (UNFFE), Kenya (KENAFF) and Congo (CONAPAC) presented themselves as ambassadors of Agriterra. And these were not the only ambassadors around. As I wandered in the lobby, I felt how much Agriterra is appreciated by many farmers’ organisations across the globe. Although I only recently joined Agriterra and would hardly be recognized outside of Zambia (and Arnhem), farmer representatives enthusiastically approached me like an old friend, just to say how much they benefited from Agriterra’s support to them. They made me realise the impact Agriterra has made in the lives of the many farmers affiliated to their organisations. And not only that. Having these true ambassadors across the globe spreading the message, I foresee a lot more interest in Agriterra in the near future.
Marnix Sanderse, business advisor Zambia