The Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA) held its 6th General Assembly (GA) last May 6-9, 2014 at Hotel Santika, Bali, Indonesia with the theme “Seizing the Momentum to Get Concrete Gains for Small Scale Farmers this IYFF.”
The GA was hosted by Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API), with support from Agriterra, Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), and the International Land Coalition (ILC). It was attended by 30 men and 10 women, from 17 national farmer organizations in 13 countries, as well as partners and supporters from Agriterra, Collectif Stratégies Alimentaires (CSA), AsiaDHRRA, World Rural Forum (WRF), Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAORAP), Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI), Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), International Land Coalition (ILC) Asia and Konsorsium Pembaruan Agraria (KPA).
Among the highlights of the event were the election of a new AFA Chairperson from Japan, confirmation of five new member organizations in three new covered countries, approval of major thrusts for 2014-2016, and knowledge sharing on attracting youth in agriculture, on tools for sustainable and inclusive agri-based enterprises and gender responsive land laws, and on opportunities for more farmer-directed public programs on agriculture and food security (such as the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program) and research for development. It was capped by a dialogue with partners, who gave solidarity statements indicating areas for further cooperation with AFA, and a solidarity night among AFA members and partners.
For the International Year of Family Farming, AFA is working on six priority agenda, such as: (1) recognition of family farmers; (2) land rights; (3) investments in sustainable agroecological approaches; (4) increased market power of farmers; (5) farmers’ representation in key consultative and decision making bodies; and, (6) attracting the youth to agriculture.
The GA was preceded by a lessons learned workshop and training of trainers on Farmers Advocacy Consultation Tool (FACT) on May 3-5 organized by Agriterra together with AFA, and was attended by selected participants from AFA member organizations. FACT is a method of lobby and advocacy for farmers’ organizations that is based on four pillars of consultation to members, participatory research, writing SMART proposals, and lobby mapping and stakeholder analysis.
Recognition of the role of farmer organizations
The GA officially opened with a traditional Balinese dance followed by welcome remarks of AFA Chairperson Mr. Sophal Uon and API Chairperson Mr. Muhamad Mudzakir. A display of farmers’ innovative products from different countries was also opened during the ceremony.
In his opening speech, delivered by FAORAP Deputy Regional Representative Mr. Vili Fuavo, FAORAP Regional Representative Mr. Hiroyuki Konuma acknowledged the important work done by farmer associations like AFA towards the objective of ensuring nutritious and safe food for all and prosperity for farming communities and their critical role in voicing the opinions and needs of men and women farmers and fisherfolk and ensuring that their issues are heard in international and regional fora, “especially when these (fora) are discussing critical future directions of global programmes and investments.”
“All kinds of evidence shows that deprived family farmers can quickly deploy their productivity potential when the appropriate policy environment is effectively put in place. In this region, it is surely essential that FAO and AFA collaborate to promote these policies and turn policies into tangible and real benefits,” said Konuma.
Confirmation of new AFA regular members
During the business meeting of the General Assembly, five new regular AFA members were confirmed — Farmer and Water Net (FWN) in Cambodia, National Association of Mongolian Agricultural Cooperatives (NAMAC), Union of Water Users Association (UWUA) in Kyrgyztan, Central Tea Cooperatives Foundation (CTCF) in Nepal, and the Association of Farmers Federations in Myanmar (AFFM), increasing the total number of AFA members from 12 to 17.
In their acceptance speeches, representatives from the four organizations expressed thanks for the approval of their membership and pledged to cooperate closely with AFA in strengthening farmer organizations and bringing the voices of farmers to decision makers at the national and international levels.
Election of new chairperson and other Execom officers
Shimpei Murakami, an organic farmer from Japan and Board Member of AFA member AINOUKAI, was elected as the new Chairperson of AFA and will serve a two-year term in 2014-2016. In his acceptance speech, Murakami emphasized the important tasks of AFA in the region as small farmers are facing huge challenges from all fronts.
The following are the complete set of Officers and Members of AFA’s Executive Committee:
Chairperson – Shimpei Murakami, Vice Chairperson, AINOUKAI (Japan)
Vice-Chairperson – Som Prasad Bhandari, President, National Land Rights Forum (NLRF), Nepal
Treasurer – Muhamad Rifa’I, Board Member, Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API)
– U Than Swe, President, Association of Farmers Federations in Myanmar (AFFM)
– Mudzakir, President, Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API)
– Rabin Rai, Secretary General, Central Tea Cooperatives Foundation (CTCF), Nepal
– Seu Rany, President, Farmer and Nature Net (FNN), Cambodia
– Kim Boy, President, Farmer Water Net (FWN), Cambodia
– Jun Bong Kim, Vice-President, Korean Advanced Farmers’ Federation (KAFF), South Korea
– Alauddin Sekder, Secretary General, Kendrio Krishok Moitree (KKM), Bangladesh
– N. Bayartsaikhan, President, National Association of Mongolian Agricultural Cooperatives (NAMAC)
– Ireneo Cerilla, President, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), Philippines
– Niran Buasiri,Chairperson, Farmer’s Federations Association for Development Thailand (Sor Kor Por), Thailand
– Daniel Huang, Board Member, Taiwan Dairy Farmers’ Association (TDFA)
– Shun Te Tsai, Board Member, Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association (TWADA)
– Erkinbek Kozhoev, President, Union of Water Users Association (UWUA), Kyrgyztan
– Hong Mee Hee, President, Women Advanced Farmers’ Federation (WAFF), South Korea
Attracting the youth to agriculture
On May 6, a session on the theme “Attracting the Youth to agriculture” was held, where AFA members shared their experiences and results in piloting the Farmers’ Advocacy Consultation Tool (FACT) in their organizations.
Among the issues highlighted was the migration of youth to cities due to lack of opportunities in rural areas and the low income from farming due to lack of access to basic means of production, and effective government policies in support of agriculture. While there were some initiatives like training and support on various sustainable agriculture technologies that help reduce the cost of input, and programs to support youth who want to go into agriculture and training programs through cooperatives, several recommendations were identified pertaining to capacity building, organizational development, policy advocacy and partnership with various actors.
Some of the needed support to attract the youth to agriculture that were identified include: (1) capacity building – e.g. training on constructive engagement, youth education, scholarship programs, etc.; (2) research – e.g. comparative study of the use of organic and non-organic fertilizer, policy research on incentives for young farmers, research on impacts of climate change, etc.; (3) technical support on seeds, production techniques, etc.; (4) policy advocacy promoting agriculture – e.g. soft loan for young farmers, ASEAN agricultural bank, right to seeds, campaign on land, etc.; and, (5) regional exchange program – e.g. youth farmers’ gatherings, farmer exchange, etc.
Land, production, marketing and governance issues
On May 8, several sessions were held on the theme “AFA Initiatives on IYFF Priority Agenda: Land, Production, Marketing and Governance Issues.”
Sustainable and inclusive enterprises
One session was on “Sustainable and Inclusive Enterprises,” where three topics were covered.
AFA members API, PAKISAMA and FNN shared their experiences in promoting sustainable and inclusive agriculture enterprises through the development and application of AFA’s enterprise assessment and planning tool in a project supported by CSA. The tool uses criteria such as organizational capacity, profitability, stability, sustainability and inclusivity in assessing how enterprises are doing and planning for interventions for further improvement. Other AFA members found the tool useful and relevant and agreed to help further refine and use it in their own enterprises. They recommended strengthening cooperatives through various trainings, developing strong partnerships with different actors, advocacy for an ASEAN agricultural bank and ASEAN farmers’ advisory council at the regional level, and regional learning exchanges on sustainable enterprises.
AFA member VNFU also presented its study on the experience of farmers with the World Economic Forum’s (WEFF) New Vision for Agriculture project (NVA) project. Other AFA members observed that the public private partnership (PPP) approach in the project has not yet shown its benefit for small-scale farmers. They recommended strengthening farmers’ cooperatives and federations for doing collective marketing, providing legal and technical support to farmer organizations especially in negotiating contracts with companies, FO access to information, and strong government regulations, among others in order to make the approach really beneficial to farmers.
Still another topic was the WEF’s East Asia Grow Campaign. AFA members listened to a brief presentation on the WEF’s East Asia Grow campaign and agreed to get more information and see how the interest of farmers can be promoted in this campaign.
Promoting land rights with a gender lens
Three topics were discussed in the session on “Promoting Land Rights with a Gender Lens.”
AFA members AFFM, NLRF and PAKISAMA shared their experiences in using the Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC) in assessing land tools through a project supported by ILC. The GEC uses 6 criteria and 22 questions to assess if a land law promotes right for both women and men. Other AFA members found the GEC useful, relevant and timely. They recommended making it more farmer-friendly and adapted to country context, training for use by AFA members, translation into local language and documenting good practices on its use.
The AFA secretariat presented the project proposal on popularizing the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in selected Asian countries. AFA members found the project timely as it can serve as follow up to their previous initiatives on the issue. They recommended maximizing the mandate from FAO to initiate the national IYFF committees to complement the initiative on VGGT popularization.
The AFA secretariat also presented the project proposal on becoming the Asia regional partner for the Land Matrix, an open access global database on large scale land acquisitions. AFA members found it useful and relevant, despite some possible political sensitivity with some governments, and will look at how they can be involved.
Initiatives in engaging agriculture development programs
In the session on “Initiatives in Engaging Agriculture Development Programs,” AFA members shared updates on their involvement in the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) and the Medium Term Cooperation Programme with Farmers’ Organisations in Asia and the Pacific, Phase II (MTCP2) in their countries.
MTCP2 aims to strengthen the capacities of farmers organizations in Asia and the Pacific to deliver better, improved and inclusive services to their members and to engage in effective dialogues with governments. GAFSP, on the other hand, is is a multilateral mechanism to assist in the implementation of pledges made by G20 countries with the aim of improving the incomes and food and nutrition security in low-income countries by boosting agricultural productivity.
One of the gains in GAFSP is the inclusion of CSO representatives in the steering committee. The challenge is how to help FOs catch up with the program. There are also problems and difficulties in FO participation in the program.
In MTCP, the major gain is that the FOs are taking the lead in the implementation of the project. AFA members are actively taking part in the project and are reaching out to more FOs to be involved.
Among the recommendations made is that there should be a more open dialogue between FOs and government partners in each country on GAFSP and MTCP2. Moreover, field visits should be conducted to disseminate more widely the information about GAFSP and MTCP2.
AFA members also identified support needed to build capacity to engage in agriculture development programs like joint meetings at country level with implementing organizations, institutional capacity building for FOs and capacity building for advocacy.
AFA initiatives in agriculture research and innovations for development
Four topics were discussed in the session on “AFA Initiatives in Agriculture Research and Innovations for Development.”
FNN shared its experience with the learning network PROLINNOVA (which stands for Promoting Local Innovation in ecologically-oriented agriculture and NRM) in promoting local innovation as a way of doing agriculture research for farmers. FNN farmers were chosen and their experimentation in the field on growing of organic rice was documented.
Dr. Bhag Mal presented APAARI’s initiatives such as different projects in AR4D and various fora supported by GFAR. As a reciprocal member of APAARI, AFA can influence their directions and activities and maximize the space provided for farmers. AFA members will look at possible cooperation with APAARI.
Thomas Price of GFAR shared the global processes on agriculture research and development and the efforts to make agriculture research and development more farmer-directed and to bring in more ideas from farmers. AFA members would like the research community to know about the work of farmers as researchers such as that on making the soil more fertile without the use of chemicals. They would also like GFAR to help recognize and spread farmers’ research through documentation. AFA would also like to influence the reform process at GFAR by influencing governments to involve more farmers in decision making at national and regional levels.
Auxtin Ortiz of WRF gave a presentation situating AFA’s work in the global IYFF campaign, while giving examples of various national IYFF initiatives in different continents. AFA members also resolved to take part in national committees in their respective countries. PAKISAMA, for example, is part of the IYFF committee in the Philippines, and has chosen the recovery of the 71 billion peso coco levy fund as their priority issue. They have also done a national consultation among their youth members and have come out with a policy proposal on the magna carta for young farmers.
Field visit to API members in Bali
On May 7, a field visit to three sites of API Bali was held. A program was held in the community, where local government officials as well as local API farmer leaders welcomed the 6th AFA GA participants and engaged with them in a dialogue. They also displayed and talked about their organic cacao production project.
The second site was a coconut sugar production project, where participants listened to a farming couple who shared their experience in producing and marketing coconut sugar and coconut wine. After tasting the products and the sales pitch of the farmer leader from Taiwan, the participants bought all the supplies available.
The third site featured the economic projects of the youth group, which included collective production and selling of items from recycled materials, organic compost, and livestock.
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