By Jimoh Babatunde
In many African countries agriculture is dominated by smallholder farmers growing food for their own consumption with extra production sold on a small scale. These set of farmers produce crops using traditional methods and low resource technologies.
In spite of their limitations, the smallholder farmers have contributed to the promotion of sustainable agriculture in the African continent, in contributing to African food security they have been galvanised by farmer organisations.
So, the farmer organisations that play crucial role in the African traditional agricultural systems were recently brought together in Accra, Ghana by the African Investment Climate Research (AFRICRES), in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) for recognition.
The event was the first Africa Farmer of the Year Award (AFOYA) that was aimed at showcasing and rewarding successful Farmer Organisations (FOs) in Africa, and acknowledging the vital role that these FOs play in promoting sustainable agriculture in the African continent.
Prelude to the award was a conference with the theme “Farmer Organizations in Africa: Strengthening Information-Sharing and Partnerships” that brought together Regional and National Farmer Organisations, Representatives from African Governments, Farmer Organisation Support Agencies & Institutions, Researchers, Private Sector Institutions, and NGOs.
Issues affecting Farmer Organizations in their efforts at ensuring food security in the African continent were discussed at the conference as part of activities marking the Awards.
Commenting on the conference and the awards, the Managing Director of AFRICRES Professor Nicholas Biekpe, noted that Farmer Organizations continue to play a key role in achieving food security in Africa and therefore deserve recognition.
AGRA’s Director of Communications & Public Affairs, Ms. Sylvia Mwichuli, also stressed the importance of the awards, noting that these will motivate farmer organizations to continue to work towards achieving a green revolution in Africa. She also reiterated the commitment of key stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, including AGRA and AFRICRES, in promoting sustainable agriculture in the African continent.
Speaking at the conference, Professor Kwame Offei, Provost of the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, called for capacity building of Farmer Based Organisations (FBOs) to enable them to contribution effectively to the formulation of agriculture policies.
He said areas where the FBOs capacities could be enhanced included basic tools for policy analysis, lobbying, articulation of their position on an agricultural policies and development of strategies favourable to their members.
Delivering a paper on the topic: “Strengthening Farmer Organisations in Africa: The Case of Ghana,” Prof. Offei said for active FBOs to be sustainable in the current market-oriented economy, they must develop an effective management system with clear vision to identify opportunities for generating surplus and investing the extra to take care of their community and members.
He called on the private sector and other players in the agric sector to assist FBOs such as cooperatives to cultivate voluntary and open membership at all levels.
Prof. Offei said extension agents should also facilitate the development of cohesion and trust among members of FBOs through the delivery of effective services as well as form strong innovative network and partnership to champion farmer organisations in Africa.
The issue of visionary leadership on the part of those leading farmer organisations was agreed on by discussants on Building Capacity among FOs. One of the panellists, Mr. Benito Eliasi, said there is need to separate functions of different committees in FOs as well as need for collective vision.
For Ms. Pauline Kamau, most farmer organisations lack capacity for information, entrepreneurship and other skills because of visionless leaders.