This article is originally published in the Asian Farmers’ Association website.
In our world where the hungry and poor, and where those much affected by the vagaries of the climate, and where the most neglected and left behind are amongst our constituencies, and where the most degraded lands are amongst where we live, We are committed to contributing to healthy people and a healthy planet while bringing back the dignity for family farmers. And we have seen best practices from our co-farmers on how to make this triple wins. We sum up in three main contributions :
Agroecology: First is through Integrated, bio-diverse, agro-ecological approaches in farms, fisheries, and forests, such as natural farming, organic farming, farming that integrates crops, fish, trees, permaculture, sustainable fishing and forestry, mangrove reforestation as well as the use of indigenous trees for reforestation, community seed savings scheme, promoting indigenous yet nutritious crops such as millet and sorghum, integrated water management including water-saving and conservation mechanisms, integrated and alternative pest management. When we use these approaches, our harvests grow, our soils become healthier, we can adapt more to our climate, our food becomes more diverse and nutritious, our knowledge flourishes, our innovative spirit is challenged, because we are called to be observant, to experiment, to reflect and to learn from these practices, rather than just be mere recipients and adopters of technologies.
Cooperatives: Second is through inclusive value chains that give farmers more market power, more involvement in value chain processes, than mere producers or mere price takers, such as farmers’ associations, farmers’ companies, and farmers’ cooperatives processing and adding value to farmers products; or just be consolidating farmers’ produce and inputs to reduce transaction costs and benefit from bulk buying and selling; or directly selling to consumers, which, sometimes are their members themselves. We see that cooperatives, when there is a professional management and dedicated leadership, are able to share profits through dividends and patronage refunds, and are able to service their members according to their needs, with some cooperatives providing other services to members such as education and providential loans, housing loans, and are able to transact with other cooperatives and other bigger businesses and companies for backward and forward linkages in the value chain. Cooperatives operate on the principle of volunteerism, participative democracy, wealth sharing, cooperation, and concern for others, and thus cooperatives are a very good exercise for leadership, accountability, responsiveness, and participation.
Third, Empowerment of the Agency of farmers: Farmers have been seen as passive beneficiaries, or just waiting for dole-outs. But farmers, when organized and capacities for action and reflection are harnessed, are solution providers and can help shape the future we want, in our farms, in our communities, in our countries. That is what farmers organizations do.
How can we upscale these top priorities: In a sense, these are our expectations / What do we expect from the UN FSS and beyond?
First, we need from our governments an enabling environment for smallholder family farmers. Policies that secure our rights to natural resources, mainly lands, waters, forests, seeds. Policies that incentivize the following – transition to agroecological approaches, ecosystem restoration, cooperative endeavors, strengthening domestic and regional market. Policies and programs that protect and promote family farmers’ agency, especially the women and young farmers, so that they get equal rights and equitable opportunities and spaces to grow to their fullest potential.
Second, inclusive governance at all levels. Family farmers are more and more organized, and with the support of many development partners, are becoming more and more credible, trustworthy, and capable to engage other partners in the business of overcoming hunger and poverty and promoting sustainable food systems. The design and implementation of national and regional plans for the United Nations Decade of Family Farming or UNDFF, with family farmers organizations as a key partner, with youth and women empowerment as cross-cutting pillars, will be a key strategy to have a multi-stakeholder partnership for policies and programs that unleash the potentials of family farmers in the world.
Third, is long term, adequate financing directed to farmers through their organizations and cooperatives so that FOs are empowered to be able to adapt to climate change, innovate, respond effectively and quickly to the needs of members in research and extension, in pre and post-harvest systems and facilities, in capacity building, in providing needed capital through the establishment of a farmers empowerment and resiliency trust fund, and making FOs a key partner in the implementation of agriculture development programs.
Farmers for healthy people and planet. That is our commitment as small-scale women and men family farmers in the Asia Pacific. If supported ably, we are key game-changers, and our work with you will surely make food systems sustainable, inclusive, empowering. And will surely help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Looking forward to working together as equal partners.
(This is a consolidation of the key messages of small-scale women and men, young and young-at-heart family farmers, engaged in crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, herding, and pastoralism. These key messages are the result of 11 independent dialogues in 10 countries, and 6 regional independent dialogues in the Asia Pacific. These were convened by 11 national FO members and partners; and at the region, with the Pacific Island Farmer Organization Network (PIFON) who is part of the Champions Group of the UNFSS, as well as the Asia members of Inter-continental Network of Organic Farmers Organization or INOFO and the World Farmers Organization or WFO. About 1500 farmers attended, representing 18 M members of our organizations.)