This publication is the third in a series of FAO field manuals on small farmer group development. The first two, The group promoter's resource book (FAO, 1994) and The group enterprise resource book (FAO, 1995), cover group formation and group enterprise management. Both manuals dedicated some space to the topic of developing inter-group associations, but not in great depth. This third manual seeks to fill that gap.
Over the past 25 years, many development agencies and NGOs have promoted small groups in order to strengthen the collective self-help capacity of small farmers. Due to their limited size (usually 8-15 individual members), small groups have proven to be excellent vehicles for helping small farmers to acquire basic skills in problem-solving and small-scale enterprise management. They are also an efficient channel for delivering development services provided by governments, NGOs and financial institutions.
However, individual small groups often do not have the resources needed to pursue broader objectives - for example, improving community facilities, gaining access to external markets, or influencing political processes. In those cases, some sort of inter-group cooperation is usually needed to achieve results.
In many countries, this process is already taking place as small groups come together in a variety of informal cooperation networks that we call small farmer group associations (SFGAs). These networks aim at benefiting their affiliated small farmer groups and individual members by increasing their know-how, economies-of-scale, and bargaining power to attain their common development objectives or goals.
Until now, those interested in promoting SFGAs have had no practical guidelines or field manual on how to develop and manage these more complicated organizations. The aim of this publication is, therefore, to provide more in-depth, practical information on the subject. Specifically, it aims at helping groups to build inter-group associations that are capable of financing and managing their own activities, using their own resources and without need of outside help.
This resource book does not pretend to answer every question related to developing SFGAs. Nonetheless, we hope its general guidelines can be refined and improved to suit local situations. With this in mind, we encourage users of the manual to translate it into their own language and to adapt its contents according to your own socio-economic and cultural conditions. Adaptation might include, for example, modification, abbreviation or simplification of the text, and use of other, more appropriate illustrations to highlight important points.
The resource book is expected to be useful for:
The primary intended users are group members and leaders, together with the group promoters (GPs) who work directly with them. GPs - including rural animators and other change agents - are the main intermediaries in SFGA development, as they are in direct contact with the groups that are trying to develop themselves.
Staff in government agencies and national NGOs may gain a better understanding of how to foster sustainable inter-group associations. They might also use the resource book to help train GPs in SFGA development.
Staff in international agencies may gain new insights into the role that SFGAs could play in strategies for sustainable, democratic development.
The resource book is divided into two Parts:
It concludes with an Annex on a GP salary incentive scheme and a list of publications for Further reading.