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Agronoticias: Agriculture News from Latin America and the Caribbean
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Latin America and The Caribbean

27/07/2017

Sowing the seeds of sustainable growth through partnerships: Forest and Farm Facility in Latin America and the Caribbean

 The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) is a partnership that provides support to producer organizations, such as smallholders, rural woman’s groups, and various local and indigenous communities and institutions, in an effort to help fight against climate change and improve food security. The partnership operates in various regions around the globe, including Latin America and the Caribbean, where it has numerous ongoing initiatives. 

Indigenous Mayangna man cutting wood for the kitchen.

Approximately 1.5 billion forest and farm producers around the world are responsible for feeding their families and local communities. This is unquestionably a laudable and rewarding task, since reaping the benefits they sow is manifold: their work not only helps to fight hunger and poverty, but also contributes to building greater resilience to climate change and encouraging the sustainable management of natural resources.

What’s more, the fruits of their labor are further magnified when these producers work closely together, thereby leveraging their size and scaling up their efforts. This is exactly the raison d'être of the Forest Farm Facility (FFF) partnership, formed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and AgriCord (a network of agri-agencies providing support to farmers’ organizations in developing countries). For the past five years, the FFF has funded partnership agreements in 10 countries, allocating grants to producer organizations, governments and regional apex institutions, thereby serving as a catalyst to help smallholders, rural woman’s groups, local communities, and indigenous peoples transform their production concepts into action.

It all comes down to maximizing synergies through collaborative alliances. In Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), there are multiple case studies that clearly demonstrate the benefits of what forest and farm producers can achieve when they join forces.Numerous producers in several LAC countries are currently improving the lives of youth through education and training projects, empowering indigenous women to better their livelihoods, and strengthening their business skills in order to influence government policies, all with the FFF’s support.

Translating ideas into action

An illustrative example of these initiatives can be found in Nicaragua. The Mayangna peoples represent the second largest indigenous community in the country, with a population of approximately 18,000 people. This community has been threatened by the invasive advances of exploitations in the agro-forestry sector, which have had a negative impact on their way of life and put their sustenance at risk. The FFF is engaged in an ongoing project with Mayangna women in an effort to reverse this trend. The objective is to improve the quality of their products (which are primarily artisan crafts made from the bark of the native tuno tree), diversify markets, and obtain better prices through capacity building workshops, training, exchanges, and coaching provided by FFF-backed organizations.

Strengthening women’s leadership and self-esteem has also been an important part of the partnership’s capacity development plans, striving to empower the Mayangna women and encourage their engagement in policy processes. Consequently, 130 women from nine different territories attended the first Forum of Mayangna Women in the Autonomous Region of the North Caribbean Coast with the goal of reinforcing women’s organizations in the respective territories, resulting in the formation of the Mayangna Nation Women’s Network.

Similarly, in Guatemala, the FEDECOVERA (Federación de Cooperativas de Las Verapaces) Cooperative has established the Rural Agroforestry Business School (Escuela Rural de Negocios Agroforestales, or ERNA according to its acronym in Spanish) with a focus on providing training and skills development to youth and women. Together with the FFF, the cooperative has designed the school’s curricula with an emphasis on agroforestry, entrepreneurship, and cooperative values and development, all with a gender-oriented approach. By facilitating linkages and collaboration opportunities with leading Guatemalan universities and research centers as well as knowledge exchanges with other countries, the school now provides essential professional training for up to 90 rural adolescents per year.

In parallel, a national program to strengthen cocoa production in Bolivia has received USD 36 million in government aid thanks to the partnership’s close alignment with the country’s development policies. The newly developed National Confederation of Cocoa Growers and Gatherers (COPRACAO), formed by 3,785 men and 828 women, and the National Association of Coffee Growers (ANPROCA) have been active in the design and approval of this program with the partnership’s support.

How it all fits in the bigger picture

These initiatives are just a few examples of how forest and farm producer organizations in the LAC region are achieving significant results in gaining greater access to markets and better prices, leveraging financial resources, effecting policy changes and tenure security, and improving livelihoods. Accordingly, numerous producer organizations and governments throughout the region – including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and the Caribbean – have shown increasing interest in FFF over the past few years. 

In an effort to strengthen South-South cooperation, the partnership provides support for learning exchanges and visits on a regional scale in participating countries, in addition to regional and national initiatives led by FAO and other organizations focused on family farming, mitigation, adaptation, and resilience to climate change. This flagship program is closely linked to the FAO Strategic Programmes, specifically SP3, which is aimed at reducing rural poverty. Phase II is intended to scale up the partnership’s unique approach in order to expand its connections with complementary programs.

The possibility of a sustainable future depends on organized local forest and farm producers as the driving force behind the growth of their communities. Not only is this crucial in terms of the local cultures, ecosystems and resources that are inextricably intertwined with the lives and livelihoods of these producers, it is equally important on a global scale as key actors in the international community, the environment and the world economy.

Agronoticias would like to thank the Forest and Farm Facility team for their assistance in the making of this article.
Photo Credit: Alam Ramírez Zelaya (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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