From Bangladesh to the Philippines and Back – Increasing Participation of Farmers’ Organizations in Development

Twelve Bangladeshi farmers’ organizations leaders visited the Philippines from the 1st to 7th of June to learn from Filipino farmers’ organizations how to become more active partners in development. The delegation was hosted by PAKISAMA a national confederation of small farmers’ and fishers’ organizations in the Philippines and the Asian Farmers Association.

 The study tour was organized by the FAO-implemented Technical Assistance (TA) component of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme funded Integrated Agricultural Productivity Project (IAPP). The IAPP TA component aims to improve effectiveness and inclusiveness of investment programming in agriculture, food security and nutrition in Bangladesh through strengthened capacities of state and non-state actors, particularly farmers’ organizations.

 This study tour is part of a stream of work under the IAPP TA component, which focuses on developing capacities of farmers’ organizations to become active players in investment programming. This work began with a mapping and capacity assessment exercise that found that though a large number of farmers’ organizations exist in Bangladesh, most are not well organized or federated and there are serious concerns about sustainability.

 To address these concerns about lack of organization and sustainability, the IAPP TA component has been organizing opportunities for organizations to meet, network, share experiences and learn together. In March, the first national federated farmers’ organization sharing workshop took place. During this event, leaders from organizations from around the country came together to learn from each other and start to build relationships that can provide a foundation for a future network of farmers’ organizations in Bangladesh.

 The study tour to the Philippines was a continuation of this initiative, which brought the exchange to another level. Participants spent 7 days together traveling to Manila, Mindoro Oriental and Batangas. The delegation met with the national leadership of PAKISAMA, the Asian Farmers Association, the Land Bank of the Philippines , the Federation of Free Farmers, MESAFED (a provincial level agri-cooperative), several cluster level cooperatives in Minodoro Oriental, an on-farm training center, ‘Kuatro Maria’s Farm,’ the local government of Victoria in Minodoro Oriental, FAO Philippines, and the national cooperative, SIDC. At the end of the tour, participants expressed enthusiasm about developing a national network of farmers’ organizations. Each participant created an action plan on how to integrate what they learned in the Philippines into their organizations in Bangladesh.

 Since returning to Bangladesh, leaders have been actively engaging their respective organizations, sharing the findings of the tour and strengthening their business plans, constitutions, and relations with local government. Most importantly though, is that the leaders have stayed in touch with each other – asking for advice and support, and sharing ideas.

 FAO’s support to this work will continue through the facilitation of a series of national farmer organization exchange visits, the first of which took place on the 29th-30th of June, hosted by the Idilpur Pineapple Growers Cooperative Limited.