Posted July 2000
the Secretariat of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security
In the past two decades, governments, donors, NGOs and development assistance agencies alike have become increasingly interested in the use of small informal group approaches to mobilize the self-help potential of small rural producers and the poor. As many contend, formal large group approaches, such as state-led cooperatives promoted and financed by governments, have not succeeded in raising the living conditions and food security of small rural producers and the poor. Small informal group approaches (involving the promotion of groups of between five and 20 persons, organized around a common production activity), have been promoted as a solution to this dilemma and have shown considerable promise.
Some agencies see the formation of secondary-level associations of such groups as a way to further increase the economies-of-scale and the negotiating and marketing power of the rural poor. These associations of small farmer groups, or small farmer group associations (SFGAs), have been in operation in some countries since the early 1980s, but until recently have not been studied.In 1998, FAO held a global e-mail conference, "Small farmer group associations: bringing the poor together" (8 September-31 October 1998), to review experience on the topic: an event that drew more than 400 participants from around the world.
The paper "Forming Sustainable Small Farmer Group Associations (SFGAs): more difficult than first thought" draws on the outcome of the e-mail conference and raises a number of questions regarding the promotion of SFGAs - as well as other types of rural organizations - that merit some discussion.
The issue paper is the first in a series of reports prepared by the Secretariat of the ACC Network on Rural Development and Food Security on current issues related to rural development and food security. It has been published in Arabic, English, French and Spanish print versions and is also available on the ACC Network Website in English, French and Spanish and soon in Arabic.