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Updated November 1999

E-mail conference
24 September-11 November 1998
Small farmer group associations: Bringing the poor together

Key questions


Introduction

Proceedings Conference documents

OUR KEY QUESTIONS are listed below. The hyperlinks provide some comment on the questions, placing them in context if necessary, and indicating FAO's experience, based in great part on the five in-depth case studies conducted in Indonesia , Nepal, Sri Lanka and Zambia during 1996-1997.


Coping with the existing institutional environment

Question 1. How do local socio-cultural norms and conditions influence collective self-help action and affect the formation of new groups, such as SFGAs?

Question 2. How does one incorporate SFGAs into existing institutional environments? Why form SFGAs at all?

Question 3. Who should initiate and promote SFGAs and why? "Outsiders" - group promoters, government, aid agencies, NGOs, political parties, local leaders, etc. - or "Insiders" - small farmer groups themselves?

Question 4. How does one promote SFGAs in conditions where government policy or traditional power holders may discourage the establishment of competitive (alternative) decision making or collective action forums?

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    SFGA formation process

    Question 5. What are the economic and social reasons for farmers forming SFGAs?

    Question 6. Should SFGAs be launched to address a single issue or multiple issues?

    Question 7. When is the right moment to start? What are the first steps that should be taken in promoting the self-organization of a small farmer inter-group association?

    Question 8. Who can be a "member" of an SFGA? A group, an individual or both? Should the rights and duties differ?

    Question 9. How should SFGA leaders be chosen so that they do not lose contact with and accountability to the base? What are the advantages and disadvantages of "shared" leadership?

    Question 10. How important are factors such as coverage, size, member group activities and socio-cultural (and gender) influences in promoting SFGA member solidarity?

    Question 11. What should be the role of a group promoter or group organizer in establishing an SFGA? Should he/she be an initiator or a facilitator? How?

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    SFGA organization and management

    Question 12. Should initial priority be given to internal resource mobilization, e.g., through savings as the source for SFGA development, or to external resource development?

    Question 13. Which methods for internally generating income to meet SFGA running costs seem to be most effective?

    Question 14. How can SFGAs raise money to finance the development of their activities?

    Question 15. How can multiple activities be best organized and managed within an SFGA?

    Question 16. Should SFGAs have a set of formal written rules and procedures for governing basic association functions and activities? If so, at what stage in their development?

    Question 17. What would be the minimum set of reporting, accounting and monitoring and evaluation (M+E) mechanisms needed for ensuring transaction transparency and efficient management of SFGA activities?

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    Service-related issues

    Question 18. What strategies can SFGAs use in accessing external development services provided by governments, NGOs and the private sector?

    Question 19. Should inter-group networks provide training and education services to their member groups? Why not focus on meeting more immediate needs: provision of credit, bulk purchase of inputs, and bulk marketing?

    Question 20. Is it not more important for SFGAs to provide on-lending credit services to members rather than savings services, since small farmers must first generate income to save?

    Question 21. If member groups have accumulated some savings, should the internal pooling of surplus savings at the SFGA level be encouraged to facilitate inter-lending of the pooled savings to other affiliated groups in time of need?

    Question 22. Why do SFGAs seem to have problems in group purchase of inputs and in marketing?

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    Growth and sustainability

    Question 23. How do inter-group networks grow? Is there a common growth pattern, or are they all different and location-specific?

    Question 24. Should the natural logic and tendency to create multi-tiered networks of SFGAs be encouraged or discouraged? When and under what conditions?

    Question 25. Why should SFGA self-reliance and sustainability be our principle concern? How can we measure progress towards these objectives? Should SFGAs be "forever" or only as long as they are useful to members?

    Question 26. How can modern computer and communications technologies assist inter-group associations to develop? Under what local conditions?

    Question 27. Should SFGAs seek legal recognition? What are the advantages and disadvantages of legal recognition?

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