Public institutions Institutions

Posted September 1996

Rome, FAO Headquarters
21-22 May 1996

FAO/IFAP Consultation for Enhanced Collaboration

Report of the Consultation

I. Introduction

The purpose of the Consultation was to explore practical ways and means of both developing more systematic collaboration between the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) and FAO and enhancing the "synergy" between IFAP and FAO programmes in promoting food security, farmers' organizations and people's participation.

The last fifty years have witnessed a close collaborative and supportive relationship between the two Organizations. FAO has always recognized the crucial role that IFAP, the largest international organization representing the world's farmers, plays in safeguarding and representing farmers' interests at global and regional levels. Indeed, Sir John Boyd Orr, FAO's first Director-General, addressed the founding conference of IFAP in London in 1946, and Dr Jacques Diouf, FAO's present Director-General, gave the opening address at IFAP's 50th Anniversary World Farmers' Congress in Versailles in April 1996. A further indication of IFAP's importance is the fact that the Organization has enjoyed Category I consultative status with FAO and ECOSOC since 1946.

Over the years, IFAP has contributed to and helped promote a number of FAO's participatory initiatives, such as: the Freedom From Hunger Campaign in the early 1960s (the IFAP Secretary General was the first FFHC Coordinator), the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) and its follow-up, the International Conference on Nutrition and now the World Food Summit. In addition, one of the most important areas for systematic collaboration has always been within the framework of the Committee for the Promotion and Advancement of Cooperatives (COPAC) since its establishment in 1971. [Member organizations of COPAC are: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Cooperative Alliance, International Federation of Agricultural Producers, International Labour Organization, International Union of Food, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations, United Nations and World Council of Credit Unions.]

The 1996 FAO/IFAP Consultation took as its starting point the retreat of many governments from direct support for agricultural and rural development. Debt problems and structural adjustment programmes in many developing and transitional countries, as well as the dramatic cut-back in Official Development Assistance by OECD countries, has meant that there is an urgent need to redefine the division of roles between farmers and their representative organizations, governments and private sector institutions. The withdrawal of the state in many countries has left an institutional vacuum. It is therefore vital that farmers and farmers' organizations including farmers' cooperatives organize themselves to assume a new and central role in the rural development process. Governments, however, must continue perform a facilitating role. With this challenge in mind, the Consultation aimed at identifying areas where collaboration between IFAP and FAO could produce greater benefits for their member nations.

The topics addressed by the Consultation provoked a lively and rich exchange of views between the IFAP and FAO representatives. A summary of the main conclusions and recommendations for follow-up on the different agenda items is given below in the order in which they were covered in the programme.

II. Conclusions and recommendations

A. Strengthening of Farmers' Organizations

It was agreed that IFAP and FAO would endeavour to develop a systematic and comprehensive programme for strengthening the capacities of existing farmers' organizations and establishing new farmers' organizations in countries where at present there are no organizations that represent the interests of small farmers. To this end:
  1. FAO's information base on IFAP member organizations and on farmers' organizations in general would be strengthened; as a joint activity, IFAP and FAO would aim to make an inventory of existing farmers' organizations in developing countries and countries in transition;
  2. IFAP and FAO would collaborate in promoting networks representing farmers' organizations, such as IFAP's Regional Committees, COPAC and the Regional Network for the Development of Agricultural Cooperatives in Asia and the Pacific (NEDAC), as well as sub-regional organizations, for example, the Platforme des Organisations des Paysans du Sahel. This collaboration would focus especially on the areas of policy dialogue, information exchange and joint programme activities;
  3. FAO and IFAP would undertake joint activities to strengthen existing farmers' organizations, building on their respective experiences in this area. The need for training in managerial skills and marketing was particularly stressed. As a practical example of such joint activities, FAO and IFAP will field a mission to Turkey in 1996 to assist in establishing a national Agricultural Producers' Union.
FAO agreed to draw the attention, where possible, of Member Nations to IFAP's Charter of Farmers' Organizations which sets out the policies and operating principles of farmers' organizations.

IFAP and FAO agreed to explore practical ways and means to collaborate in assisting farmers' organizations to assess the impacts of structural adjustment, the Uruguay Round Agreements and Regional Integration Initiatives on agriculture in general and small farmers in particular and to facilitate their participation in policy dialogue on these issues with governments and the private sector.

B. Farmers' Organizations, Agricultural Research and Extension Linkages

It was recognized that IFAP had developed methodologies and accumulated extensive experience in promoting linkages between farmers' organizations and agricultural research and extension institutions. Several of these methodologies have now been adopted by organizations such as the World Bank, the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). It was proposed that (i) IFAP's methodologies be studied for use within FAO's activities; and (ii) these methodologies be extended by incorporating linkages with agricultural education and training institutions, for example, through a joint FAO/IFAP activity in Central America and the Caribbean, which would undertake, inter alia, the preparation of a series of case studies and the organization of a joint workshop to discuss these studies and identify areas for follow-up.

Other potential areas identified for joint action included studies on the role of farmers' organizations in agricultural extension as well as in the field of development support communication.

C. Women's Participation in Farmers' Organizations

The high priority given by both Organizations to promoting women's participation in sustainable agricultural and rural development, and ensuring their access to the benefits of these processes, was underlined. Both Organizations reiterated that gender issues should be treated in an integrated fashion throughout their technical programmes at international, regional and national levels.

The long-standing and productive collaboration between FAO and IFAP in the field of gender issues will continue, with particular focus on the following areas:

  1. promotion and recognition of the professional status of women farmers;
  2. advocacy and capacity-building in support of women's enhanced participation in farmers' organizations at all levels, including in decision-making positions, in order to both empower women and strengthen farmers' organizations;
  3. collection of data on women in agriculture and their participation in farmers' organizations;
  4. preparation of an open forum on rural and farming women on the occasion of the World Food Summit;
  5. consideration of instituting an annual celebration of a World Rural Women's Day on 15th October, as proposed by women farmers' representatives at the Beijing World Conference on Women. In 1996, the celebration would be closely related to the preparations for the World Food Summit and the role of women in food security.

D. Links between FAO Representatives and Farmers' Organizations: Regional and Sub-regional Collaboration

It was agreed that a differentiated approach towards NGOs in general and representative farmers' organizations, such as IFAP and its member organizations, was needed. This could be further elaborated in the policy review document which TCDN will be preparing on FAO collaboration with NGOs. IFAP's willingness to contribute to this review was welcomed.

There was general agreement on the need for strengthening operational links between FAO and IFAP at national and regional levels, in which FAO country Representatives as well as the Regional and sub-Regional Offices would play an increasingly important role. IFAP will contact its membership requesting them to take the initiative to meet with FAO representatives at these different levels. To this end, FAO and IFAP will exchange lists of names and addresses of these national and regional representatives.

E. World Food Summit and Follow-up

FAO noted with appreciation the valuable contribution of IFAP and national farmers' organizations in all the preparatory activities for the World Food Summit. To date, these have included: FAO has consistently encouraged member governments to include members of civil society organizations and the private sector in the national committees set up to prepare for and guide the follow-up to the World Food Summit. IFAP will encourage its national level organizations to participate in these national committees. The IFAP Secretariat will send its membership a copy of the relevant documentation on these committees and encourage them to take the initiative in contacting and joining these committees.

On behalf of COPAC, IFAP proposed that a special COPAC Open Forum be organized on "People's Organizations for Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development and World Food Security" at the time of the World Food Summit. Preliminary arrangements were discussed with the WFS Secretariat in this regard.

F. FAO Special Programme on Food Production in Support of Food Security in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries (LIFDCs)

FAO expressed its readiness for closer collaboration with IFAP and its member organizations in the implementation of the Special Programme at country level, particularly in developing methods and procedures for ensuring active participation by small farmers in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Special Programme through their representative organizations.

FAO proposed that IFAP and its member organizations be involved in an external review of the participatory component of the pilot phase of the Special Programme.

G. Follow-up

Follow-up to this Consultation was considered essential by both organizations and the need for systematic and regular meetings and exchange of information at international, regional and country levels was unanimously emphasized.

Within FAO, general responsibility for and a coordinating role in follow-up continues to be assumed by the Rural Development Division (SDA). However, other appropriate FAO Headquarters' Divisions, Regional and Sub-Regional Offices and Country Representations as well as IFAP's Regional Committees and Member Organizations were called upon to pursue the foregoing recommendations in their respective areas of interest.

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