Thursday, 26 November 2009

Governance and Small-scale Agriculture in Southern Africa

9th -11th November 2009. Johannesburg, South Africa. This workshop organised by the Institute for Democracy in Africa IDASA in Johannesburg, brought together stakeholders in agricultural issues within the southern Africa sub-region and FARA as the apex organization for the facilitation of continental agricultural development.

The workshop with the theme; “Governance and Small-scale Agriculture in Southern Africa” was organized to facilitate interdisciplinary discussion on constraints and opportunities that surround governance and public investment processes and how they are shaping small scale agriculture in the region.

Research papers and reports from countries were presented and discussed. The themes included:
1. Priorities for investment in agriculture.
2. Trends in public expenditure and small scale farming.
3. Stakeholders’ participation in agricultural policy.

The conference recommended a.o. that advocacy for the CAADP compact should include lobbying the country' government to channel the budgetary increase into issues and programs that are pro smallholders and with potentials to sustainably improve their livelihood and reduce poverty.

Participation of farmers in policy formulation is critical for the policies to adequately address the challenges in the agricultural sector. Governments have, in the past, dominated policy formulation. Small-scale farmers need to organise themselves to start engaging with policy formulation. But in order to influence policy, one needs to understand the processes that policy makers go through.

Joe Mzinga of the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) also emphasised the importance of small-scale farmers organising themselves and being more aggressive in trying to participate in policy formulation.

The eastern and southern African region account for a population of about 300 million, mainly comprising smallholder farmers (60% to 80%).Despite this, the group isn’t adequately involved in the decision-making and the policy processes that touch their daily lives. Most of the ongoing agricultural strategies and programmes aren’t based on the needs and aspirations of small-scale farmers. Most of them aren’t aware of the national and regional initiatives for agriculture.Tthe 10% budget for agriculture agreed on by the African countries remained part of the decisions of the elite, government officials and a few businesspeople.