FEISA Project

Sponsor:  Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA)

Duration:  2010-2013

EAFF Contact person:  Mainza Mugoya

Sponsor’s Contact person:  Lydia Kimenye, Program Manager Knowledge Management and Upscaling (KMUS) (e-mail: l.kimenye@asareca.org, kmus@asareca.org)

Through this project, farmers’ organizations in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and Ethiopia will obtain the tools and skills to assess their functioning, followed by organizational change to improve their management and governance at all levels of organization, and to improve the participation of their members in value chains. The project will aim at enhanced collaboration with service providers from the public, private and non-governmental sector as well as private enterprises in a multi-stakeholder process around innovation triangles of selected value-chains where learning and innovation are essential. This will provide lessons and build the capacity of farmers’ organizations to provide market access services to their members. The experiences of this project will shed light on the best-bet choices for in- or outsourcing of services by the farmers’ organizations. The consistent documentation of experiences will facilitate the replication of the success factors of the process in other ASARECA member countries.

Economic initiatives of farmers themselves, in conjunction with their business partners, are viable starting points for purposive interventions for participation of small farmers in value chains. In such a context, value creation at local level, stakeholder collaboration to address market failures and high transaction costs and innovative support mechanisms do promote rural entrepreneurship, a key element of sustainable development, and thus reduce donor dependency.

Therefore this project is based on the following intervention principles:

Both farmer- and firm-led agricultural development interventions have the potential for generating spin-off and multiplier effects to the farm and the non-farm rural economy, provided that they are purposively addressing local economic dynamics.

Farmers’ organizations are still insufficiently perceived as development actors in their own right, with specific challenges and resource endowments. Maybe more important, they are membership-based and controlled organizations with their autonomy and self-determination. This requires particular attention in research work, education and training and development process facilitation.

An essential basic principle of the structure of farmers’ organizations is that of subsidiarity. All tasks that can be dealt with at lower levels of farmer organization are best implemented at that level.

Agricultural innovation is a process as well as a result of learning-by-doing and learning-by-interaction between the three key stakeholder groups, i.e. farmers’ organizations, agri-business and service providers.

The added value of the methodology and approach proposed in this project is the establishment of so-called local innovation triangles. These triangles are essentially composed of farmers’ organizations, agri-business (input and output), and service providers including agricultural research institutes.

The operational innovation triangles are the basis for the joint development of practical tools for organizational assessment and change of farmers’ organizations and participation of smallholder farmers in value-chains. These are owned and applied by national farmers’ organizations that improve their service delivery, by themselves or third parties, to their grassroots organizations.