Date: March 14–18, 2011
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi
Smallholder farmers and civil society leaders from six African nations gathered March 14–18 in Lilongwe, Malawi, for a five-day training workshop aimed at building an effective advocacy movement for sustainable and equitable agricultural development in Africa. TrustAfrica convened the workshop, which was held at the Crossroads Hotel with assistance from National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi, in order to sharpen the policy advocacy skills of participants.
“Our long-term objective is to build an advocacy movement that engages vigorously in the agricultural policy-making processes in Africa,” said Dr. Tendai Murisa, who coordinates TrustAfrica’s work on agricultural development. “Without stronger civil society participation — and particularly the engagement of smallholder farmers — Africa is not likely to achieve its vision of sustainable and equitable agriculture.”
With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TrustAfrica’s agriculture initiative seeks to strengthen the policy advocacy capacities of unions, associations and intermediary organizations that represent the interests of smallholder farmers. It currently focuses on six countries in West Africa (Ghana and Mali), East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) and Southern Africa (Malawi) with a combined population of about 160 million people.
This work is critical in light of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), which is led by the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), as well as the 2003 Maputo Declaration, in which heads of states from 53 African countries agreed to make agriculture a top priority in national development. In signing the Maputo Declaration, they also pledged to “increase public investment in agriculture by a minimum of 10 percent of their national budgets” and to “improve the productivity of agriculture to attain an average annual growth rate of 6 percent, with particular attention to small-scale farmers, especially focusing on women,” by the year 2015.
“The official processes surrounding CAADP seem to be well supported by the international donor community,” Dr. Murisa said. “However, we have observed that civil society — especially representative associations such as smallholder farmers’ unions, associations, cooperatives and women’s organizations — have received little support and have few opportunities to engage effectively with these processes.”
TrustAfrica’s work on sustainable and equitable agricultural development aims to help such groups build the capacity to engage more effectively. The initiative incorporates knowledge building, grant making and technical assistance.
Knowledge Building: In 2010 TrustAfrica commissioned research on the state of smallholder agriculture and an analysis of advocacy capacities in each country. The studies, which will soon be available in book form, highlight the urgency of:
Strengthening civil society’s capacity to engage in policy-making processes; Securing reliable access to land, water and other natural resources; Developing more inclusive platforms to formulate agricultural policies; and Establishing platforms to share best experience among non-state actors on strategies for improving agricultural policies.
Grant making: The scoping studies also identified organizations that might benefit from small grants and technical assistance. TrustAfrica has since granted a total of US$292,275 to 10 organizations in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. Grants to four additional organizations in Mali in Tanzania will be finalized in the next two months. This support is designed to strengthen agricultural policy-making processes by building the capacity of key civil society organizations. Grantees will also help ensure that governments honor their commitments to achieve the CAADP goals.
Capacity Strengthening: The first day of the Lilongwe gathering will serve as a multinational convening to formally launch the initiative. The following four days will be dedicated to strengthening participants’ capacity for policy analysis and advocacy. TrustAfrica commissioned the Accra-based Institute for Democratic Economic Governance (IDEG) to develop a training manual for the event.
Read the training manual in our Publications database under “Workshops and Convenings.”