Family farms: Small enterprises that feed the world
Family farms will continue to be crucial for food and nutrition security. Ninety percent of all farms worldwide are family farms, mostly smallholders and they provide 80% of the world’s food. They are key actors for agrifood sector development, for local economic development and for feeding rural households and the growing cities. Family farms are small enterprises; they constitute the majority of the world’s small and medium enterprises and make up the largest part of the private sector. Through collective action of their organisations, small farmers can improve their position and performance and manage risks and costs. It is for these reasons that the UN launched the decade of family farming (2019-2028).
In 2016, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched a four-year project on “Promoting Nutritious Food Systems in the Pacific” (short: Innov4AgPacific), which is being implemented in partnership with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO). The overall project goal is to “strengthen the capacity of the Pacific Island Governments, Farmer and Private Sector Organizations, and Sub-Regional institutions to develop strategies and programmes, as well as mobilize financing, that can increase poor rural people’s access to nutritious and healthy food”. The project operates in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
OPPO approach in the Pacific (2018-2019): endorsed by PIFON
OPPO stands for “Optimising the Performance of Producers Organisations”. The OPPO approach aims at developing the capacity of farmers’/fishers’ organisations, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and development professionals by equipping them with knowledge, skills and tools that can be used to professionalize and improve their organizational and business performance. Facilitated by the Innov4AgPacific project, seven professionals from six Pacific countries have received the three-week OPPO training in the Netherlands, as well as technical backstopping from the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI). They have co-facilitated an OPPO workshop, attended by some 60 participants from 9 different countries (Nadi, Fiji, April 2019) and they have organised training sessions in their respective countries. The OPPO approach has been endorsed by PIFON members. This endorsement by the national and regional farmers’ organisation and the achievements so far, motivate the further scaling out the OPPO approach and tools to a wider audience of professionals in the Pacific (August-December 2019).
OPPO principles and approach
Five principles for approaching Pacific value-chain and agro-economic development differently
A different approach towards effective and inclusive agro-economic development, which puts the farmers at the centre, is needed. This requires adherence to five essential basic principles:
- Farmers are entrepreneurs. They should not be treated as ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘target groups.’.They are the agents of change in their own enterprise.
- Ensure ownership of change processes right from the beginning. Start with farmers’ own ideas and priorities and with the initiatives and objectives of farmers’ organisations.
- Walk the talk by working on practical cases. Preferably, these cases are significant in terms of number of farmers involved, production volume and value, contribution to food and nutrition, importance of sales, and perspective for farmer livelihood and income improvement.
- Perceive and organise agro-economic development as a team sport. This requires the collaboration of farmers and their organisations with a range of players; other value chain actors, both from the private and public sector (traders, processors, banks, government, etc.). Organized farmers can work together with other stakeholders as partners for sustainable development and inclusive agribusiness.
- Align external financial support to own plans and own resources. This is important for ownership and sustainability and implies that projects and programmes only add to the plans and resources of farmers, farmers’ organisations and the stakeholders they collaborate with.
These five principles guide the OPPO approach. The OPPO approach emphasises farmer agency (farmers’ own ideas and initiatives, own organisations and own resources), stakeholder collaboration and the cautious use of external financial support.
In the OPPO approach, the work starts off with practical cases, which allows to keep the connection with farmers. The strategy is to move from practical cases to policy and system change by bringing farmers’ experiences and views to higher levels. In that way, OPPO seeks to arrive at value chain development, sector transformation and farmer-inclusive business models.
Stakeholder collaboration requires an open attitude to see realities and interests from different perspectives and to recognize complementary roles of different stakeholders.
For farmer-inclusive value chain and agribusiness development, the OPPO approach gives attention to the improvement of production, post-harvest value creation and market relations and sales, e.g. ‘production-push’ and ‘market-pull’ dynamics of value chain development.
Analysis and action to improve the performance of producers’ organisations
The figure below visualises the OPPO approach, cycle and steps (see in visual below). Three main orientations are visualised:
- Analysis, with and for farmers (green part at the right). This starts with the selection and description of a specific case for farmer-inclusive value-chain and agro-economic development. The analysis then goes into more depth by zooming in on the farmers, the farmers’ organisation(s), the sub-sectors, value chains and the stakeholders of the selected case.
- Action, with and for farmers (blue part at the left). OPPO puts strong emphasis on farmers’ involvement in the design, implementation and adaptation of agro-economic development programmes. This starts with defining strategic orientations and continues with planning, stakeholder alignment and implementation.
- Options for farmers’ collective action and collaboration with other stakeholders (red part). Six complementary areas for farmers’ collective action are distinguished: (1) Agro-inputs; (2) Agricultural practices (3) Agri-finance; (4) Post-harvest value creation; (5) Market relations and sales and (6) Policy environment.
To bring about effective change and to improve their performance, farmers and farmers’ organisations have to collaborate with other private and public sector actors and stakeholders, both for analysis, action planning and for the implementation of practical activity in all six intervention areas.
Scaling the OPPO approach and tools in the Pacific
The general objective of ‘Scaling the OPPO approach and tools in the Pacific’ is to provide new insights, and tools and build capacities for farmer-inclusive value-chain and agricultural and rural economic development, which are directly relevant to the context of Pacific participants.
After the exposure to the OPPO approach and the gradual application of selected OPPO tools for facilitating farmer-inclusive change processes and development, participants in the OPPO scaling process will be able to:
v Initiate the development of a farmers’ value chain/ agribusiness case;
v Profile farmers, assess their resource endowment and understand farmer motivations;
v Assess the governance, management and performance of farmers’ organisations;
v Undertake agro-economic system analysis focusing on value chain and stakeholder mapping;
v Formulate strategic orientations, based on the Identification of farmers’ challenges and opportunities and options for practical collective action in six intervention areas. This is the basis for action planning of farmers and farmers’ organisations and the subsequent cycles of implementation, monitoring and evaluation, learning and adaptation.
CTA, IFAD and PIPSO welcome farmers, agri-entrepreneurs, processors, professionals from farmers’/producers’ organisations, private companies, financial institutions, civil society organisations and public sector organisations to learn about the OPPO approach and to apply selected OPPO tools. Are you interested in farmer-inclusive agro-economic development in the Pacific? Then you can join the OPPO scaling process explained below.
Gradual sharing of OPPO approach and tools
In line with the five learning objectives, the sharing of tools will take place in five steps:
As the programme indicates, the focus will be on case selection, description and subsequent analysis. The process ends with the formulation of strategic orientations. The interval between webinars and the introduction of new tools is 3 or 4 weeks. This is the time for applying/exercising the tools.
Before the webinars, the tools will be shared and will also be introduced in a short-filmed introduction of WCDI/CTA. For fruitful participation in webinars it is advised to have watched the short film and to have gone through the explanation of the tool. During webinars, participants can ask questions to the CTA and WCDI facilitators and to colleagues in the Pacific.
The webinars are always on Tuesdays at a fixed time (early morning in the Netherlands, early evening in the Pacific) and have a duration of 60-90 minutes.
Please note the webinar dates and your local time in your agenda:
CTA in partnership with the Pacific OPPO champions and WCDI will provide succinct feedback on the results of exercising with the tools. And they will be ready to answer questions as they arise when you are working with the tools. When appropriate, you will be put into contact with colleagues in the Pacific and/or your own country, who are also learning the OPPO approach and applying the tools. In this manner, a community of OPPO practice will develop and grow.
Learning for action
The learning trajectory and webinars offer practical tools for analysis and action, aiming to enhance farmers’ benefits in terms of food, income and trade.
With the different outputs that you would produce, you can develop your own business case further, a programme or a project proposal. We hope that in this way learning is leading to action!
To get access to the webinar and follow all updates, join the Capacity Development Group here: https://dgroups.org/cta/innov4agpacific/innov4agpacific-capacity