AFA organized the “Regional Knowledge Sharing and Learning Workshop on Sustainable Agri- Enterprise Models and Strategies for National FOs Programs and Services to Members” last September 6-8, 2015 in Quezon City, Philippines. Joining the workshop were AFA members, partners and support organizations. The objective of the workshop was to improve the capacities of AFA national FO members in extending services to its members/farmers’ associations particularly in managing sustainable agro-enterprises. Specifically, the objectives were to (1) share and learn different models or approaches of extending economic services of national farmer organizations to their members, based on cases/experiences presented and advise from experts; (2) identify areas for improvement of existing models or approaches of AFA Members in extending services and programs related to the enterprises; and (3) develop guidelines or tips which the national farmer organizations can use when extending economic services to members. This regional workshop was supported by Collectif Strategies Alimentaires, an agri-agency based in Brussels, Belgium.
The workshop composed of presentations of scoping research (from Indonesia, Vietnam and Philippines), sharing of experiences (from other members in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Cambodia and Mongolia) and discussions of challenges, reflections and lessons on how to improve their existing mechanisms as well as strategies to effectively and efficiently extend enterprise–related services to members.
There were three major enterprise services discussed: technical/business development services, financial intermediation and marketing services. 1) Technical or BDS is an integral part of any type of economic services to members, from the preparatory or start-up of enterprise operation and during implementation to ensure that the enterprise plans are implemented accordingly. Technical services should respond to the needs of leaders and staff as well as members to ensure common understanding on the objectives of the organization and enterprise, roles and responsibilities as well as benefits to members and enterprise of the organization. (2) Financial intermediation includes financing/lending, savings and credit. These are some of the financial services that directly support and benefit the members. The role of national FOs is crucial in establishing this kind of service to members to ensure that the members are capable of operating and managing efficiently. FNN, for example, provides training of leaders and staff (technical and exposure trip to successful farmers group) who are planning to establish savings and credit service to members. In addition, as an accompaniment during the start-up operation, technical support is needed to ensure that policies and systems are followed accordingly. (3) Marketing services include linking to appropriate market of farmers’ product (e.g. FNN –CEDAC; API to link APOLLI to market both domestic and export, SIDC, GLOWCorp, etc). This helps farmers directly benefit from premium price and assured market of farmers’ produce.
Results show that FOs of different typologies (cooperatives, whether primary, federation or apex organizations, associations e.g. union, individual or organization, and corporation), perform different roles/services depending on the need and demand of its members. Services vary depending on the capacity both financial and human resources of the organization. SIDC provides full services (in the value chain: production inputs, technical, monitoring and marketing). GLOWCorp focused on marketing of organic products, NATCCO provides financial services that include technical, hardware and investment to start up their lending/ microfinance. VNFU, API, BINADESA, IOA, WAMTI and SPI extend technical-related services on business and link them to financing and their products to market. FNN extends services to members in establishing their savings and credit groups to generate own capital for production; and link them also to market to assure them better price of their products. The performance of enterprise depends on the capacity of FOs in terms of managing the enterprise and financial/capitalization. Generally, they start small, expand and diversify later.
FOs provide technical services to its members in establishing and managing their own enterprises by capacitating the leaders and staff through skills training, coaching or accompaniment, exposure to other successful FOs managing similar enterprises, and values re-orientation of members as well. In addition, FOs (with or without the support from other partners) are extending services in the installation of internal control system (GLOWCorp, IOA), technical, financial system and monitoring of lending, savings and credit services (NATCCO, FNN-CEDAC, SIDC).
Moreover, farmers have access and assured market of their produce when they are organized and directly engaged in marketing (the case of SIDC, VNFU, GLOWCorp, API-APOLLI, FNN-CEDAC). They can further negotiate better terms and conditions with the market if they are informed about the market situation and industry trends.
FOs when they are strong (with track records) can better access (or leverage) government support programs and services such as research and development, value-adding activities (the case of TWADA and TDFA in Taiwan) as well as infrastructure support to improve product quality (of farmers) and ensure food safety (of consumers).
FOs themselves cannot provide all services needed by their members. FOs can leverage government and other development organization e.g. production and marketing capital, and support in the promotion of farmers ‘products through trade fair and product exhibits (GLOWCorp, IOA, VNFU, SIDC, etc.). Thus, FOs services can further enhance and expand if:
- FOs can generate own capital through savings and credit program as a mechanism to generate and increase own capitalization;
- Financing services like extending loan to members should include savings program. By doing so, this entails proper orientation and training of members to fully understand the savings mechanism as a strategy of generating own capital for expanding or diversifying economic activities. The government can provide support through training support and/or exposure of farmers to see its benefits to the lives of farmers.
- Government and other development organization could support and invest in capacity building of leaders and staff of FOs to help them establish, manage and sustain own enterprises as well as expand or replicate in other areas/groups; also financing and marketing support to enable FOs to extend more services to members and create employment opportunities.
- Government plays an important role in providing support and enabling environment where FOs can better engage with the market and specific industry value chain in general. This includes market infrastructure support such as pricing system and information, industry trend and situation at the local and international market, etc. Policy and program support services includes technical and financing both for production, processing and marketing.
- Private sector on the other hand can also support farmers by directly sourcing-out product from farmers/FOs (shorten the chain) and invest directly to FOs or through government programs in support of farmers/FOs.