Marketing of organic products where farmers get a bigger share of the value chain. Clean and renewable energy systems that are appropriate for rural communities. These are just some of the concerns of small scale women and men farmers in Asia.
The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) arranged a study tour for its Cambodian member Farmer and Nature Net (FNN) and Laos partner Social & Economic Developers Association (SEDA-Laos) last March 2, 2011 in the Philippines in order to share some of the best practices of local NGOs and POs on these two important subjects.
Mr. Jun Virola, AFA Operations and MIS Officer, accompanied Mr. Pan Sopheap, Executive Director of FNN, and Ms. Souly QuachAngkham, President of SEDA Laos to three organizations located within Metro Manila for the study tour. Mr. Sopheap and Ms. QuachAngkham were in Manila to participate in the Southeast Asian CSO meeting with the ASEAN Secretariat’s Dian Sukmajaya last March 1, 2011.
The first organization was the Upland Marketing Foundation, Inc. (UMFI) in Pasig City, an NGO that acts as an intermediary institution in the marketing of organic agricultural products, such as rice and muscovado sugar, by farmer organizations all over the Philippines, including member organizations of PAKISAMA, an AFA member.
The second organization was the Organic of Producers Trade Association (OPTA) in Quezon City, which promotes and certifies organic products, and runs an organic shop within the city.
The third organization was the Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT), also in Quezon City, which develops and installs renewable energy systems, among other appropriate technologies, to remote communities all over the country.
The one-day study tour enabled the participants to learn about the experiences of these organizations and ask focused questions about the successes as well as the challenges and difficulties they faced.
Ms. Souly QuachAngkham and Mr. Pan Sopheap both expressed appreciation for the study tour and the relevance of the lessons learned to their respective organizations.
SEDA Laos is also into rice production and marketing and the experiences of UMFI and OPTA gave Ms. QuachAngkham some ideas that they can try in Laos.
SIBAT’s renewable energy systems, especially solar and wind, also have some potential for adoption in some rural communities in Laos.
FNN on the other hand, has been organizing its farmer members into commodity clusters, such as organic rice and organic chicken, and has been cooperating with its partner NGO CEDAC, which acts as an intermediary institution for marketing and distribution. The lessons from UMFI are directly relevant to them as they continue to improve their capacity for participating in the value chain for organic agricultural products in Cambodia.
CEDAC now has 9 organic shops in Phnom Penh (2 of which are franchises). They are somewhat similar to OPTA, that sells organic products from farmers belonging to FNN, and the lessons from OPTA are also relevant for them.
Mr. Sopheap also showed great interest in the renewable energy systems by SIBAT, particularly the mini-hydro system, the water ram pump, and the wind turbine energy system.
AFA sees much value in study tours for its members and continues to find resources for these activities. It looks for ways to improve its capacity for documenting initiatives on the ground and facilitating knowledge sharing among its members.