[Paper developed by the Asian Farmersâ€™ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and presented by Mr. Long Dimanche, Secretary of Farmer and Nature Net, an AFA member in Cambodia, during the â€œSub-Regional Seminar on Enhancing Capacities of NGOs and Farmersâ€™ Groups to Link Farmers to Marketsâ€, May 9-12, Bali, Indonesia, organized by VECO-Indonesia.]
A pleasant day to all of you. First of all, I would like to thank the organizers of this conference for giving us, in AFA, this opportunity to share our experiences, concerns, and proposals regarding linking farmers to markets.
Who We Are
The Asian Farmersâ€™ Association for Sustainable Rural Development or AFA is a regional alliance of farmer federations and organizations in ten Asian countries, representing 9 million farmers. Established in May 2002, our formation was a fruit of a three-year five Farmersâ€™ Exchange Visits (FEVs) organized by its strategic NGO partner, Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA).
We endeavor to be a strong lobby and advocacy group for farmersâ€™ rights and development, genuine agrarian reform and mainstreaming of sustainable agriculture in regional and national policies and programs. We also want to be a facilitator for our membersâ€™ commercial activities in trading and marketing of sustainable agricultural products. We are also a venue for solidarity and exchange of information on agriculture and farmersâ€™ development among our members.
Where We Are
Currently, includes Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) , Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) in Philippines, Sor Kor Por in Thailand, Jeongkuk Sae Nongminhoe and Korean Advanced Farmersâ€™ Federation (KAFF), Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association (TWADA), Ainokai in Japan, Farmer and Nature Net (FNN) in Cambodia , Vietnam Farmersâ€™ Union and several local-based farmersâ€™ groups in Malaysia and Laos.
The Issues We Face
In 2003, AFA conducted 3 sub-regional consultations among farmers in Southeast Asia, Mekong region and North Asia. From these consultations, the following common issues were identified:
Issues in production/technology
v Poor knowledge and skills in sustainable farm management, storage and processing
v Use of poor and unsustainable agricultural technologies, with unsustainable practices getting government support
v Areas usually affected by natural calamities
v Production costs are high but farmers lack access to credit and capital
Issues in human resources
v Ageing of the farm population and difficulty to obtain successors
v Weak farmersâ€™ organizations
Issues on farmersâ€™ rights
v Agrarian reform still to be fully and effectively implemented in many countries
Growing poverty and marginalization of Asian farmers
Issues in marketing and trade
v Limited or absence of market for agricultural products, esp. sustainable products
v Presence of middlepersons who take advantage of farmers
v Lack of competitiveness under globalization
v Unfair and unjust rules and practices in WTO
What is a typical farmer from a developing country in Southeast Asia? Most of us, farmers in developing Countries in Asia, are small scale producers subsisting on one half to two hectares of land, as tenants, workers, lessees; many of us do not have adequate access and control over land and water resources. . Our farming is labor intensive, And most of us receive little support, if at all, from our governments. Budgetary problems, corruption, inefficiencies in governance conspire to deprive us of quality farm-to-market roads, irrigation facilities, communication networks, subsidies, price support, agricultural extension and other basic support infrastructures and services that many of the farmers in developed countries already take for granted.
And then, even if we comprise a large majority of the population, we, Asian farmers are poorly organized, and fragmented, if so; we thus have little influence politically and economically. We have become easy pawns in political exercises and exert little influence on governments and society as a whole. Our farmersâ€™ organizations have been beset by government interference, farmer apathy and mismanagement.
And then came agricultural trade liberalization which opened up our markets to cheaper products from farmers from more developed countries, making our products uncompetitive. Also, with globalization, markets are getting more concentrated, with us having less and less options on where to sell our products and the consumers becoming more and more dependent on a few large food processors and distributors.
Our Efforts in Marketing and Trading
Are we hopeless? We are here today because we still think that at the village, national and international levels, we can do something to give ourselves better incomes, better living conditions. We get inspiration from what some of our members have done, or are currently doing alongside the aspect of production, then marketing and trading. These things we learn from the various Farmersâ€™ Exchange Visits we have conducted. Today, I would like to share with you the experiences of AFA members in Taiwan, Korea, and Cambodia.
Taiwan/TWADA. For one thing, we appreciated the Taiwanese (government and farmersâ€™) strategies in developing the agricultural sector. Firstly, the government successfully implemented the agrarian reform program. Then, to combat the negative effect of small farming, the government encouraged adjacent farms to form into larger production units either through entrusted farming practices or into production groups. Production groups were later expanded to include marketing activities, and thus were renamed â€œproduction and marketing teamsâ€ or PMTs. In addition to PMTs, Farmersâ€™ Associations or FAs were organized at the district, county and provincial levels. The FAs handled production and marketing activities, technical assistance ( by the extension department of agricultural universities and government agencies) , material supply, joint marketing services, and financial functions . The FAs likewise served as social and cultural services and were integrated in the daily livelihood of the local community.
The Taiwan Wax Apple Development Association (TWADA), an AFA member, is one of our most experienced members when it comes to marketing their produce, wax apple, both at national and international levels. Many of these wax apple farmers were previously rice farmers but have shifted to wax apple when rice was liberalized under WTO rules. With government and university support, the wax apply industry has been fully developed. They have marketed wax apple to Canada, Unites States, Japan, Singapore. As a national crop based organization, they do the following:
a. Collect the wax apple industry information form from domestic and international market
b. Promote the cultivation and management technique of wax apple through various seminars and lectures and with strong tie-up with the universityâ€™s research, extension and management departments such that wax apple farmers are able to conform with the wax apple industry standards
c. Assist in the wax apple classification ratings, sale, demonstration, promotion and publicity activities ( such as holding of wax apple fairs), and in the development of a rationalization system of transportation and sale of the product.
Korea/KAFF. The Korean Advanced Farmersâ€™ Federation conducts a Best Crops Exhibition every year, during harvest, since 1991. During this Exhibition, advanced farmers exhibit their crops in more than 200 regions all over the country to show the superiority and safety of their crops. This also gives farmers the chance to pioneer in the market of their excellent crops,as well as to boost their confidence.
Korean farmers are also beset with decreasing incomes and increasing debts, mainly through the indiscreet importation of farming products and inadequate government policies and agricultural strategies. KAFF takes the lead in reflecting public opinion, in proposing policy alternatives and in paving the way for a true agricultural cooperative where farmers take the lead.
Cambodia/FNN. The Farmer and Nature Net (FNN), a network of village-based farmer associations, has emerged as the first independent and genuine nation-wide farmer organization in Cambodia. Since 2003, FNN collaborated with its NGO partner CEDAC in organizing a pilot marketing support project that has led to the establishment of a marketing enterprise. This marketing enterprise is now developing into an affiliate of CEDAC.
FNN facilitates the process of establishment of a production and marketing plan between NAP and producer groups and networks. The project purchases the paddy from the producer network directly, in close cooperation with the latterâ€™s representatives. NAP is responsible in the management of the storage and milling of paddy as well as in selling milled rice to consumers in Phnom Penh and other urban areas through its own Shop and through retailer networks. NAP isa also implementing promotional , public awareness and educational activities on the project and organic SRI rice product. It is also organizing consumers and farmer meeting, including field visit to farmersâ€™ field by consumers.
The NAP and FNN has developed a three- year plan, from January 2006 to December 2008. Included in this plan is the provision of benefits to farmers by enabling them to sell rice for higher prices , then obtain share of the marketing margin or profit ,which can then be invested in community development. Small farmers, generally with landholding less than 1 ha, produce surplus less than 500 kg of paddy per year. The farmers will receive 10% premium, as well as a share of the sale margin (30 riels/kg of paddy) ; this can be used for collective purposes. The farmers also receive training and advice on production (rice and other crops/animals) and marketing methods. Representative of producer groups and network receive training on marketing, organic SRI methods and internal control system.
As AFA. AFA conducts regional for a and training activities on global issues such as WTO-AoA, AFTA, rice industry, the Millennium Development Goals, aimed to increase the knowledge of our members on various regional issues and to help us formulate our own proposals and recommendations.
AFA is active in campaigning against unfair and unjust rules of GATT-WTO-AoA. AFA members are currently conducting consultations and information dissemination on impacts of WTO to farmers as well as a signature campaign on proposals to WTO. AFA is also engaging government negotiators on this issue, both at the local , national and regional levels.
AFA conducts Farmersâ€™ Exchange Visits to areas where sustainable agricultural practices have high chances of replication by other members. We have seen the integrated farm development practices in Thailand, the farmersâ€™ cooperatives in processing, packaging and trading in Taiwan, and farmersâ€™ networking activities for WTO issues in South Korea.
We are in the process of engaging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a dialogue for farmersâ€™ access to production resources , mainstreaming of sustainable agricultural policies in national programs and ensuring that small farmers really benefit from regional and international trade.
This July, AFA will conduct a seminar workshop on fair trade especially for sustainable agricultural products. This seminar will hopefully result in the development of AFAs concept paper on engaging in fair trade for organic products. This is part of the 2006-2010 strategic plan of AFA, which is to provide programs and services to members in the area of alternative trade . We hope that in the near future, we are able to implement pilot projects on alternative/fair trade. What we will learn from this seminar workshop will surely be useful for us.
What Needs to be Done
Firstly, we admit that we need to increase our productivity, enhance the quality of our products, increase our efficiency in managing our farms. We are willing to build our capacities to organize ourselves into efficient production, marketing and processing units as well as effective advocacy groups able to influence appropriate decision â€“making bodies to adopt pro-small farmer agricultural policies and programs.
We need to build our capacities to make our governments listen to us , to make our government accountable and responsive to our needs . We need support groups who will be able to open access to governments for dialogue and lobbying work.
This is because we need government support through the following :
Â· Provide basic infrastructure, capital, technology and other support services to develop the agricultural sector, with benefits accruing to men and women small farmers and fishers
Â· Set up agricultural and food policies that protect farmers from the negative effects of trade policies
Â· explore alternative trading systems according to the principles of food sovereignty and food security so that our countries may not be dependent on other countries for our basic food requirements
Â· support and mainstream sustainable/organic agriculture as this cut production costs and reduce dependency on large transnational firms
Â· In WTO negotiations, push for the elimination of trade distorting export and domestic support measures and subsidies
Â· Calibrate market access and tariff reforms in consideration of the peopleâ€™s agricultural conditions
This ends my presentation. We hope that you have picked even just a litte something useful in this presentation. We look forward to further dialogues and future cooperation on helping small farmers access good markets. Thank you and I wish all of you a most pleasant day!