Josiane Irakarama, a WFO representative from Rwanda, shares her key takeaways from attending the 5th AU-EU Agriculture Ministerial Conference. 

On June 30, 2023, the FAO premises in Rome hosted the 5th AU-EU Agriculture Ministerial Conference. The Conference provided a platform for African Union (AU) and European Union (EU) leaders to engage in constructive dialogue on “Resilient food systems and sustainable agri value chains” 

As a member of the WFO Secretariat Team, a Food Law student, and most importantly, an enthusiastic African smallholder farmer myself, I had the opportunity to attend the Conference and join the side event organized by the Pan-African Farmers’ Organization (PAFO) and Agricord, titled “AU-EU Partnership and the Role of Farmers’ Organisations (FOs) in Resilient Food Systems and Sustainable Agri Value Chains.”  

Here are my key takeaways from the event.  

1 – Farmers’ Organisations as Catalysts for Resilient Food Systems

FOs play a critical role in constructing resilient food systems. By representing and advocating for farmers’ interests, FOs serve as key stakeholders in shaping policies and practices that ensure food security and sustainable agriculture.
Strengthening the capacity of FOs is essential to enable them to actively engage in decision-making processes and contribute to the design and implementation of effective policies. FOs were recognized as vital actors in promoting climate-smart agriculture, sustainable land management, and the adoption of innovative farming practices. 

2 – Farmers’ Organisations as Drivers of Sustainable Agricultural Value Chains 

FOs are drivers of sustainable agricultural value chains. FOs play a crucial role in enhancing the productivity, market access, and income of smallholder farmers.
Through collective action and cooperation, FOs facilitate the organization of farmers, enabling them to negotiate fair prices, access credit and inputs, and adopt best practices in post-harvest handling and value addition. Strengthening partnerships between FOs, private sector actors, and government institutions is crucial to creating inclusive and sustainable value chains. 

3 – Strengthening Capacity Building and Knowledge Sharing 

Capacity building and knowledge-sharing emerged as central themes during the event. Recognizing the diverse needs and challenges faced by FOs, the panel discussion emphasized the importance of providing training, technical assistance, and access to information. The event underscored the need to enhance FOs’ skills in financial management, governance, entrepreneurship, and advocacy. Moreover, practical knowledge-sharing platforms were identified as valuable tools to facilitate the exchange of best practices, innovations, and lessons learned between FOs in Africa and Europe. 

4 – Promoting Partnerships for Effective Collaboration 

Partnerships play a significant role in enhancing the role of FOs and maximizing their impact. Collaboration between FOs, governments, civil society organizations, research institutions, and development partners can facilitate resource mobilization, improve access to markets and technology, and enable FOs to contribute effectively to sustainable agricultural development.
Personally, I was thrilled to hear from one of the EU delegates in the panel showcasing as a best practice how the collaboration between my home country farmers’ organization INGABO Syndicate (from whom I am a member of its Youth Forum) with the local cassava processing plant has given market access to our cassava produce. Furthermore, the event emphasized the need for inclusive and participatory processes, ensuring that the voices of smallholder farmers are heard and incorporated into policy discussions and program implementation. 

In conclusion, the side event organized by PAFO and Agricord at the 5th AU-EU Agriculture Ministerial Conference shed light on the pivotal role of Farmers’ Organizations in building resilient food systems and sustainable agricultural value chains.
The discussions underscored the importance of empowering FOs, promoting collaboration, and strengthening capacity-building initiatives. By recognizing the central role of FOs and supporting their efforts, Africa and Europe can work together to achieve sustainable agricultural development, enhance food security, and improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers. The event served as a reminder of the immense potential that lies in the collective action of FOs, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for agriculture on both continents. 

Now is the time to translate these discussions into concrete actions. 


Photo credit: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto. Copyright ©FAO.