On 9 February, the President of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) Theo de Jager and Abdelmajid Ezzar, President, Union Tunisine de l’Agriculture et de la Peche (UTAP) and WFO Board Member for Africa, addressed the event “Listen Up: Engaging Farmers in the Process of Repurposing Agriculture Policy”, co-hosted by WFO with the World Bank and the Just Rural Transition Policy Action Coalition within the framework of the 47th Plenary Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 47).
Moderated by Ann Tutwiler, Coordinator, JRT Policy Action Coalition, the discussion also featured the participation of esteemed speakers like Martien van Nieuwkoop, Global Director Agriculture and Food, World Bank; Redouane Arrach, Director, Directorate of Strategy and Statistics (DSS), Morocco Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests; Jeevesh Kumar Sewdeen, Programme Welfare Officer, Small Farmers Welfare Fund (SFWF), Mauritius Ministry of Agro-Industry & Food Security.
The event aimed to better position the ‘repurposing agricultural policies’, focusing on how food producers can be best engaged within decision-making processes around agriculture, ensuring effective, implementable, and inclusive change.
If repurposing efforts do not meaningfully engage farmers, they are bound to fail. After all, farmers are among the most consequential ‘end-users’ of policy and the most critical environmental stewards.
Setting the scene, during his opening remarks, Theo de Jager stated: “Everything is changing, our markets, our financing sources. The climate is changing. This forces us to rethink how we are going about on the piece of land we are custodians of. We have to produce more with less on less very soon. Therefore, we need a different policy environment than the one we have now. That is why we call on governments to repurpose their agricultural policies towards a farmers-driven approach as none knows better than the farmers what can be changed. Still, the farmers alone cannot move this wagon. We cannot underestimate the power of multi-stakeholder platforms as Just Rural Transition Policy Action Coalition who could play a key role in supporting farmers to advocate for repurposed policies.
All stakeholders in the value chain need to be here. Things start at the way we finance production, so a big thank to International Financial Institutions like World Bank support farmers’ organisations to strengthen their capacity for a more effective national advocacy and rural development.
Agriculture is a business, and there is no more important investor than the farmers themselves, who carry many risks. Farmers need to be able to put the products consumers prefer on the shelves because consumers are the only real pulling force of the food value chains. That is why multi-stakeholder platforms are so important.”
Abdelmajid Ezzar contributed to the discussion calling for real participation of farmers in repurposing public support to agriculture, as it is crucial to achieving healthy people, planet and economy: “The agriculture sector remains vital due to its contribution to food security, creation of incomes, and management of natural resources. Farming policies require consultation with all stakeholders. Farmers are the main actors in food sovereignty and agriculture policies. Agriculture policies must be relaunched in times of crisis and pandemic as COVID-19. UTAP take two major roles: it is a trade union representing farmers and fishers in Tunisia with the central bodies to defend their interest; it takes an active part in training farmers and fisheries, especially on economic and technical areas so to make their voices heard. We do that through negotiations with policymakers, for example, the organisation of a national dialogue in 2015. Farming policies must consider the expected effects of climate change that make managing natural resources more complex and affect production and sale. We must involve farmers as a major player in developing farming policies. Farmers are an integral part of African economy and farming is the main activity of most African people: therefore improving the income of rural population will lead to more balanced agriculture policies and make food sovereignty more stable.
Fight against young people migration from the field is also crucial.”
Martien van Nieuwkoop closed the event reiterating “It is very important that farmers actively engaged globally and nationally; we are happy that WFO and its members are pushing for the ‘repurposing agriculture policies’ agenda. Policymakers are waking up and starting to pay attention to farmers.”
By the end, all participants agreed on the relevance of farmers sit at the table when it comes to review and repurpose their agricultural policies and support to advance towards a productive, efficient, and sustainable agriculture.