By Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance
Ask someone in agribusiness to define what a professional farmer organization is, and you will find a wide variation in definitions and understanding. While a professional small or medium sized enterprise is fairly well defined in any other sector by many books and research on entrepreneurship, for farmer organizations this is not yet the case.
Smallholder farmers are better off collaborating in cooperatives, unions or associations, and farming is a business just like SME’s in many other industries. Many sustainability issues in agriculture such as deforestation, child labor and water scarcity can only be addressed by farmers who are beyond subsistence level.
Agreement on what constitutes a professional farmer organization has great benefits; not only to the farmer organizations themselves, but also to other actors of the agricultural supply chains around the globe. With a global definition, farmer organizations will have more clarity on what professional core capacities are needed to close deals with buyers, financial institutions and other service providers. On the other hand, the definition will guide market actors and other stakeholders in finding and working with farmer groups that have the right business management and leadership skills to establish well-functioning business relationships. So many years of collective efforts have not brought the results that everyone hoped to see concerning improvement in livelihoods and stronger supply chains. The AMEA Partners understand this and believe that a focus on entrepreneurship is needed. A shared understanding and objective to achieve better market access and improved livelihoods of farmers and their communities can smoothen the communication between the leaders of farmer organizations and their partners.
This is why the Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance (AMEA) has embarked on the journey of creating the global definition for professional farmer organizations. AMEA has asked the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop the global definition through an International Workshop Agreement (IWA) to ensure an independent and open process, which is global, credible, multi-stakeholder and consensus-based.
As explained by Alan Johnson, Chair of the AMEA Board and Senior Operations Officer at the International Finance Corporation (IFC), “Reaching an IWA on what constitutes a professional farmer organization will be a huge step forward for all stakeholders working in agribusiness in emerging markets. The IWA helps create a common language for all of us supporting the transition of smallholder farming from semi-subsistence to farming as a business.”
Everyone who has a stake in the agribusiness sector is invited to participate in the co-creation of the definition. Participation is possible by commenting on the existing draft definition online and/or attending the in-person IWA meeting that will be held on 7-8 November 2018 in Delft, the Netherlands. If you wish to participate in the development of the global definition, register as a stakeholder in the process here before 6 July 2018 when registration closes.
Joanne Sonenshine, Independent Chair of the IWA process on defining professional farmer organizations, emphasizes that “Coming together as diverse stakeholders to support the future of farming by ensuring fair and equitable access to finance, markets and investment is critical now more than ever. Developing a mutually agreed-upon and internationally recognized definition for professionalization in the agricultural sector, as is the case in many other working environments, will allow for more efficient, collaborative and impactful engagement among the populations that need investment most.”
Now is the time to have your voice heard, register as an IWA participant, provide your comments to the draft, review comments from other participants and consider joining the consensus-based decision making workshop in November. The final version of the IWA global definition is aimed to be published in January 2019.
The Agribusiness Market Ecosystem Alliance (AMEA) is a global multi-stakeholder alliance of diverse organizations sharing a belief in the collective and transformative power of increasing the professionalism of farmer organizations and farming as a business. The AMEA Framework is a collective and integrated methodology for realizing the shared benefits for all supply chain stakeholders. The Framework is developed by the alliance globally and promoted through local implementation partnerships. The alliance includes IFC, NCBA CLUSA, IDH, ACDI/VOCA, ICCO Cooperation, Rikolto, ICRA, Small Foundation, SCOPEinsight, Fairtrade Africa, Argidius, TechnoServe, Nuru International, Heifer International, CTA, CNFA, Self Help Africa and UTZ/Rainforest Alliance.
About the IWA
An IWA is an ISO document developed through a workshop meeting. Market players and other stakeholders directly participate in developing the agreement. During this one-year-long process, organizations from over 160 ISO-member countries are invited to comment on and inform the proposed global definition. The process is led by Joanne Sonenshine, Independent Chair of the process and facilitated by NEN, the Dutch Standardization Institute on behalf of ISO.