Why is Africa’s agriculture not transforming as it ought to? What role can farmers play to change the situation around? This issue was discussed in one of the plenary sessions of the 2018 annual dialogue co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), Graca Machel Trust, Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) in Maputo, Mozambique in November.
The fundamental causal factor was identified as the lack of engagement of farmers and farmers’ organisations by the public sector in policy formulation processes. It turns out that this problem is faced by many African countries, hence governments were challenged to desist from ‘consulting’ the farmers’ constituency, but instead engage farmers as major stakeholders from the concept stage of whatever intervention that is planned under the sector.
Ideally, policy and programme formulation should include stakeholder engagements, providing interested parties, particularly farmers, an opportunity to make their inputs into the process by registering their views, needs, interests and concerns. This is one aspect that would improve farmers’ understanding as well as ownership of national agricultural initiatives. Unfortunately, policy development continues to be the preserve of governments whose agencies decide which stakeholders to involve in the formulation and implementation processes.
Such fundamental oversights have often restricted farmers and farmers’ organisations to a position where they can only react to what governments would have already formulated. It was pointed out that countries would perhaps be better positioned to transform the agricultural sector if they have baseline information on various indicators indicating what exactly needs to be transformed, how, by whom and when. It would also help to envision the kind of transformed agriculture they want to experience.