From 19th to 23rd September, a team from Agriterra comprising of Dr Kees Blokland and Mr Jan Breambroek and Mr Benito Eliasi of SACAU secretariat held consultations with the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) and Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) of Zimbabwe. The consultations were conducted as part of SACAU’s assessment as it prepares to establish an agri-agency unit as mandated by the 2016 Annual General Meeting (AGM) that was held in Swaziland earlier this year. The consultations focused on management and operations of the two organisations and their perception regarding different roles of SACAU as a regional apex body of farmers’ organisations (FOs). In addition, the mission investigated the capacity needs of the two organisations as well as their interest to receive or render advisory services to other SACAU members.
The two organisations pledged their support to SACAU as it is going through this process. They were also in support of skills exchange programmes among SACAU members and indicated that to a lesser extent the concept is being applied in Zimbabwe. It was also interesting to note that efforts of uniting the advocacy activities of the two organisations are at an advanced stage and so far three FOs in the country have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to start working together on common issues affecting farmers in the country. They both foresee possibilities of merging into a single union in the future though currently each will maintain its autonomy while modalities of merging are being discussed. The mission commended both organisations for taking such a bold decision which in the long run will benefit all farmers in the country.
One of the topics that was discussed at length with each FO was resource mobilisation. This was identified as a very critical issue by the two organisations and they both are working hard to devise mechanisms of increasing their financial resources base. They both consider the idea of an agri-agency coordinating and linking provision of services among national FOs in the region to be one of the mechanisms that will assist organisations to raise funds through offering services to other organisations. ZFU and CFU also indicated that they would want SACAU to continue playing a greater role of lobbying and advocacy on regional matters. In addition, ZFU appreciated the training its members and management team receive from SACAU on various issues.
Similar assessments are scheduled in November and December 2016 in Malawi and Namibia respectively.