Redefining GFAR’s Roles through Collective Action

punjab farmer with daughters

“If you want to go fast, walk alone; if you want to go far, walk together”, goes a popular Chinese Proverb.

In order to walk far in achieving its mandate, GFAR requires coordinated and coherent actions, delivered through effective multi-stakeholder partnerships, – partnerships with governments, development partners, civil society organisations, research organisations, agricultural organisation among others. The Constituent Assembly provided space for strengthening such partnerships and making it a turning point for GFAR – in the words of the GFAR vice Chair.

At the GFAR Constituent Assembly, various themes that lend themselves to collective action were discussed. Themes such as; climate change and natural resource management, gender, knowledge access and use, youth, farmer’s rights and resources, foresight and future needs, capacity development, international advocacy and consumption, nutrition and health.

The GFAR Constituent Assembly sessions were designed to enable participants to discuss the obstacles and success elements in undertaking collective efforts to address these themes with a view of reshaping it’s future outlook as follows;

Climate Change: the desire of any farmer is to succeed and this success is measured against “how much one gets from the farm”. Their ability to increase their yields is however, constrained by a myriad of challenges associated with “climate change” – one of the themes discussed at the assembly. Following the discussions and deliberations on the obstacles and success elements in undertaking collective efforts to address it, the following were settled upon as the key action points;

  1. Increase climate specific communication strategies from governments and NGOs especially in Africa to provide early warnings for action.
  2. Formulate and implement global policies on management of NRM and climate change on trans-boundary resources such as water.
  3. Promote conservation of biodiversity genetic resources.

Youth involvement in agriculture: the average farmer is getting older and the youth continue seeking jobs elsewhere avoiding agriculture. This poses a threat to the future global food security and therefore calls for concerted efforts to reverse this worrying trend. There’s need to urgently bring youth back into farming.

Agriculture is a multi-disciplinary sector borrowing from other sectors such as engineering, biology, ecology, transport just to name but a few. This means agriculture can accommodate professionals from these disciplines as well. It therefore has the biggest potential to offer employment to youths from diverse backgrounds. There is room for all of us in agriculture. Deliberations by participants yielded the following as action points moving forward;

  1. Understanding youth aspirations through listening to them, giving them guidance but making them make their own decisions.
  2. Enabling policy environment at local level through funding, land and capital development
  3. Integrate farming in education system to attract more youths.

Gender issues: women form the majority of all farmers, yet are mostly invisible because their work is uncounted; their work day is longer than men’s; they harbour specialized knowledge – they represent a pool of highly-skilled labour in many areas of agricultural and rural development, which men lack; their productivity is severely constrained by the fragmentation of their time, their multiple responsibilities, and their lack of access to essential inputs including knowledge.

This is attributed to the unbalanced gender roles – one of the themes of the GFAR constituent assembly. From the deliberations, gender issues in agriculture should be mainstreamed. – An undertaking that requires our efforts collectively to ensure gender roles are not dictated by birth rights and birth order. The key drivers for this transformation were identified as;

  1. Encourage political and cultural will to achieve real gender equality
  2. Create an enabling environment for women empowerment
  3. Demand implementation of women related policies.

Capacity Development; To tackle the main challenges afflicting the sector, there is also need to collaboratively build capacities of the different practitioners in the sector. Sometimes, practitioners know where the problems are and even their solutions but fail to address them due to lack of capacity to implement them. Going forward, there is need for collective action in building capacities of different stakeholders to tackle these challenges.

Tackling these challenges and mainstreaming gender as well as bringing the youth in agriculture will bring on board vital constituents that will steer GFAR and agriculture into the future. Aligning its priorities along some of the important declarations such as the Maputo declaration, the Malabo declaration, and the Doha declaration will also help in bringing on board other constituents who are already aligned to them.

GFAR will be supporting collective actions in local communities’ struggles against poverty and marginalization by promoting greater global commitment and action towards policy, market and legal reforms that secure their rights to own, control and benefit from natural resources, especially land and forests. In this regard, collective action through public/government sector support would increase the success of farmers.

With all these, GFAR is indeed poised to walk far…

Blogpost by our social reporter Elicah Barasa (YPARD)
Picture courtesy Peter Casier (CCAFS/CGIAR)

This is a live blog, reporting from the GFAR Constituent Assembly

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