Expanding support for farmers' organizations

Creating farmer associations
Competing with the economy of scale, small farmers have devised various forms of associations to raise their income levels. These associations also protect their interests in competition with large-scale agriculture and urban groups. Stable and well-managed local associations and co-operatives have provided the needed resources for taking up new ventures and for surmounting the hurdles that may arise. They provide a way for the farmers themselves to increase agricultural production and improve the general well-being of their communities. Farmers, associations at the lowest or township level are the most important as they keep direct contact with the farmers and render direct service. They can also develop options for group farming adapted to regional differences and farmers' preferences. Associations of poor farmers and the landless can achieve remarkable results for their own development. However, it is considered essential for the members to be trained in the management of both their enterprise and the association whether it be a co-operative, a registered society, or a non-formal association.

This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.

In China, a federated system of farmers' associations renders such services as credit, merchandising and marketing, livestock insurance and agricultural extension. In joint operations, small farmers organize into groups of 20 to 30 to co-operatively purchase inputs, market their farm products and own and utilize expensive farm machinery. This system maintains individual farm identity, reduces labour and production costs and accelerates mechanization. "Entrusted Farming" is a kind of contract farming. Farmer A may entrust Farmer B to carry out one or more of Farmer A's operations. Such various farming practices resulted in a 56 percent increase in per capita intake of protein, 31 percent increase in per capita intake of calories, and a 17-fold increase in the export of agricultural products over the 30 years between 1950 and 1980.

The Vaishali Area Small Farmers Association (VASFA) project is a good illustration from India of how small farmers can form associations, develop common productive assets and increase their production several times. Farmers with small fragmented pieces of land were brought together around a newly constructed tube well to form a registered society, without loss of identity of individual holdings. They have been provided with common equipment, trained in its use and given the usually available incentives to increase their agricultural production. Routine farming operations are carried out independently and individually. VASFA has expanded its operations greatly and is now used as an extension agent for government and non-government agencies. It has been responsible for the development of numerous deep tube-wells, the irrigation of thousands of hectares of dryland under irrigation and the introduction of high yielding varieties of crops. Assured irrigation and increased income has led farmers to switch over to cash crops in many cases. However, the association is careful that the nutrition level of farm families is not reduced. Production of domestic needs of food grains and other vegetable and fruit crops provides a reason for bringing additional areas under cash crops.

The Small Farmer Development Programme in Nepal found that the delivery mechanism of government agencies could be adapted to the needs of the rural poor with greater prospects of benefiting the target group. Their plans and programmes are formulated so that un-utilized or under-utilized skills, labour and available resources are mobilized. The group approach has encouraged meaningful participation by the people. Small farmers' groups are organized at the village level. The most important step in the process is matching the programmes of delivery with the plans of the associations to strengthen the receiving mechanism of the small farmers. A group of 10 to 20 farmers has been found to be effective in implementing their own agricultural and community development plan. The groups also monitor and evaluate their projects. Agricultural services (improved seeds, chemical fertilisers, veterinary services and improved implements) and social services (family planning, sanitation, drinking water, adult education, health) have been made available to small farmers through these farmers' groups.

Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger