A voice for smallholders in research
An EU-funded project to strengthen the voices of small-scale farmers in Africa in agricultural research is increasing grassroots input into national initiatives and raising the profile of project partners. Technical innovation, policy training and food security advocacy have followed.
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Updated on 16 January 2018
Small-scale farmers produce most of Africa’s food yet rarely share their expertise in formal agricultural research. The INSARD project brought together smallholders and scientists to identify research priorities in Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia.
Priorities that emerged from the consultations included improvements to seed systems, low-input methods to increase soil fertility, and land tenure issues. Some partners have proposed follow-on projects, explains Ann Waters-Bayer of ETC, the non-governmental organisation that led INSARD.
“The project highlighted the potential of research involving smallholder farmers,” she says. “It also extended collaboration among civil society organisations that represent them, giving smallholders a voice.”
One such organisation was the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers' Forum Association (ESAFF), a project partner. “INSARD had a huge impact on our organisational capacity, brokerage and advocacy,” says Joe Mzinga, ESAFF coordinator.
The organisation is now following up on seed purification with farmers in Tanzania’s main grain-producing region, the Southern Highlands, working with the Ministry of Agriculture Training Institute Uyole. “The farmers will own the seed, use it as a source of income and increase availability of seed in the country,” says Mzinga.
ESAFF has also successfully applied for EUR 1.8 million of EU funding for a new project, INVOLVE, which enhances the capacity of East-African farmers to take part in national agricultural policy processes. “This would not have been possible without experience in handling EU funds,” he says. INSARD strengthened the voice of farmers in food security policy more generally, he adds.
In Senegal, participation in the project strengthened the network organisation Réseau des Plateformes d’ONG d’Afrique de l’Ouest and du Centre (REPAOC). “INSARD gave us great visibility in West Africa to promote the right to food. We have adopted the Economic Community of West African States’s zero-hunger initiative,” says REPAOC Regional Coordinator, Guy Aho Tete Benissan.
The driving force behind INSARD was the network Promoting Local Innovation in Ecologically Oriented Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (Prolinnova), says Waters-Bayer. ETC closed after the project ended in 2013 but Prolinnova continues to strengthen farmers’ involvement in research and development, she adds.