Fifty-four year-old farmer Amadou Ousmane, known as Belko, stands before a tomato patch. When he was a very young boy he never imagined that he would one day be leading the National Network for Collaboration and Dialogue among Producer Organisations, known as the CDD-G9. He has just concluded another meeting focused on preparing a common position on the draft Framework Law on Agricultural Policy, which will shape the future of farming and food security in Niger.
Born and raised in Niger's capital Belko spent his youth helping his parents on the farm. He soon began cultivating traditional Nigerien crops and fresh vegetables, and raising livestock and poultry.
In Niger, where 80% of the population is rural, family farming is the rule. Belko stands out, nevertheless, for his strong activism within producer organisations, his dedication to family farming and his readiness to engage as a leader and representative of rural men's and women's needs and interests.
Thanks to joining Nogaré's Market Vegetables Cooperative in 1985-1986, he developed his skills, and increased the productivity of his farm. This first experience in a cooperative taught him about the potential benefits of collective action for small-scale producers and the country’s agricultural development, poverty reduction and food security policies. Strong in his convictions, in 2008 he became President of the Council for farmers' action and solidarity in Niger (CASPANI).
In March 2013, Ousmane's path crossed with the European Union and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), when the two partners brought producer organisations together to support their dialogue with government.
They identified the most appropriate ways to strengthen the participation of producer organisations, specifically in the implementation of the National Strategy on Food Security and Rural Agriculture. Belko and his fellow leaders were able to present the views of the CDD-G9 network. Their dialogue had come to fruition, and was now to be part of a rich partnership with the EU, FAO and other partners.
After this first founding step and more than a year of support from the EU and the FAO, Belko's network strengthened. It has been engaging other organisations, influencing the formulation and implementation of national policy and legal instruments that will affect thousands of small producers and, in turn, food security.