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Week 2 (May 15 - 21): Linkages between local and national levels and its implications

Excerpts on linkages between local and national levels from the report of the Regional Workshop:

Institutionalization can take place at different levels from policy to farmer groups and community, and it has various entry points depending on the context. Institutionalization can happen through diverse stakeholders, such as governments, farmer facilitators, FFS practitioners, researchers, academicians, FAO, NGOs, etc.

The institutionalization process is a long-term process which is not exclusively related to government and it does not always occur in a formalized way. It includes institutional and collaborative arrangements in public-private partnership, education institutes, NGOs, FOs, and at community level. For example, it is found that at local community level FFS can be better institutionalized as a learning process.

At local and community level the needs and demands of farmers and their community should be always considered as essential entry point for institutionalization. For FFS learning to be continued beyond the FFS project/program, it requires farmers taking ownership of the process and nourishing a “culture of learning” at the local level.  For some, this process evolves naturally and becomes like a “living organism”. 

Iftikhar Ahmad (Pakistan) spoke of “FFS learning systems” and the need for a solid, scientific basis for FFS. He described the development of FFS and the national program in Pakistan over the past 20 years, including the involvement of agricultural extension, universities and research bodies, as well as farmers’ and trainers’ organizations and networks. Dr. Ahmad also indicated that FFS institutionalization process should be linked to national development objectives, partners, and other main challenges that lie ahead.

Binod Saha, Assistant FAO Representative Nepal, presented IPM activities in Nepal that started in the 1990s to control brown plant hopper (BPH). Initially, the program consisted mainly of conducting FFSs, with little follow-up. However, the program has subsequently broadened to including marketing and other crop management issues.

Jam Khalid, Senior Vice President, SOFT Pakistan, presented the experience of SOFT - Society of Facilitators and Trainers (SOFT) that is the FFS facilitators’ groups in Pakistan with most facilitators being farmers. SOFT works to enhance FFS quality through coordination and the sharing of information and practices. It forms one side of a triangle along with the government and FAO. SOFT Network facilitates its network member organizations also in marketing innovative products like natural honey, squashes, jams, flour, cloths, handicraft, seed, nursery plants etc., in capacity development, in developing linkages with the different service providers, government counterpart, donors and implementers. He also spoke about the effort of ‘Smallholders Asia’ to create a platform through which farmers can sell, buy or exchange produce and agricultural inputs, as well as to rent land, agricultural machinery or services.

Mrityunjoy Roy, Deputy Project Director of AGEP, Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh, described the evolution of IPM to include integrate crop management (ICM) and also integrated farm management (IFM), which addressed all aspects of production, including market linkages.

Changes in organizations, management, policies, and people who are involved in and supportive of FFS pose challenges. It is common that government staff and FFS facilitators change jobs, and farmers migrate for seasonal work. These cause problems for the continuity of FFS activities at local and national level. While a commitment by policy makers is fundamental in institutionalizing FFS programs/principles at the national level, it also is extremely important to consider the involvement of other stakeholders such as NGOs, private sectors, and farmer organizations, in addition to government counterparts.

Poor networking and a lack of coordination at different levels are often mentioned as the main challenges in the process of institutionalization. Better coordination between local government and community (FFS groups) and the other stakeholders can lead to the preparation of a bottom up plan, creating platforms for farmers to integrate their learning with other community development programs, and also make FFS systems more respondent to farmers’ needs and demands. For example, in Philippines, a strong coordination and collaboration effort among the pillars of agricultural development namely National Government Agencies (NGAs), Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and the Local Government Units (LGUs) and strengthened partnership with the LGUs at the provincial and municipal level through regular consultations, lie at the heart of the strategy to institutionalization. In China, the Ministry of Agriculture set up a professional team from different institutions to support FFS and develop FFS training manuals and guidelines and this has been considered one of the main factor of success.

The establishment of national informal and formal network/community of FFS practitioners have been considered as another important priority, like for example in the case of Myanmar where the organization of a national workshop with key stakeholders will have the purpose of promoting recognition of FFS as an effective approach for farmers empowerment and to create a common understanding among key stakeholders.

 

Recommendations made by the Regional Workshop participants include:

  • The FFS approach is intended as a learning process beyond being considered solely an extension mechanism. Institutionalizing this culture of learning process requires a thorough understanding of the local context and shared demand among groups, communities as well as by the government.
  • FFS approach as a learning tool should be incorporated into relevant national policies. Policy support is needed for human resource development with FFS (e.g. CPF) as well as for funding.
  • Raise awareness among key stakeholders including policy makers is essential to take them on board for better institutional support to FFS activities.
  • Establish autonomous bodies for developing norms and standards in coordination with various stakeholders for quality FFS implementation (curriculum, site and farmer selection, facilitator selection, etc.), as well as certification and monitoring.
  • Set up institutional arrangements for better networking and coordination among various stakeholders, including government departments (internal coordination on quality issues), NGOs, farmer’s organizations, alumni networks, etc.. Networks should be set up at various levels (e.g. country level through Alumni Association Network; regional level, possibly facilitated by FAO). 
  • Strengthen and create linkages between FFS activities, local communities, markets and other stakeholders such as research institutes, local government bodies and dealers.

 

Please reflect on the workshop findings and:

1.       Share any additional reflections on which key stakeholders should we engage at local and national levels to increase ownership in institutionalizing FFS?

2.       Make specific recommendations on key institutional entry points for increasing ownership in Institutionalizing FFS?

 

The Week 2 discussion will close at midnight on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Comments

Learning Process

In Singapore, we recognise that farming is an integral learning process. While we import more than 80% of our domestic consumption, we have identified that institutionalised learning is a necessary process in maximising use of limited land area in increasing and improving our local produces. Unlike developing countries that may have the luxury of geographical area abet lack of resources in developing farming technologies, Singapore face the intrinisic opposite secenario such that we require farming stakeholders being substantially learned in order to embrace technology and sciences in our high tech farming initiatives. From our commercial vertical farming initiatives till our recent success in mass producing Temasek Polytechnic lab grown rice cultivated from genes of six species, there is a certain degree of technical know how necessary in handling our local agriculture projects and institutionalised learning is hence imperative.

Incorporated into National Policies

The Ministry of Trade and Industry in Singapore has been reviewing the farming road map in Singapore once again with Budget 2017. While slightly neglected in prior years, the Government of Singapore has proactively taken steps in incorporating institutional farming practices since formally joining FAO in recent years, and we are seeing legislation as well as visionary polices being debated in Parliament in particular this year 2017 by political appointees such as Member of Parliament Dr. KOH Poh Koon. The general national vision are farms in Singapore that make use of integrated vertical and indoor systems, automation and robots.

Raise Awareness Amongst Key Stakeholders

Statutory boards such as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority in Singapore have been maintaining an efficient web portal communicating, educating and raising awareness amongst key agricultural stakeholders in Singapore. An example of a magazine launched includes ¨AVA Vision¨. Issue 1 of the magazine in 2017 showcases the future of farming in Singapore, and covers topics such as bridging the gap between traditional fishing farms with modern scientific advancements.

Establish Autonomous Bodies For Developing Norms and Standards

36 new plots of land spanning 60 ha have been announced by the Government of Singapore last week in establishing autonomous entities in piloting modern agricultural projects setting norms and standards for the future of Singapore and the region. There are also pre-existing associations and grassroot farmer field schooling practices that look after the various agricultural practices on this island with a good degree of freedom.

Set up Institutional Arrangements For Better Networking and Coordination Among Various Stakeholders

Due to the informal nature of networking and coordinating amongst agricultural stakeholders, such institutional arrangements have a tendency of being adhoc and spontaneous in the local farming community. Examples of such arrangements include Farmers Markets where farmers, enthusiasts, consumers and industrialists do gather and either exchange knowledge via public workshops or promoting and retailing produces. Some of these are facilitated by the National Parks Board, a statutory agency in Singapore, others are community ground up settings.

Strengthen and Create Linkages

Social media is a promising approach that stakeholders can partake in strengthening and creating linkages in the farming and agricultural community locally in Singapore or across the region as well. The Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology in Singapore also functions somewhat as an institutionalised farmer field school conducting certification classes for local industrialists as well as hired foreign help. Majority of courses are sponsored by the state via programmes such as Skillsfuture SG, and iirc there are also preferential rates in training green workers with proper visas or work permits.

Images: 
Munawar Raza Kazmi Kazmi's picture

Share any additional reflections on which key stakeholders should we engage at local and national levels to increase ownership in institutionalizing FFS

I would like to mention here about Pakistan, although there is a National Program in Pakistan and FFS are there from last 20 years. It all started by involving agricultural extension, universities and research bodies however it still on very fragile surface when it comes to obtain support from government bodies/ policy makers and decision makers it is hard to get. I think FAO being originator of this approach should lead a discussion forum – inviting key policy level people and have detailed discussion on the approach – delinking with personalities while linking to national development objectives, main challenges and future course of action.

Yes farmers’ and trainers’ organizations and networks along with few NGOs are working and advocating.

 

Make specific recommendations on key institutional entry points for increasing ownership in Institutionalizing FFS?

In the developing countries the agriculture extension systems are weak mainly due to under resourcing and over burden of working. Overall resources for agriculture are always scarce. Therefore the governments depend on International donors for support in agriculture research and development. These agencies when enter in any country they try to brand their work.

FAO being UN agency and with its wider acceptability both in government and international agencies can act as catalyst for creating a learning platform. Therefore I suggest that FAO should establish a dialogue process with other international agencies/donors for developing wider acceptability and understanding of FFS approach.

 

 

At the moment, I really got confused of the most recent national state's policy in Indonesia which has had a significant implications on the institutionalization of FFS at both the local and national levels. In the past couple of years, the national government did a re-organization of the Ministry of Agriculture in which the previous agency being responsible of introducing the IPM FFSs to farmers in Indonesia (the Directorate of Crop Protection of the Directorate General of Food Crops) was not permitted to plan and manage the IPM FFSs. Their responsibility was transferred to the Directorate General of Human Resources. All "trainings" should thus be carried out by this division and not by those dealing with the technical aspects of agriculture. In the past two years, I have not found any new FFSs being introduced to the farmers (of all kinds of FFS) by the state agencies.

Responding to that "stagnancy", the FAO representative in Jakarta office in collaboration with the staff of the Directorate of Crop Protection, the Ministry of Agriculture and scientists (entomologists) designed a substitute programme called as "Landscape IPM program". In the past couple of years, this program was initiated in several regencies in Java as a "trial". The objective was similar to the IPM FFSs but by facilitating farmers to develop the IPM strategies straight away in the adjacent fields as wide as 25 ha. Again, since the project was constrained by budget allocation, the program was introduced in a short-period of time with a number of cases for a continual program in the following season. It was not a surprise that I found similar problems in institutionalizing the educational commitment/learning process as in the state FFSs. Even though they involved the national and local agricultural officials in designing, recuriting farmers, defining the location, and implementing the program, but without proper and adequate preparation and management, not all places produced similar success results. Only in few places in which farmers themselves--also of IPM alumni--were participating actively  were successful in inviting and facilitating their fellows to practice the IPM strategies in their fields. In short I would say that even though linkages between international, national and local level agencies and between different stakeholders have been set up, it does not guarantee of a successful institutionalization of the learning. 

By also learning from my own experience in scaling-up the SFSs (Science Field Shops) among the local and national levels of bureaucrats and other stakeholders (NGOs, donor agencies, scientists), I do not see a "promising future" of the institutionalization of any learning program/educational commitment for and among farmers within the existing bureacratic structure and culture. The local bureaucrats--even though they are responsible to develop their own programs and budget allocation--would not be able to effectively implement the educational commitment without a strong policy support (and its budget provision) from the national state agencies. In such a condition, I thought that a "breakthrough" should be seriously considered. But, I do not have any idea at the moment of what and how would a more effective linkages between various stakeholders (both horizontally or vertically) be initiated, developed, and sustained in a long-run?

At the monent, my team and I are still doing our best to incorporate the local and regional level agricultural agencies to be involved as the "owner" of the program. The responses did vary. One regency in Indonesia responded enthusiastically and had the interests to develop and scale-up the learning program. The other regency responded slowly. We already approached the national level agencies, but, again, building up the linkages is beyond our capability to do. In such a constraining situation, I see the promising thing that would support the institutionalization of the learning rpocess on the ground, namely the farmers themselves. With or without any government support, once they have gained their strong confidence, belief, identity, and ownerhsip feeling of the program, they would be able to pursue their learning and scaling-up process. As long as the scientists would also commit to always follow up the process by providing "new" knowledge to the farmers, the learning would continue. Once the new schema of learning has been established, it will get stronger through "nurturance" and "trust" among themselves. 

Yet, the question is who are the most appropriate agencies and the most effective linkages who would help farmers to "nurture" the learning and thus the institutionalization of that learning?