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Second week of e-conference: the moderator's summary

 
Here below you can read the moderator's summary after 2 weeks of e-conference:
 
We are now two weeks into the FAO e-conference for the SALSA project, and your contributions continue to pour in. Since starting we’ve enjoyed 182 submissions from 40 countries and your contributions have now led us to 47 aggregate emails. Thanks so much to the 817 of you who registered. So far we've processed input from 86 different contributors, so we’d love to hear from those of you who did not contribute yet. As we mentioned last week a diversity of involvement will lead to more experiences and deeper conversations.
 
As we did last week, we’ve made a quick summary of the input received from 24th to 30th March. This builds on the summary of last week (available here: http://teca.fao.org/news/first-week-e-conference-moderators-summary)
 
Topic #1: Cooperation among small farms
 
This week, in Topic 1 ("cooperation among small farms"), we were provided with further examples of both informal and formal cooperation.  Similar formats and examples of informal cooperation that were raised in week 1 were mentioned. In Latvia (Q1.2/5) it was noted that informal cooperation is widespread as there has been poor engagement in formal cooperation. An interesting addition this week came from Spain (Q1.1/7) where we read that informal cooperation has led to further cooperation between producers and local social movements. This alludes to the contribution we had in Q1.2/2 when Sergiu Didicescu from Romania mentioned the possibility of producers broadening their perspective to become more and better involved in the local rural development activities.
 
Challenges in cooperation was represented in the contributions this week. However, we built on the advantages of cooperation and had more examples of collaboration that has worked well. In the messages from Julien de Meyer (Q1.2/6 and Q1.3/6) about the apple production system in South Tyrol (north-east Italy), the creation of the cooperative by the farmers themselves, finding the external support they required, and controlling the governance, were factors that led to their success. They had experience in cooperatives previously however a key element in their success was the innovation and the evolving nature of their cooperative so that “farmers participating could benefit immediately and see long-term advantages to the collaboration”. Innovation, as a critical success factor, was also mentioned by Pedro Cerrada Serra in Q1.1/7
 
An interesting development this week was the conversation on “soft skills”. The question posed by Teresa Pinto Correia (Q1.1/6) on how the lack of soft skills needed for cooperation is addressed was well received. It was acknowledged that lack of soft skills can lead to the failure of cooperatives and certainly needs addressing. Manuela Bucciarelli (Q1.1/8) highlighted the Tropical Agriculture Platform and the Capacity development for agricultural innovation systems (CDAIS)  as supporting just this sort of issue.  Any more feedback to Teresa on this topic?
 
The contribution from Yakubu Musah (Q1.2/6) mentioned a couple of examples of successful formal cooperation. The Wienco Ghana Limited, was referred to and, interestingly, this was mentioned in a previous post (Q1.2/6). This collaboration touches on overcoming many of the points raised last week on the challenges faced by small farm cooperation (e.g. inputs, training, business development, storage, markets).   
 
Topic #2: Small farms’ contribution to resilience of the food system
 
This week, on the ways that small farms contribute to the resilience of the food system (Topic 2), we read that the diverse range of products found in small farms kitchen gardens (Q2.1/3) is an informal way that small farms contribute to the resilience of the overall food system. Despite the decline in small farms in Latvia (Q2.2/4), the majority have shown resilience through diversification of on-farm activities, diversifying production, developing their own markets and relying on the local resources. Competition from private traders and lack of investment are two reasons cited this week on challenges to small farms contributing more to the resilience of the food system.
 
Topic #3: Strategies used by small farms to overcome challenges – a view of the past
 
You contributed your views on the three main challenges (Topic 3) currently facing small farms. This week confirmed the three main challenges reported last week (fluctuations in the market (including pricing), lack of knowledge/capacity and climate change). In addition, we read this week that shortage of labour (Q3.1/4) was a real challenge for small farms in the South Gujarat region of India. Adaptations to meet the challenges again echoed the input from our first week of discussions – well functioning cooperation. New this week was the use of tourism (Q3.2/3) to attract consumers to local markets and information on Coldiretti, a farmers’ association in Italy, and their system of farmers’ markets to support small and medium farms, which is proposed as a model for other countries.
 
Topic #4: How small farms address future challenges
 
We received more messages this week on future challenges faced by small farms (Topic 4). Some of these are the same of the current challenges with new views also being offered. Large scale challenges such as corporate farming and the globalization of agricultural enterprises has been mentioned (Q4.1/3, Q4.1/4), as well as specific challenges such as input quality and fragmentation of landholdings. 
 
Many messages came through on ways to cope with future challenges. Examples included development of socially modified crops, use of bees as pollinators, weather warning systems, and more appropriate government policies.
 
A question came from Teresa Pinto Correia (Q4.1/4) related to this topic. The conditions for future success noted by Castello Zodo (Q4.1/3) include the skills to collaborate. How do small farmers get access to knowledge and skills?
 
Topic #5: The importance of food businesses to small farms
 
In Topic 5 (the kind of, and importance of, food businesses to small farms and their role in the food system) we received a few definitions of small food businesses. Family-run businesses and businesses that retail processed commodities selling directly from farm to market are two such definitions. Vertical integration and connecting consumers with local producers are business strategies being used by small farms.
 
Topic #6: How can policies affect small farm activities and their resilience?
 
The policy topic (Topic 6) saw many of our contributors responding to a question posed last week on the policy of contract farming in India and whether it helped the cause of small farmers. In examples arising from contributions in Q6.1/2 there were examples of where it has been beneficial to small farms. As was further clarified it is more an issue of whether corporate farming is being disguised as contract farming (where large farms own or influence small farms) and what happens to the autonomy of farmers in such circumstances. Any suggestions or views for Mayank on this topic?
 
Examples of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and environmental protection policies (e.g. control of wildlife, control of disease) were raised as policies that affect small farms. A request has been raised by Dominic Duckett (Q6.1/4) to hear more about related experiences across Europe and Africa dealing with rapidly evolving conservation governance affecting small farms.
 
Last week, Irina Toma (Q6.2/2) asked if there were examples of innovation policies that helped solve key issues related to food nutritional security. The model developed by Landesa (a rural development in West Bengal) was shared (Q6.2/3). Are there other examples to share?
 
We did read of supporting policies (Q6.1/3, Q6.2/4 and Q6.3/4). These were the Food and Agricultural Sector Development Policy in Ghana (FASDEP I and II); from South Africa, the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, the Preferential Policy Framework and Cooperative Incentive Support, and from India, the Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters. In terms of the most critical policies that are needed are those that (1) guide local policy makers to support small farms, (2) quality feed standard policies, (3) ensure farmers a fair price for their product, (4) support farmers financial literacy.
 
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You can follow the news on the e-conference also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SalsaH2020
 
 
Image: ©FAO/Filipe Branquinho
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