Danielle Nierenberg
Danielle Nierenberg

Innovative Ways of Hearing Farmers’ Voices

This is a three part series about Danielle Nierenberg’s visit to the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network in Pretoria, South Africa. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Part I: Working to connect farmers, researchers, and policy makers in Africa

Danielle and FANRPAN staffThe Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) lives up to its name by linking farmers, businesses, academia, researchers, donors, and national and regional governments. “One thing that we {Africa} fail to do is form coalitions for a common cause,” says Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, the CEO of FANRPAN. But by connecting rural farmers directly to the private sector, to policy-makers, and to the agricultural research community, they’re trying to build a food secure Africa.

FANRPAN’s has national nodes in thirteen countries that help bring its members together, with a national secretariat hosted by an existing national institution in each country that has a mandate for increasing agricultural research and advocacy.

Another problem that plagues Africa, according to Dr. Sibanda, is that “we don’t know how to learn from the local.” But she says “farmers know what to do” when it comes to dealing with climate change and other issues that impact agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, FANRPAN works to create dialogue and allow exchange of ideas directly between farmers in the field, researchers in laboratories, and policy makers in conference rooms and parliaments throughout Africa.

FANRPAN’s projects include everything from helping improve access to markets for women farmers through its Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project to helping develop and strengthen the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Regional Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Compact (See In Eastern and Southern Africa, Improving Trade and Identifying Investment Opportunities and Creating Game Plans for Investment and Policy to Improve Food Security.) They also recently completed the Africa-Wide Civil Society Climate Change Initiative for Policy Dialogues that brought together African NGOs and farmers groups at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change last December. And the Strategies for Adapting to Climate Change in Rural sub-Saharan Africa, to help the most vulnerable populations deal with climate change.

And while Dr. Sibanda says investment in research is important, “it’s not the panacea. For me, it’s about people driving investments.”

Part II: Innovative Ways of Hearing Farmers’ Voices

Check out a video of FANRPAN’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, discussing the importance of investing in farmers’ ability to exchange and share information with each other.

Part III: Acting It Out for Advocacy
Co-written by Sithembile Ndema, FANRPAN’s Natural Resources and Environment Programme Manager.

The Food and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network’s (FANRPAN) Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) project aims at strengthening the capacity of women farmers influence in agriculture policy development and programmes in Southern Africa. It doesn’t sound especially entertaining–but it has some innovative strategies for bridging the divide between women farmers, researchers, and policy makers.

FANRPAN is using Theatre for Policy Advocacy to engage leaders, service providers, and policymakers; encourage community participation; and research the needs of women farmers. Essentially, theatre is being used to explain agricultural policy to people in rural areas, and to carry voices from the countryside back to government. Popular theatre personalities travel to communities in Mozambique and Malawi and stage performances using scripts based on FANRPAN’s research, to engage members of the community. After each performance, community members, women, men, youth, local leaders are engaged in facilitated dialogues. The dialogues give all community member–especially women–a chance to openly talk about the challenges they are facing without upsetting the status quo. More importantly, it allows women to tell development organizations what they really need, not the other way around.

Ultimately, FANRPAN hopes to train women community leaders to use the theatre advocacy platform to discuss other issues and problems in their villages, including HIV/AIDS. And because this project involves all members of the community, it doesn’t alienate men, but includes them in developing solutions.

For more information on FANRPAN and its work in Africa see the following www.fanrpan.org