Some Examples of Policy Engagement to Support Farmers’ Organizations’
IFAD’s engagement in country level policy is undertaken in all five of the macro-regions it works in (East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia, and the Asia and Pacific), and examples abound of how IFAD works on policy not only through CSOs, but also directly with CSOs to empower their membership to advocate for policy frameworks suited to their members’ needs. The following provides three brief examples from three of the regions in which IFAD works.18
East African Community
Co-operatives play a significant role in the economies of the five countries of the East African Community (EAC). There are more than 30,000 registered co-operatives in the region and the movement employs directly or indirectly more than 15 million people. About half of the cooperatives are agriculture-related. Savings and credit co-operatives are also becoming increasingly popular in the region.
There are considerable differences in the legal frameworks for cooperatives in the different countries however, and some of them contain legal provisions that constrain the development of the cooperative movement. In response to concern from its member organizations on the challenges facing the co-operative movement in the region, since 2009 the Eastern Africa Farmers’ Federation (EAFF) has been lobbying for EAC-wide legislation for co-operatives. In that year it commissioned a comparative study of the co-operative laws in the region, the findings of which informed EAFF’s push for a regional law. Between 2010 and 2013, it convened meetings with experts in cooperatives and stakeholders to discuss the contents of the proposed legislation. In April 2013, an EAFF team met the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and its Committee of Agriculture, Tourism and Natural Resources, one of whose members agreed to move the Bill as a Private Members’ Bill.
In January 2014 the EAC Co-operatives Societies Bill 2014 was read for the first time in the EALA. The Speaker then forwarded the Bill to the Committee for further consultations.
The next step was for the EALA Committee, in collaboration with the EAFF and its membership, to convene public hearings on the Bill in all five countries. These events would serve both to raise awareness of the Bill in the member countries, and to collect and consolidate views on it from stakeholders in and outside the co-operative movement.
Building on a longer partnership between EAFF and IFAD under the Support to Farmers’ Organization in Africa Programme (SFOAP), funding from IFAD enabled EAFF to sponsor the Public Hearings in two of the countries, Kenya and Uganda. The hearings, which were held in September 2014, were attended by 65-70 people, including representatives from the cooperative movements of the two countries, government ministries, parliaments, the private sector and the media. At both, reports from stakeholders in the national cooperative movements were presented, and comments on the draft Bill were offered by participants. Support for media engagement was also provided through the funding, and this resulted in substantial media outputs in the two countries and growing public interest in the Bill.
As an Act of the Assembly it now awaits assent by the Heads of State of the five EAC countries. Once ratified, it will become law and take precedence over existing national laws; which means that the national laws will need to be amended wherever necessary to conform to this law.
Thereafter, EAFF, in collaboration with her member organizations, intends to conduct an awareness effort in all the EAC partner states. The Act also establishes the East African Co-operative Agency, and one of the first tasks of the Agency will be to develop the Rules and Regulations of the Act.