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Asiadhrra funds development cooperation project with Laos Farmers

By Nonoy Villas, Regional Program Manager, Asiadhrra

In another groundbreaking milestone, Asiadhrra launched its first development cooperation project in Laos. On the occasion of FASAP’s planning workshop held last January 16-17, 2014,  Asiadhrra and Farmers Association for Sustainable Agriculture Production (FASAP) in Khoun District, Xiengkhouang Province, Lao PDR signed an agreement of cooperation to strengthen the leadership and organization capacity of FASAP.  AsiaDHRRA agreed to finance the implementation of the project entitled “Capacity-building of FASAP farmers organization in Khoun District, Xiengkhouang Province” with the funds provided by the Belgium government under DGD Belgium Cooperation. The signing was witnessed by 14 representatives from 14 villages, elected leaders, representatives from the District Authorities of Lao government and staff of SAEDA.

FASAP Chairperson and Vice Chairperson signed the Contract Agreement of cooperation with AsiaDHRRA.

FASAP Chairperson and Vice Chairperson signed the Contract Agreement of cooperation with AsiaDHRRA.

The Farmers Association for Sustainable Agriculture Production (FASAP) was established on December 27, 2010 and was registered at the District Office in Xienhkhouang Province. At the start, there were 300 farming households members in 7 villages of Khoun District. FASAP aims to develop and share best practices in sustainable agriculture techniques and organic production; supply safe agricultural products to consumers; derive better benefits from farming, and contribute to poverty reduction and environment conservation in province.

Earlier, the Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Development Association (SAEDA), a long-time partner of AsiaDHRRA in Laos had the opportunity to work with the Laos Youth Union in Xieng Khouang province. Such opportunity provided SAEDA venues to organize training activities on sustainable agriculture. The opportunity facilitated the formation of FASAP.

In the years 2010-2013, SAEDA worked with the Laos Agricultural Extension Program (LEAP) and the District Agriculture and Forest Office (DAFO), allowing continued support to FASAP through participatory agricultural extension support.  FASAP expanded to include 4 more villages and expanded its membership. FASAP is planning to expand its scope to 14 more villages in the coming years. But prior to this expansion plans, FASAP leadership felt the need to strengthen the FASAP’s organizational capacity, in leadership, governance, management, planning, implementing and evaluating, among others.  District association is a new concept in Laos and there are no existing formats or guidelines on the steps for establishing and managing  farmers association. FASAP Committees as well as farmer-members have little understanding of their roles as well as their full potential as members of an association. There is also a lack of skills in running an association (administration and management), business planning, monitoring and reporting, and financial management.

FASAP leaders and members listened carefully to the briefing by Ms. Lorna David, AsiaDHRRA Finance Manager, on the accountability and financial reporting requirements of the project.

FASAP leaders and members listened carefully to the briefing by Ms. Lorna David, AsiaDHRRA Finance Manager, on the accountability and financial reporting requirements of the project.

Asiadhrra responded to FASAP needs by supporting activities that will help FASAP enhance its organizational capacities, improve governance and develop human resources to manage the organization and provide better services to its members. Asiadhrra through its partner, SAEDA, will accompany FASAP in the implementation of the project.

AsiaDHRRA is now working on possible cooperation with two other farmers organizations, namely:

  1. The Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers’ Groups Association or AGPC in Champasak Province of Southern Laos
  2. Farmers Association in Khangvieng Zone, Peck District, Xiengkouang Province, Laos.

Bolaven Plateau Coffee Producers’ Groups Association or AGPC was organized by the Lao government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry  with the support  from the French cooperation through its agency AFD (Agence Française de Développement).  AGPC was formed in August 7th in 2007. AGPC is a coffee producers organization composed of 2,650 families divided into 53 groups. About 60% of these families live below the poverty threshold. These producers organized themselves in groups in order to increase the value-added of their produce and to fight against all forms of exploitation. 40 small wet-processing centres were created between 2007 and 2008. In April 2010, a fully-fledged coffee factory that can produce sorted grade green coffee for export (Organic and Fair Trade certified) and roasted quality coffee for the domestic market was opened. In addition, a sensory analysis laboratory was officially opened in February 2011. AGPC and its members own all these facilities.

Support from AFD will end by June 2014 as AFD sees AGPC now being able to support its own operations from the revenues generated in their export markets. AGPC, however, is planning to expand its export markets as well as develop domestic markets for  its grounded and instant coffee products and therefore, requires additional members from among the small-coffee growers.

Khangvieng Zone is part of Peck district, Xiengkhouang province. It is located 35 kilometers  from Phonsavanh City, in the northern part of Laos, where mountains cover around 85% of the area.

FASAP leaders and members during the planning workshop held in its office in Khoun District.

FASAP leaders and members during the planning workshop held in its office in Khoun District.

The Farmers Association in Khangvieng Zone (FAKZ) is an organization of farmers located on marginal lands near the forest in Peck District. With poor resources, farmers rely on rice for food and cash income, as well as, forest products for fuel and heating. FAKZ members aims to develop their farms, improve productivity, rely more in their production and reduce reliance of forest products for their daily needs.

FAKZ was organized through the support of Asiadhrra long-time partner of Community Development and Environment Association (CDEA). CDEA has accompanied FAKZ, among other farmers organization, in their efforts to achieve appropriate capacities to strengthen their organization.

AsiaDHRRA provides support to farmers organizations in Asia under the banner program “Farmers Fighting Poverty” (FFP) (http://www.farmersfightingpoverty.org/en) of Agricord, (http://www.agricord.org/about) of which AsiaDHRRA is a member.

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Asiadhrra assists VNFU in the launching and conduct of start-up planning workshop

Last December 16-18, 2013, AsiaDHRRA participated in the launching and conduct of the start-up planning workshop held in VMQ Hotel, Hanoi, Vietnam. This activity is part of the Phase 2 of the Project entitled Building VNFU staff’s capacity in using right tools to support the development of collective economic forms in agriculture.  This project is supported by Collectif Stratégies Alimentaires (CSA), an agriagency-member of Agricord based in Belgium with funds from the Belgian Development Cooperation (DGD) through Agricord. AsiaDHRRA provides technical support and accompaniment to the project.

Mr. Lai Xuan Mon, Vice- Chairman of VNFU emphasized that developing tools or strategies in collective economic forms in agriculture is the direction that the Party and State has to support to empower farmers towards increased incomes and improve their living conditions .

Mr. Lai Xuan Mon, Vice- Chairman of VNFU emphasized that developing tools or strategies in collective economic forms in agriculture is the direction that the Party and State has to support to empower farmers towards increased incomes and improve their living conditions .

At the opening ceremony,  Mr. Lai Xuan Mon, VNFU Vice-Chair supervising the Economic Department and Mr. Pham Huu Van, Director, Economic Department, expressed his very strong support to this project as strategies for collective economic forms in agriculture is very important for VNFU members in the context of globalized trade, ASEAN economic integration and the growing strength of private agricultural companies. Also, the very energetic Ms. Hoang Thi Hau, chairwoman of the Thanh Xuan Commune Farmers Union, spoke about their experiences in engaging markets with their organic vegetable products. Mr. Than Dy Ngu, Director of Ecolink, a private company, also spoke about its company’s experiences in relating with organized farmers for the supply of agricultural products.  A summary of lessons from the 6 studies of collective economics was also presented. All these pointed out many weaknesses, including those from the supply side (farmer groups), product quality, economies of scale, pole-vaulting and difficulties in terms of rural infrastructure, transport and logistics, among others.

Ms. Hoang Thi Hau, Chairwoman of Thanh Xuan commune farmers’ Union, told participants how their cooperative of organic vegetables producer has grown from one group of 11 farmers in July 2008 to 13 groups of farmers supplying Hanoi markets with 23-28 tons of organic vegetables a month.

Ms. Hoang Thi Hau, Chairwoman of Thanh Xuan commune farmers’ Union, told participants how their cooperative of organic vegetables producer has grown from one group of 11 farmers in July 2008 to 13 groups of farmers supplying Hanoi markets with 23-28 tons of organic vegetables a month.

Ms. Hoang Thi Hau, Thanh Xuan, Chairwoman of Thanh Xuan commune farmers’ Union presented their experiences in marketing organic vegetable in Thanh Xuan commune, Soc Son district, Hanoi, Vietnam. Thanh Xuan organic vegetable model has been started since July 2008 with the participation of only 11 farmer members.  In September 25, 2009, Thanh Xuan organic vegetable production inter-group was established. Now, there are 13 organic farmers’ groups, supplying the vegetable to markets in Hanoi with 23-28 tons of vegetables a month.

Mr.Than Dy Ngu, Director of Ecolink, Hiep Thanh Group of Companies also presented the company experiences in linking up with farmers union for supply of agricultural products.

Mr.Than Dy Ngu, Director of Ecolink, Hiep Thanh Group of Companies also presented the company experiences in linking up with farmers union for supply of agricultural products.

Mr.Than Dy Ngu, Director of Ecolink, Hiep Thanh Group of Companies also presented the company experiences in linking up with farmers union for supply of agricultural products.  Established in 2001, the Company’s strategy was to provide high-quality sustainable products by contracting farmers’ groups producing  organic tea, herbs, spices and food items. The tea value chain includes farmers’ groups/production teams (about 10,000 farmers), sell their products to ten processing factories that was established by the company in the provinces. The company exports tea and sell other products in the domestic market. The company exports around 5,000 tons of tea every year.

In the organic tea supply chain, there are 1,200 farmers’ households participating in managing the quality of products based on internal certification system (ICS). The organic tea and spice factories follow  the export standards set by EU and North America. Other products are sold  through the online selling system of ECOMART. The Company focuses on supporting farmers’ group development, contracting with farmers’ groups and building the product trademarks. However in the process of cooperation, the company finds some difficulties in developing organic tea production models. Farmers pole-vault on supply agreements. The State and local authorities has yet to provide regulatory mechanisms to ensure the sustainable linkage between enterprises and farmers.  There is also poor infrastructure facilities in the tea production areas. The road network is difficult to pass during the rainy season, delaying delivery and transportation of tea products. Poor storage and drying facilities also affect product quality which in turn downgrades farm gate prices.

These were some of the challenges facing farmer commodity groups and agricultural company business relations. The company promised long-term relationship with farmer groups but need to work together for a favorable supporting policies and programs of government especially on the role of local authority to help in the development of physical support in terms of infrastructure and facilities that help farmers produce and develop quality products.

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VNFU launches Phase 2 of the Building capacity of VNFU leaders and staff in Policy Advocacy Project

The Planning Workshop

AsiaDHRRA continues to support Viet Nam Farmers Union (VNFU) in building capacity of leaders and staff in policy advocacy by providing technical and program assistance in the launching of the Phase 2 of the project entitled “Building capacity of VNFU leaders and staff in Policy Advocacy, Phase 2” last December 11, 2013. The conference held at VMQ Hotel in Hanoi aimed at raising VNFU leaders awareness on the importance of policy advocacy in the changing agricultural landscape. The project is supported with funds from the Belgian government cooperation under DGD through Agricord.

 

Mr. Dinh Xuan, Director of International Cooperation Department (ICD) of VNFU opened up the project launching ceremony.
A planning workshop followed in December 12 and 13. Phase 2 of the project aims to develop the skills of 40 selected participants from VNFU Headquarters in Hanoi and from different Provincial Farmer Unions who will undertake an 8-day Training or Trainers (ToT) on Policy Advocacy and Constructive Engagement in February 2014. Beginning April, ToT participants will conduct training workshops on policy advocacy and constructive engagement at the district and commune levels.

Mr. Trun Duy Viet, Chairperson of Lam Dong Farmers Union of Lam Dong Province, emphasized the importance of policy advocacy to protect the welfare and rights of farmers especially in the globalized agricultural trade.

Policy advocacy is now among VNFU’s 7 key tasks approved by the 6th National VNFU Congress held last July 2013. Policy advocacy is a new key task of VNFU. Policy advocacy is not only a task of VNFU at national level, but at all levels of the organization. Constructive engagement is the framework of VNFU’s policy advocacy with government and the private sector. As a new task, there is a need to raise the level of awareness and knowledge of VNFU leaders to be able to help them carry out the task effectively.

The conference participants

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Asiadhrra gearing up for IYFF 2014

At the global level, both the official and CSO processes are rolling for the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) 2014. CSO and Official side events on the IYFF are taking place from Oct 3-11, 2013 in Rome in conjunction with the upcoming 40th Session of the Committee on World Food Security. Asiadhrra will be participating in these CFS related events and shall speak in an official IYFF side event organized by France and the Philippines on Oct 8.

The IYFF 2014 will be formally launched by the UN in New York in November. It will also be launched by the European Commission on November 29th in Brussels through a conference entitled “Family farming: A dialogue towards more sustainable and resilient farming in Europe and the world”. In the Asia-Pacific region, FAO shall conduct its launching orientation of the IYFF 2014 by the 3rd week of November in Bangkok.

 

A family farm in Cambodia

In ASEAN,  Asiadhrra and its partner FOs and CSOs have actively advocated for the IYFF through the SOM-AMAF (ASEAN senior officials meeting for agriculture and forestry) process and will now bring the discussion at the Technical Working Group level.

Locally, Asiadhrra is part of the IYFF 2014 AdHoc Working Group in the Philippines, where its secretariat is based,  together with Phidhrra, PAKISAMA (national confederation of farmers) and AFA. The PH working group is being convened by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and anchored by the Departments of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and of Agriculture (DA).

Asiadhrra views IYFF 2014 as a strategic opportunity that  development stakeholders should actively engage not only to celebrate the contributions of family farmers and bring back dignity of farming, but to push for over due policy reforms in favor of small holder agriculture. More info about the IYFF 2014 can be found at http://www.familyfarmingcampaign.net  The World Rural Forum, for which Asiadhrra is a member, coordinates the global IYFF Campaign since 2009 until its official sanction by the UN General Assembly in December 2011.  Asiadhrra sits for Asia in the World Consultative Committee (WCC) for the CSO campaign of the IYFF 2014.

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Asiadhrra to present in the 2012 ASEAN Social Forestry Network Conference

Mr. Florante Villas, representing Asiadhrra will share a presentation on Asiadhrra’s experiences in engaging with ASEAN and other intergovernmental agencies during the ASEAN Social Forestry Network Civil Society Forum 2012 entitled, ‘ASEAN Civil Society Forum on Social Forestry and Climate Change’.

The Forum will be held on June 2012 at the Angkor Paradise Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia back-to-back event with the 3rd ASEAN Social Forestry Network Conference on 12th of June and the 5th ASEAN Social Forestry Network yearly meeting on 14th to 15th of June 2012.

The Civil Society Forum is a venue for civil society organizations to have a discussion on key themes on social forestry and climate change initiatives happening in communities in Southeast Asia, as well as share perspectives on mechanisms and processes in engaging with the ASEAN as a regional platform. The civil society forum aims to build CSO constituency with the ASEAN Social Forestry Network to further facilitate engagement with the ASEAN and its member states.

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Asiadhrra holds Execom meeting in Hanoi

Asiadhrra will hold its first ExeCom Meeting for 2012 in Hanoi, Vietnam today. Dr. Toan will host the meeting at the Vietdhrra office.

Among the matters to be discussed include a review of the network operations for the past 2 years, an overview of the opportunities and challenges and partnerships for the upcoming period and a re-evaluation of the communication strategy of Asiadhrra.

Ms. Wen-Chi Huang, the Chairperson, will facilitate the meeting with assistance from Ms. Marlene Ramirez, Secretary General.

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