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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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Smallholder agriculture calls in the ACSC-APF 2012!

The CSO event statement highlights the adverse impact of the “loss of forest and agricultural land to monoculture plantations” to the  biodiversity, food security and human rights in the region and proposes to the ASEAN members states several measures to mitigate these effects.

The agriculture and environment CSO stakeholders recommend that ASEAN and/or its member states:

  1. Stop forced evictions in the interests of large-scale agriculture;
  2. In all cases where development projects will result in dispossession, international human rights standards should be fully observed. Affected communities should be fairly compensated, including by ensuring access to agricultural land
  3. Ensure sufficient budgets for sustainable agriculture and develop policies and programs to support small-scale farmers – women, men and young persons. In particular ensue access to land, waters and seed, provide support to organic farming, cooperative marketing, access to affordable credit, infrastructure, agricultural extension and meaningful participation of small-scale farmers in decision-making processes towards ensuring food and nutrition security;
  4. Ensure that all agriculture development programs and policies are gender sensitive and gender responsive;
  5. Extend technical assistance to improve competitiveness of small-scale farmers through sharing and learning exchanges on sustainable farming technologies, the establishment of an ASEAN Farmers’ Bank and ASEAN Small-scale Farmers’ Council to ensure institutionalized participation in ASEAN processes;
  6. Install monitoring mechanisms to hold transnational corporations accountable for their role with respect to large-scale food and agro-fuel production, toxic chemicals, land grabbing and the displacement of food crops including provision of guidelines for ASEAN governments on how to strengthen coherence between national and global food policies;
  7. Ratify and implement international treaties and provisions pertaining to natural resource management and agriculture, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides for the right to adequate food and to a decent living, which in the case of small-scale farmers includes the right to seeds and land.

Read full ACSC-APF 2012 Statement

Ms. Lany Rebagay in behalf of Asiadhrra, presented during the Opening Plenary of the ACSC-APF 2012 the AsiaDHRRA-AFA Experience in Engaging ASEAN on Agriculture and Rural DevelopmentDownload the presentation here…

About the ACSC/APF

The ACSC/APF is an annual gathering of civil society which was started in 2005 during Malaysia’s chairship. It follows with the Philippines in 2006, Singapore in 2007, Thailand in 2009, Vietnam in 2010 and Indonesia in 2011. At the end of each Forum, civil society comes up with a collective statement and recommendations for ASEAN.

The ACSC/APF is a main space for democratic and constructive debates on ideas, formulation of proposals for ASEAN, exchange of experiences among civil society and peoples’ movements, expanding networks across issues in the region, and doing joint actions, especially on community building process. This year, reflecting the major concerns of the ASEAN people towards the Association, ACSC/APF 2012 chooses the theme “Transforming ASEAN into a People?Centered Community”.

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Fixing Fair Trade


Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by riot - http://www.flickr.com/photos/riot/402573680/

Here’s another take on the fair trade issue which of late has been under criticism for its less than convincing performance in helping out poor farmers

Today, on World Fair Trade Day, we have something else to feel guilty about. That fair-trade cup of coffee we savour may not only fail to ease the lot of poor farmers, it may actually help to impoverish them, according to a study out recently from Germany’s University of Hohenheim.

The study, which followed hundreds of Nicaraguan coffee farmers over a decade, concluded that farmers producing for the fair-trade market “are more often found below the absolute poverty line than conventional producers.

“Over a period of 10 years, our analysis shows that organic and organic-fair trade farmers have become poorer relative to conventional producers.”

continue reading fixing the fair trade coffee here….

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International Agri Policy marginalizes farmers

FarmFriday shares this interesting newsbit from IPS. This highlights again the need to support agriculture in general and smallholder farmers in particular.

IPS|By Stephen Leahy

How’s this for short-sighted: A billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent, climate change is reducing agricultural production – and for the past two decades, the world has slashed investments in publicly-funded agriculture until it is a pittance in most countries.

“Moral outrage is needed. We must abolish this… It can be done. It must be done,” Ismail Serageldin, director of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt and a former World Bank economist, told nearly 700 World Food Prize laureates, ministers, scientists and a few representatives from development and farmer organisations at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) last month here in southern France.

“This is the launching pad to transform hunger in our time,” Serageldin concluded.

The “rocket” on the launching pad is a major transformation of the 500 million dollars of public funds for international agricultural research carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries.

read the full news article here….

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Sustainable livelihoods and pro-poor market development

MarketSunday shares this bit from Eldis.

What can sustainable livelihoods approaches and pro-poor market approaches learn from each other?

Similarities and complementarities between SL and PPM include:

  • They are both multidisciplinary, in that they draw on political economy, social analysis and economics to generate insights into the way these influences affect the livelihood processes and outcomes.
  • An emphasis on sustainability is critical for both approaches, although pro-poor market approaches prioritise the economic and financial aspects more than the environmental and social.
  • Both approaches refer to institutions, in themselves complex. The greater focus on understanding market institutions of PPM approaches, has unpacked the ‘policies institutions and processes’ box contained in the SL framework that often went unexamined.

Differences between them include issues of scale and empowerment: PPMs are seeking to realise impact at a scale that SL approaches have failed to achieve. They seek to influence whole market systems to ensure benefits for poor people.

Specific interventions are needed to build people’s confidence and self-esteem and encourage them to engage in market-based livelihood activities. Social differences clearly create barriers: better understanding is needed of how systems of exclusion operate and how pro-poor market approaches can overcome them.

download the full text here…

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