Chapter VI - Stengthening the Role of Farmers

   This document has been made available in electronic format
      by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA

  Contribution of Co-operative Enterprises and the International
     Co-operative Movement to Implementation of UN AGENDA 21:
       Programme of Action for Sustainable Development 

                     Prepared jointly by
             the International Co-operative Alliance
                      the United Nations
  Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development

                 Geneva and New York, April 1995

        For information purposes only. Not an official
   document of the United Nations and not officially edited.

                         CHAPTER VI

A.  Proposals included within Agenda 21

    Agenda 21 points out that the rural household, indigenous
people and their communities and the family farmer, a substantial
number of whom are women, have been the stewards of much of the
Earth's resources.  A farmer-centred approach is the key to the
attainment of sustainability in both developed and developing
countries. The key to the successful implementation of many of
the proposals of Agenda 21 lay in the motivation and attitudes
of individual farmers, as well as government policies that would
provide incentives to farmers to manage their natural resources
efficiently and in a sustainable way.

    One of the objectives identified in respect to achieving the
full involvement of farmers themselves in the transformation of
rural economies to a sustainable condition was to enhance the
participation of farmers, women and men, in the design and
implementation of policies directed toward these ends, through
their representative organizations. To this end Governments
should support the formation of farmers' organizations.  
National and international research centres should cooperate with
farmers' organizations in developing location-specific
environment-friendly farming techniques. National Governments,
multilateral and bilateral development agencies and non-
governmental organizations should collaborate with farmers'
organizations in formulating agricultural development projects
to specific agro-ecological zones.

B.  Acknowledgement by the United Nations of the relevance
    of farmers' organizations

    In his report to the General Assembly at its forty-seventh
session on the status and role of co-operatives in the light of
new economic and social trends (A/47/216-E/1992/43 of 28 May
1992), the Secretary-General concluded that:

   "Organizations of farmers, including agricultural
    cooperators, are key institutions in the revitalization
    of agriculture and the development of rural areas, and
    hence to economic revival particularly in Africa, Asia
    and Latin America. Their role, in terms both of faithfully
    representing farmers' views, and of providing practical
    services to their members, appears often to have been given
    less attention by Governments and international agencies
    than they deserve, and consequently their potential has not
    been fully utilized.   Seeking farmers' views through
    consultations with farmers' representative organizations,
    and encouraging and supporting the latter in their efforts
    to provide services to their members, are prerequisites for
    sustainable rural development.  The current absence of
    consultation of farmers, including cooperators, by 
    researchers, is a serious constraint upon accumulation of
    relevant knowledge and successful diffusion of innovation."
    (para. 46(b)).

C.  The role of farmers' organizations

   The role of farmers' organizations is to act as guarantor of
the interests of small-scale, resource-poor farmers, articulating
and transmitting their concerns and viewpoints in a regular
manner to governments and participating in the formulating and
implementation of sustainable agricultural and rural development
policies and programmes. The consensus position of the millions
of small-scale farmers worldwide is in fact articulated by means
of their local, national and international representative

   The majority of the world's poor are in developing countries,
where they still consist mostly of small-scale, resource-poor
farmers and other rural entrepreneurs.  Provision of productive
employment and hence eradication of poverty cannot be expected
to happen in most of these countries without the development of
sustainable small-scale agricultural production.  This cannot be
achieved by top-down programmes:  only through full recognition
of farmers' representative organizations and regular dialogue and
consultation with them, from grassroots to national level.

D.  The role of the International Federation of Agricultural
    Producers (IFAP)

   The International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP)
is the international organization of the world's farmers.  It is
a formidable network of national farmers' organizations
throughout the world. IFAP's goal has not changed since its
foundation in 1946, namely: "to improve the economic and social
status of all who live by and on the land".

   The functions of IFAP are to act as a forum in which leaders
of national farmers' organizations can meet to highlight mutual
interests and take coordinated action to further such interests;
develop an understanding of world problems; and exchange
information and ideas. It also has the function of keeping
members informed about international events and issues of concern
to them as farmers' organizations. It acts as the recognized
spokesman for the world's farmers, bringing the concerns of
agricultural producers to the attention of international meetings
of governments and other bodies. It promotes the creation and
strengthening of independent, representative organizations of
agricultural producers throughout the world.  

   IFAP operates a Development Programme which aims at achieving
sustainable agriculture for developing countries through the
strengthening of farmers' organizations and the establishment of
representation mechanisms for small-scale farmers through
regional and country projects, workshops and consultative

E.  Relationship between farmers' organizations and rural
    co-operative organizations

    Farmers' organizations are means whereby farmers may achieve
and maintain solidarity as a component of society and may
represent their concerns and interests in the fora whereby
society decides upon its goals and the strategies to achieve
them.  Farmers may form other organizations for more operational
and technical reasons: for example, they may establish
agricultural chambers of commerce. For many purposes, including
the more effective supply of inputs and marketing of outputs,
agricultural producers may establish co-operative enterprises. 
Less frequently, they may pool their land, water, capital and
labour resources in production co-operatives.

    IFAP states in its policy document adopted at its 31st
General Conference at Istanbul, Turkey in May 1994 that:

    "Farmer-owned businesses such as agricultural
    co-operatives and farmer associations can invigorate
    the rural environment.  These contribute both income
    and stability to the rural population by providing
    essential services to the rural areas, furnishing
    environmentally-sound inputs, generating employment
    opportunities, and encouraging agro-processing which 
    raises the value-added going directly to the farmer.

    "Such businesses also provide farmers with the vital
    link to the marketplace.  The stronger this link, the
    greater is the influence and control the farmer has, not
    only over his own income and strength in the marketplace
    but also in his ability to guarantee the consumer food
    safety and quality throughout the food chain - from farm
    inputs to processed product." 94/

   Co-operatives are a practical organizational vehicle whereby
farmers may strengthen their absolute and relative economic
position and status within national society: they are an
organizational means for farmer empowerment. Having a stronger
economic base lends force to the representational and policy
determining capability of farmers' organizations. Conversely,
success in representation and participation in policy development
establishes an environment within which both farm enterprises and
farmer-owned enterprises such as agricultural co-operatives are
able to operate effectively and viably.

   In some countries farmers are represented within society
through national federations of agricultural co-operatives, or
in some cases through national federations of all types of co-
operative, particularly where the national movement is made up
predominantly of agricultural co-operatives (as in Gambia,
Nigeria, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia).  About
one quarter of the national member organizations of IFAP are
national co-operative organizations.  Thus representative
farmers' organizations and representative co-operative
organizations have a large potential for active partnership for
sustainable development.

   Because of the growing solidarity and operational integration
between producer and consumer co-operatives in many countries,
it is possible for agricultural producers on the one hand, and 
both industrial consumers and household consumers of agricultural
outputs on the other hand, to establish a common position whereby
the concerns of the latter for environmentally-friendly
commodities can be transmitted to the producers.  Conversely, the
factors which determine producers' ability to adjust to
sustainable development can be explained to the consumer. In this
way the integrated national co-operative movement can act as a
means whereby farmers' organizations can achieve a dialogue with
consumers, particularly those in urban areas often unaware of the
financial and other constraints upon agricultural producers'
ability to adjust their operations.

94/  International Federation of Agricultural Producers, Farmers
     for a sustainable future: the leadership role of
     agriculture. Paris, November 1994. pp. 12-13.