Family farms constitute the majority of the world’s small and medium enterprises. Ninety percent of all farms worldwide are family farms, mostly smallholders. These 500 million family farms represent one third of the world population, and provide 80% of the world’s food. Family farms are and will remain crucial for food availability and nutrition security. Family farms are small enterprises and make up the largest part of the private sector. However, the habit to treat farmers as target groups or beneficiaries of development programs is persistent. Government, company and donor efforts to listen to, and learn from farmers are still limited. As a result, farmers are still only partially involved in the design and implementation of rural development programmes.
Farmer agency for rural economies
This course approaches farmers as entrepreneurs and their organisations as key actors for development (farmer agency). Local agro-economic development is taken as a team sport, which requires farmers’ collaboration with a range of private and public sector actors. The central question of the course is how farmers can improve their income and well-being through effective collective action of their organisations and improved relations with other stakeholders. The general objective of the course is to provide new insights, practical tools and options for farmer-inclusive agro-economic development, aiming at enhancing farmer benefits in terms of food, income and trade.
Course programme - main orientations
The purpose of the course sessions is to equip you to become a change facilitator in your country and organisation for farmer inclusive agri-business development. The course has two main orientations:
- Analysis for farmer inclusion: The course provides the opportunity to examine and practice approaches and tools related to farmer entrepreneurship, governance and management of farmers’ organisations, value chain analysis and development, market system stakeholder collaboration and the policy environment. The approaches and tools aim to explore and enhance farmers’ involvement in the design, implementation and adaptation of rural development programmes.
- Farmer action: The course explores six complementary areas for farmers’ collective action: (1) Agro-inputs; (2) Agricultural practices (3) Agri-finance; (4) Post-harvest value addition; (5) Market relations and sales and (6) Policy and business environment. It is emphasised that, to bring about effective change and to develop their business, farmers have to collaborate with different actors in these areas.
The course is highly interactive and action-oriented. Participants have the opportunity to learn from the international experience of the trainers and to learn from each other. They will often have to relate course topics to their work situation and work on their ‘farmer business cases’ to enhance their learning during the training. The variety of training methods (pre-course assignments, lectures and discussion, group work, case studies, tool exercises, brainstorming, visits to Dutch farmers, their organisations and cooperative businesses, …) accommodate different learning styles and secure the exchange of knowledge and experiences.