The Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation was created in 2010 to organise farmers and defend their interests by promoting valuable knowledge management tools.
Although an increasing number of farmer organisations communicate via mobile phones and radios, most national farmer organisations still rely on print, media and face-to-face meetings to reach then audiences. Although there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, a combination of these communication tools is an effective way for farmer organisations to reach and communicate with then audience.
A promising foundation
The Pan-African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO) was formally created in November 2010 in Malawi, after joint efforts by five regional farmer organisations from across tire African continent: EAFF (East Africa), Propac (Central Africa), Roppa (West Africa), SACAU (South Africa), and UMNAGRI (North Africa). This continental consultation process emphasised the need to organise farmers and agricultural producers, effectively engage members in advocacy, and promote their participation in the formulation and implementation of continental development policies that affect agriculture and rural development. Since the beginning, PAFO has recognised the value of knowledge management (KM) in its work. Indeed, it is one of the key pillars of their strategy.
Since 2012, CTA has been working with PAFO to build a knowledge platform that will support discussion and the exchange of information on policy with PAFO’s members, by strengthening its website and developing a discussion forum to stimulate information sharing. E-discussions have been held on the PAFO website’s group space, with the PAFO knowledge management team (composed of the different KM and communications officers from regional farmer organisations) providing support and guidance.
The e-discussions on the PAFO platform have helped to build up and formulate policy ideas on several broad themes, such as land acquisition, links between climate change and agriculture, and rural youth in agriculture. These ideas were eventually presented during the first PAFO Continental Briefing, which took place in Yaounde, Cameroon in December 2013.
Based on the main achievements of the e-discussions, the KM and communications officers also held a half-day session during the conference presenting file main achievements and challenges for farmer organisations in knowledge management.
Following fins first positive experience, a second e-discussion started in June 2014 that nurtured the debate for die 2nd Continental Briefing under die theme ‘Revolutionising Finance for Agri-value Chains’, which was held in July 2014, in Nairobi, Kenya. The preparatory consultative work was structured through an e-discussion with regional organisations (RFOs), farmers and members of file PAFO group space platform to highlight and identify specific needs with regard to financial access.
In total 55 e-discussions were generated around topics such as the main challenges and opportunities for RFOs in accessing financial seivices, and what actions farmers could take to engage with finance actors. Likewise for the fust continental policy briefing, the main findings were presented at the conference and file KM managers were given the opportunity to present their work during a panel on knowledge management as part of the briefing.
As part of the development of PAFO’s knowledge platform file regional farmer organisations were supported in developing then websites to ensure content would be available across the network as a whole. Roppa, for example, won the award for best NGO website in Burkina Faso for then new website. Perhaps the biggest transformation has been with PROPAC, which not only has a new web platform now but also new social media sites with support from this project and training from the web 2forDev project of CTA.
Most recently, the PAFO KM team were at the forefront of a massive Twitter campaign called #includeagriC0P21 at die 3rd PAFO Continental Briefing, in the context of the Africa edition of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA). The Twitter campaign was launched to demand file inclusion of agriculture in file agreement text of the C0P21.
The road ahead
Although the results vary with the different RFOs, the achievements in the last years are encouraging. Strengthening farmer organisations’ knowledge management skills, through initiatives such as the PAFO knowledge platform, represents an effective way not only of disseminating relevant information and creating space for dialogue and exchange, but also helps to create a network of people and build the skills to capture information and foster communication. ◀