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Panelists and speakers at FAO’s recent Regional Knowledge Exchange webinar echoed the message that they must not programme for farmers, but with farmers

FAO webinar 22 DecemberThe aim of the webinar was to share emerging good practices on working with producer organisations. (Image Source: Adobe Stock)

The webinar was organised as part of a collaborative project between FAO and the African Union Commission (AUC), to spur innovative approaches to increase social protection coverage of informal rural workers, in support of the AUC’s Social Protection Plan for Informal Economy and Rural Workers (SPIREWORK).

The aim of the webinar was to share emerging good practices on working with producer organisations to expand social protection to reduce vulnerability, especially considering the worsening economic and food crises that are unfolding as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event facilitated an exchange of experiences among African countries, and encouraged broader South-South exchange by sharing innovations from China.

"We hope this exchange on good practices will influence other African countries to work with rural organisations and adopt more innovative approaches to increasing social protection coverage for rural informal workers,” said Yurdi Yasmi, FAO deputy regional representative for Africa.

The potential of rural organisations

Rural organisations have a key role to play in expanding social protection coverage in rural areas, as their membership are often among the most vulnerable in Africa – poverty and hunger are concentrated in rural areas, where livelihoods, incomes, and food security depend heavily on agriculture. Notably, 82% of the poor live in rural areas, earning their living primarily in agriculture. Rural organisations can contribute in multiple ways to improving access to social protection systems for their membership, from providing a platform for information sharing, to supporting ‘last-mile’ implementation by facilitating enrollment, payment of social insurance contributions, and data collection from members for enhanced evidence generation on social protection.

Representatives from programmes in Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania and China presented cases of producer organisations engaging with their respective governments to improve social protection delivery.

Sabelo Mbokazi, head of the Labour Employment & Migration Division under the Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Department of the AUC, called on the panelists and participants to increase efforts “…to capture timely and accurate social protection data to ensure better informed and targeted development policy.”

Towards SDG1: Ending Poverty 

The Senegal case demonstrated the importance of understanding social protection needs and coverage, particularly for marginalised agricultural subsectors, such as fisher folk. Before embarking on expanding and improving adequacy of coverage, it is necessary to understand the current state of coverage, in particular for vulnerable groups. Mandela Adajagsa of the Ghana Federation of Forest and Farm Producers (GhaFFaP) noted the criticality of undertaking studies to provide evidence, highlighting the need to better understand how COVID-19 has affected producers and their resulting social protection needs, in order to make evidence-based policy decisions.

Tanzania’s Participatory Plantation Forestry Programme (PFP2) is an example of an attempt to link social assistance programmes with further productive support for the most vulnerable in forest communities. In observing this good practice, Godfrey Wanyama of the Farm Forestry Smallholders Producer Association of Kenya (FFSPAK) commented that we must look beyond the immediate social assistance responses and offer comprehensive programmes to ensure livelihoods are protected and supported as well.

The global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) provided a video statement calling on governments to provide higher levels of protection and social insurance schemes that meet the needs of informal workers, citing a need for co-creation of programmes alongside rural organisations to ensure they are fit for purpose and meet the realities of constraints and opportunities on the ground.

The webinar is a first step for FAO Africa in spreading good practices in engaging producer organisations for improved coverage for social protection, and FAO called on government counterparts, development partners, and rural organisations to increase collaboration and sharing of experiences to ensure social protection for all, as indicated in Sustainable Development Goal 1.3.