Three takeaways from the ReSAKSS Conference
Article by Mahamadou Badiel, V4CP Manager and Country Sector Leader, Agriculture, Burkina Faso
Attending the 2017 ReSAKKS (Regional Strategic Analysis and Knowledge Support System) Conference, held from 25-27 October in Maputo, Mozambique, offered a moment to reflect and learn from other practitioners working on sustainable agriculture and pastoralism issues across Africa and the world. I came away with three key insights that will continue to inform my own work.
Participating in the ReSAKSS conference, where SNV together with IFPRI organised a side event on “Climate-Smart Practices and Evidence-Based Advocacy Strategies to Support Resilience of Pastoralists”, confirmed my conviction that pastoralism is a critical component for sustainable development of the Sahel. This was evident by the number of participants in our session, and the quality of the exchange, both during and following the panel discussion, on the added value of pastoralism in Sahelian economies and the challenges of climate change. This highlights the importance of showcasing and sharing the experiences of the V4CP programme at international forums, as it provides a platform to foster networking between like-minded organisations, and to work towards the development of strategic partnerships to influence decisions makers at different levels. Moreover, these international platforms offer good opportunities to better position our organisation and boost our resource mobilisation efforts.
A second takeaway was the close correlation between the V4CP approach and the solutions highlighted during the discussions. Both in my individual capacity, as well as V4CP project manager, I appreciated the focus on CSA practices, tools as a framework for addressing food security and nutrition challenges, as well as strengthening resilience to climate change. Coming from a country that experiences both severe drought as well as floods, I know that to survive, farmers will have to adapt their practices to cope with climate change. This goes beyond the focussing on the modernisation of family farms through focusing on “the usual suspects”, such as access to credit or farm machinery (tractors, sprayers and harvesters). We should advance past these stereotypes and take into account that modernisation also requires the adaptation of agriculture to new technologies in order to increase food production and utilisation. Such practices range from the effective use of mobile phones to access information and markets, optimal use of fertilisers and organic inputs, and harnessing traditional knowledge, for example on sustainable irrigation systems. As CSOs, we can contribute to this broader vision by formulating advocacy outcomes that are focused on the requisite budget allocations. For example, CSOs can advocate for increased budget allocation for extension services and vocational training to promote CSA, as well as supportive market development and advisory services.
A final observation was that absence of farmers and CSOs who are the intended “beneficiaries” of this project, the strategies, tools, and results that were shared at the conference. After raising my concerns about the lack of beneficiary participation with the organisers, they assured me that efforts will be made to address this gap in next year’s event.
From Maputo to Ouagadougou: Seizing the momentum
During the ReSAKSS side events we gained important contacts and strengthened our institutional connections. In this list is the regional project, “Reforms for African Agribusiness,” which is implemented by AGRA (Growing Africa’s Agriculture) in Burkina Faso, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana. The project closely mirrors SNV’s focus on promoting a favourable business environment in which smallholder farmers are able to gain access to agricultural value chains.
Following the ReSAKSS conference, SNV Burkina was invited to participate at a workshop in Ouagadougou to help validate the results of two AGRA-led studies focusing on, respectively, the cost-benefit analysis and legal compliance analysis of agricultural reforms. During the workshop, I highlighted the work of the V4CP programme and discussed areas of convergence in the work AGRA and SNV.
Another important offshoot of the ReSAKSS conference was the opportunity it provided to deepen our collaboration with key government stakeholders. The presence of the Permanent Secretary of the Coordination of Agricultural Sector Policies in Burkina Faso, enabled us to share our work and explore the role of the Ministry in achieving key project outcomes. Just two weeks following the conference, the Permanent Secretary participated in a televised debate organised by the V4CP team during which representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and CSOs discussed the government’s contribution to the modernisation of family farms.