In his address at the 2018 FANRPAN Annual Dialogue in Durban, South Africa, the former Chairperson of the Board of Governors, Hon Sindiso Ngwenya, made a clarion call for the network to be available to all stakeholders. Highlighting that the task of transforming agriculture and improving livelihoods could not be tackled by an individual organization, the Chairperson called for the forging of activity-driven partnerships and collaborations that would amalgamate the collective strengths of partners to ensure critical impact.
Back then, and even with over seventy formal partnerships, FANRPAN’s attention was trained on the fledgling collaboration with CARE International’s Southern Africa office, then only a year old. Its uniqueness, unlike most other relationships, had been built around specific activities that the partners could jointly implement. That was a marked difference from most other relationships that had been characterized by declarations of commitment to collaborate, but never seemed to progress to implementation. The CARE-FANRPAN affair, therefore, served as a viable partnership model which the network could emulate and use to structure its relationships going forward. In the true spirit of partnership, CARE managed to bring FANRPAN and the Graça Machel Trust (GMT), also a partner of CARE, to work closely together, implementing different but complementary activities.
Structured around annual agreements based on planned activities, CARE and FANRPAN are now on the fourth successive year of implementation, in the process, furthering the strategic objectives of the partner organisations. In the first three years, the collaboration focused largely on climate change and its impacts on smallholder agriculture, with a special lens on women and children in the traditional CARE focal countries, namely Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The existence of established and vibrant FANRPAN nodes in each of these CARE focal countries contributed to the successes that were registered, demonstrative of the seamless partnership. In the focal countries, the centerpiece of planned activities was the multi-stakeholder platforms that brought state and non-state actors to deliberate on issues of national and regional significance.
Amongst the outstanding successes, the platform highlighted the need to build the resilience of smallholder farmers in the face of climate change. Against a projected increased demand for food as a result of population growth, with most of Africa’s food being produced by smallholder farmers, it is critically important that governments and development partners invest in building their capacity. The initiative also highlighted the devastating impact of post-harvest losses as a result of the absence of improved storage facilities. With around 30% of sub-Saharan Africa’s yield being lost, there is need for a concerted effort to ensure smallholder farmers can protect their harvest. In line with this challenge, the CARE-FANRPAN initiative conducted a study to establish the status of postharvest losses and related policies across selected countries in the region. The report forms a basis on which national and regional policy recommendations can be made. Further, the initiative afforded national climate change negotiators with opportunities to present status updates to multi-stakeholder fora, as well as enabling them to gain a critical understanding of the views and concerns of smallholder farmers and civil society representatives.
At a regional level, the initiative made concerted efforts to link climate change negotiators from different countries, with a view to building a common position on the role and place of agriculture in the negotiations. To buttress these efforts, a formal position paper was developed and retailed within the African Climate Negotiators group. Taking advantage of regional, continental and global fora, the initiative amplified the voice and position of smallholder farmers in the face of climate change and called for the establishment of conducive policies for smallholder agriculture development. Some of the notable platforms at which the initiative featured include the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN); the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (CoP); and the Global Conference on Climate Smart Agriculture, amongst others.
Furthermore, whilst the signing of the Malabo Declaration in 2014 brought about a renewed sense of urgency to transform agriculture on the continent, African states continue to lag behind on their commitments. Based on the performance of the majority of African countries in the first Biennial Review Report released in February 2019, CARE and FANRPAN saw the need to mobilize broader stakeholder participation and contribution to ensure the attainment of national commitments. To ensure that accelerated agricultural growth and transformation was achieved, leading to shared prosperity and improved livelihoods by 2025, there was need for state actors to engage and harness the energies of non-state actors in pursuit of agricultural transformation targets set for the biennial review. To that end, the CARE and FANRPAN initiative conducted country specific reviews of the Biennial Review Report. The process identified areas of opportunity, and subsequently developed Action Plans that were validated through multi-stakeholder fora. Apart from creating awareness about the biennial review process and national commitments amongst non-state actors, this broad-based approach created a basis for accountability amongst stakeholders.
Now and to the Future
Currently in its fourth year, the CARE-FANRPAN collaboration has grown beyond the original focus on climate change and related issues, to include nutrition.
The state of nutrition is one of the major challenges on the African continent. Set in motion by its flagship project, Agriculture to Nutrition (ATONU), FANRPAN has been leading a crusade aimed at ensuring that agricultural programmes broaden from their traditional focus on increasing the availability of staples, to ensuring positive nutritional outcomes. With the highest malnutrition rates in the world, 36 African countries have stunting rates above 30%, and these exceed 40% in 17 countries. Sub-Saharan Africa carries a high burden of under-nutrition, a cause of 33% of childhood deaths. In response to these pressing challenges, the CARE-FANRPAN initiative for the 2020 to 2021 period will conduct an assessment of national nutritional policies and strategies to set a basis for identifying gaps and opportunities for rendering technical assistance. Apart from implementing structured advocacy engagements targeted at policy and decision makers, the initiative will conduct capacity strengthening interventions aimed at extension personnel in selected countries to ensure that they include nutritional outcomes as part of their agricultural transformation objectives. As part of consolidating the introduction of nutrition as a central them to the agriculture and food systems discourse, the initiative will create and nurture a Community of Practice (CoP) focused on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture (NSA).
For climate change and related challenges, the initiative will conduct stakeholder consultations and develop policy positions that will feed into on-going platforms and processes, including the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN); the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. A study of the status of postharvest management and policies will provide a basis for structured intervention to build the capacity of smallholder farmer storage and postharvest handling, as well as policy advice. At national level, reviews of the biennial performance will contribute to advisory and policy recommendations. Riding on the back of the launch of the Southern Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (SACSAA) in 2018, the initiative will facilitate a strategy formulation session to ensure alignment with the continental and global CSA alliances. To ensure that the momentum on policy advocacy is maintained, the initiative will identify and appoint appropriate Policy Champions.
Commenting on the partnership, the Chief Executive Officer of FANRPAN, Dr. Tshilidzi Madzivhandila said, “FANRPAN is a membership driven network, and the network exists to serve partners. Any partner is free to utilize FANRPAN platforms or leverage the network’s convening power to reach a broader stakeholder base.” Dr. Madzivhandila explained that the success of the partnership was a result of the alignment between the focus that CARE has in the southern Africa region, and that of FANRPAN. He expressed his appreciation for the way CARE had demonstrated its confidence in FANRPAN over the last three years.