Self Help Farmer Groups Tom Remington Draft (Post Uganda and India Farmer Global Group Tour November 1, 2005 Introduction & Background CRS and CIAT are co-investing in an Agroenterprise Learning Alliance that went global in 2004. An important learning event was that we needed to better understand farmer groups as a basis of providing effective support and facilitation: What are they and where are they? What should they do and what should they perhaps not do? Should they be formal or informal – large or small? How should existing groups be supported and how should new groups be formed? Since first learning of the essential role that farmer groups must play in Agroenterprise, CRS discovered that we work with groups in all of our Country Programs – all sorts of groups: microfinance groups, health groups, Integrated Watershed Management groups, WatSan groups, farmer groups, HIV/AIDS groups and more. At the same time – from the Agroenterprise perspective, there was no coherence to how we supported groups - mostly they were ‘single issue’ groups. This further learning led to the articulation of the CRS-CIAT global study of farmer groups. The Global Study Tour, lead by CIAT/Cali Rural Innovations and CRS/Baltimore Program Quality Support Departments planned three case study country visits to Uganda (Sep05), India (Oct05) and Bolivia (Nov05) and a write up analysis and synthesis session in Colombia (Nov05). These brief remarks are intended to contribute to the ongoing process and also inform CRS Agroenterprise programs in progress and learning to date. Self Help Groups (SHGs) are invariably multi-functional Regardless of the original objective of group formation and of the objective of the supporting organization, SHGs inevitably take on multiple functions. For example groups set up to foster farmer experimentation and learning in Uganda (such as the FAO Farmer Field Schools and the CIAT CIALs) begin ‘internal savings and lending’. But conversely, groups set up by CRS and NABARD in India to encourage internal savings and lending soon begin to access and evaluate new technologies and invest in producing goods to sell in the market. Recognizing the flexibility and variability of SHGs is essential to providing effective facilitation services. The SHG paradigm – the triangle and diamond Approaching SHGs from an agroenterprise perspective, there are three and perhaps four key functions that SHGs have. These are: (1) internal savings and lending (2) agriculture experimentation and learning (3) agroenterprise and (4) natural resource management (see figure below): Self Help Group Internal Savings & Lending Financial Capital Self Help Group Agriculture Learning Agroenterprise Social Capital Human Capital Physical Capital Natural Resource Management Natural Capital Internal Savings and Lending Perhaps nothing is more significant than the placement of ‘microfinance’ or more precisely ‘internal savings and lending’ at the top of the diamond. This place of prominence is due to several factors: 1. internal savings and lending is a priority of all groups 2. it is a natural entry to forming and strengthening groups 3. existing internal savings and lending group formation and management models and guidance are simple and effective Though the focus is on internal savings and lending, it needs to be made explicit that an objective for group formation and savings is often to qualify for an external loan. A role for CRS is to facilitate SHG access to required and reliable financial BDS support. Agriculture Experimentation and Learning Agriculture Learning is defined as farmer group accessing new technologies (may be new crops or varieties, or new knowledge or new equipment) for their own evaluation. CRS has been referring to this as ‘farmer technology evaluation’ in East Africa. It is perhaps FAO with their Farmer Field School (FFS) approach and CIAT with their Local Agricultural Research Committees (CIALs), who have set the standard in this area.. The assumption is that there are technologies sitting on the ‘research shelf’ of interest and value to farmers – if only they knew of them and could access them. And that, with support, farmer groups can access and evaluate these new technologies and make decisions to adopt, adapt or reject – but more importantly to ‘learn how to learn’ to continue on a sustainable basis. Agroenterprise To the extent that CRS ‘has always supported groups in microfinance (internal savings and lending) and in agriculture production (experimentation and learning), these groups have been independent. We suggest that it is agroenterprise that connects the two with a focus on financial investment in and production for the market – to increase incomes. Whereas internal savings and lending and farmer learning are done by small informal groups, the accepted paradigm for agroenterprise groups has been the large and formal cooperatives and associations. Though there are numerous organizations that support the cooperative movement (e.g. CLUSA, ACDI-VOCA), CRS has not done so and we suggest does not want to begin to do so – at least not directly. Rather as SHGs mature, they may decide themselves to associate or join an existing association – CRS can help facilitate this. Rather than investing in the establishment of large formal farmer organizations – or even of linking smaller, agroenterprise-focused groups to these larger cooperatives, CRS should invest in integrating different activities that self help groups engage in. Natural Resource Management Natural Resource Management (also referred to in CRS as Integrated Watershed Management) has been closely aligned with Sustainable Agriculture (with a focus on low external inputs) and achieving food self sufficiency. To this extent it is possible that the shift to a market focus under the Agroenterprise Learning Alliance has inadvertently resulted in a diminishment of Natural Resource Management – at least for CRS in East Africa. To the extent that this might be true, it needs to be corrected. Natural Resource Management occupies the bottom of the diamond and supports the other three activities. CRS has the best developed Natural Resource Management program in India – funded in part with FFW. A well designed and implemented NRM program creates opportunities for the establishment of watershed management committees, the creation of multiple use of water opportunities and the ability to exploit new technologies. Examples from India include fish farming and chickpea production on residual moisture. Self Help Groups and Livelihoods Occupying the center of the diamond, SHGs embody social capital, which we consider to be the heart of sustainable livelihoods. Though the lines between the different capitals are not demarcated, NRM both improves the land and water natural assets as the basis of sustainable production. Agroenterprise focuses on the production of physical assets – to be consumed or sold in the market. Farmer learning increases human capital and the ability to continue to iterate and capture opportunities that come with change. And lastly, internal savings and lending impacts on financial capital – in terms of accumulation, credit and management. We suggest that it is social capital that holds the center. Impact on other livelihood aspects There is always a risk of creating a static model (after the Uganda visit, the model was a triangle – without NRM. Upon seeing the importance of the IWM program in India, it became a diamond). It is therefore important to explain that the model is flexible and open to other activities – deemed priorities by members. This might include advocacy (e.g. access to land for vegetable farming by women SHGs in India), domestic water and sanitation (within a natural resource management program), emergency preparedness and response etc. Conclusions & Next Steps It is evident that self help groups exist and underpin livelihoods across Africa (and beyond). There is no need for CRS to either create new single issue groups or to develop weighty manuals on how to work with groups. They already exist. The opportunity is there, however, to recognize that groups exist and that they have multiple interests. From this recognition, CRS can support these groups by facilitating their access to business development services – both financial and agroenterprise. This is only a draft attempt to articulate ongoing learning – of a large group of CRS and CIAT persons. It remains to discuss the emerging issues. And if the four points of the diamond survive – to articulate the details of each – drawing on the extensive bodies of knowledge in community-based natural resource management, agriculture producer marketing groups and cooperatives, farmer technology learning groups and microfinance. And then this needs to be shared with the Agroenterprise Learning Alliance members and each of their respective country programs – to inform ongoing work with farmer self help groups. We look forward to the discussion.
Pages to are hidden for
"Self Help Farmer Groups"Please download to view full document