Written by Marzia Pafumi, FAO
Federations of tree growers and forest producers are on the rise in Africa. They help smallholders in dealing with tenure arrangements, accessing markets and financial services, getting quality extension and capacity development support. To be effective, they need to be able to access and share relevant information, but also to articulate members' views and dialogue with governments to influence policy formulation.
Last June in Kenya, the African Farm/Family Forestry Producer Organizations Conference gathered farm and forest producers of the region to exchange experiences of community-based forestry and to discuss with governments, technical agents, NGOs, donors and academia.
The event was co-organized by the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA) in close collaboration with the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), FAO and other Kenyan and international partners committed to empowering small-scale forest producers. The conference was a great opportunity for the emerging forest producer organizations of Africa to network and make their voices heard at both the regional and international level (the conference resolution was later presented at the XIV World Forestry Congress in South Africa).
FAO partnered with the Kenya Community Media Network (K-COMNET) to involve community broadcasters in the production and distribution of radio interviews and farmer testimonials aiming to raise awareness and stimulate dialogue about family forestry.
With technical advice from FAO Communication for Development team and Farm Radio International (FRI), K-COMNET used the power of storytelling to capture relevant and inspiring experiences of local farm and forest producer organizations.
INSPIRING FARMER TESTIMONIALS
Ethel R. Wion, Gender Officer and President of the Women Colleague of the Liberian Farmer Union Network, gives a moving account of her initiative to empower rural women farmers through collaborative units and formal training. This has allowed women farmers to refocus their energies on a combination of practical farming and business strategies.Makweti Sishekanu, of the Zambia National Farmers Union, offers his take on the mutual benefits of the collaboration between Government forest services and Community Forest Associations. He offers a word of advice about intercropping, which allows tree growers to yield food and sustain their livelihoods while playing a big role in the conservation of the environment.
Josef Garvi, CEO of the social enterprise Sahara-Sahel Foods, shares his story of reclaiming land from the desert to make quality food from wild, drought-tolerant trees and bushes. He recounts the difficult journey of processing the hansa tree, strongly stigmatized in Niger as a famine food, and changing people’s mindset with pioneering biscuits, cakes, popcorn (pophansa) and other nutritious products based on the seeds.