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Interview with case study team leaders of the SARD Farming System Evolution project

Dominique Legros (Project Officer of FAO's Rural Institutions
and Participation Service), Antonio Quinoz, Alpha Kergna,
Jaime Salinas (SARD-FSE Project team leaders) and Marcelino
Avila (Project Cordinator of FAO's Rural Institutions and
Participation Service)[Photo RDFS Network/D.Martinez]

"Since its inception, the Philippine case study has been conducted as a collaborative partnership among government, the academic and civil society sector." - Antonio Quizon

" A highly participative process has been developed among the partners identified to work in the implementation of the SARD-FSE project in Honduras" Jaime Salinas

"A valuable lesson learned from the case study in Mali was the identification of the many approaches on sustainable development given by partners" Alpha Kergna

In this interview, Alpha Kergna, Antonio Quizon and Jaime Salinas, team leaders of the case studies implemented within the framework of the SARD Farming System Evolution Project, give an overview of the initiatives being developed in Mali (cereal/root crop based farming system), Philippines (lowland rice-based farming system) and Honduras (maize/been -based farming system) respectively. They also comment on the main lessons learned as well as on the multi-stakeholder partnership being built.

The SARD-FSE Project

The purpose of the "Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development - Farming Systems Evolution (SARD-FSE) Project" is to enhance the capacity of governmental and non-governmental institutions to plan, implement and evaluate sustainable agriculture and rural development policies and strategies.
To ensure a broad participation and consultation, stakeholders from government, civil society, farmers' associations and external cooperation agencies are involved in case studies from local and territorial to national levels, and in national and regional workshops.
South-South partnership among national teams of studied countries is promoted through team leader meetings carried out in alternating countries and through continuous networking among teams.

How has the process of building partnerships developed and who are the main stakeholders involved in your case study?

Antonio Quizon: Since its inception, the Philippine case study has been conducted as a collaborative partnership among government, the academic and civil society sectors. Five multistakeholder institutions are directly involved: the Asian NGO Coalition, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), SEARCA and the two leading agriculture universities - University of the Philippines Los Baņos and Central Luzon State University. Moreover, our steering committee includes the above mentioned institutions as well as the three national government departments dealing with rural development (agriculture, agrarian reform and environment and rural development). Other partners involved in the project include the government national planning and representatives of the National Federation of Peasant Organizations - Philippines (PAKISAMA).

Jaime Salinas: In Honduras, a highly participative process has been developed among the partners identified to work in the implementation of the SARD-FSE project in the southwest area, in the Candelaria Municipality, of the Lempira Department and in the northwest area in the Arada Municipality, of the Santa Barbara Department. This project has been developed according to the proposed methodology and with the facilitation of the technical team during the meeting held with the National Coordinating Committee, the six local workshops with local stakeholders and other workshops held at national, municipal and inter-municipal levels. The main partners identified at national, departmental and local levels include government institutions, NGOs, producers' organizations, academic and scientific centres, international organizations and representatives of specific projects in the field.

Alpha Kergna: To develop a strong partnership we listed a series of organizations dealing with sustainability at the national level and identified those interested in SARD objectives and willing to collaborate. We invited them to all workshops and informed them about the progress of the project. At the farming system and territorial levels, partners are identified using national links already established. Certain partners are selected to form part of the steering committee which is in charge ofoevrseeing and evaluating all the activities being carried out at the national level.

What type of participation are you implementing at the territorial level?

J.S.: The participation at municipal and departmental level is multi-institutional, multi-sector and interdisciplinary. In this analysis, medium and small producers, government institutions, NGOs and organizations supporting the maize and bean production can converge on ideas, priorities and proposals. The participation of Municipal Mayors as the number one municipal authorities and the field coordinators in their respective areas has also been very important. At the local level some 30 people have participated in the process and considered the efforts during this phase of the Project as continuous and productive

A.K.: At territorial level, we organized meetings with technical government institutions, NGOs and civil society to present the objectives of the project in order to involve them in all our activities. These partners were invited to contribute to all workshops. The stakeholders involved are currently gathering information on indicators and primary data from the field and participating in the workshop at the regional level. They will also participate in the national workshop to be organized by presenting a series of initiatives they have developed at regional level.

A.Q.: Over the past 8 months, we have been studying the evolution of rain-fed rice farming systems, looking at its evolution from different stakeholder perspectives, especially from small farmers themselves. At local level, the study itself has involved local governments, rice farmers, extension workers and the academic community in the province of Nueva Ecija. This province is the Philippines' top rice producer among the country's 77 provinces, with a 20 percent output of the country's total rice production. Yet, about 40 percent of the province is rain-fed therefore many local farmers live in poverty due to low productivity under unstable farming conditions. This study has generated local interest, because until now, relatively less attention has been given to rice farmers in rain fed environments.

What lessons learned have you identified up to now and how can they benefit your institution?

A.Q.: Many key lessons have emerged from the case study. A major lesson is the integrated nature of the issues and the knowledge of the required response to assist rain-fed farmers. For instance, farmer families in our case-study sites now depend on non-farming sources for over half of their total household incomes. Most farmers migrate temporarily to cities for seasonal employment during the dry season. Thus development efforts to assist each farmer need an integrated approach that looks more into improving not just this type of farming, but other household needs, including identification of other sources of livelihood.

A.K.: The most important lessons learned are the diversity of approaches given by partners regarding sustainable development, the identification of communication problems between national and local levels and the problem of reliability of partners. We also underestimated the time demanded for participatory approaches.

J.S.: Among the lessons learned we can mention:
  • the dentification of the main partners, their relation with the project development and activities related to sustainable agriculture in sloping terrain and their participation in the implementation of the SARD-FSE Project.
  • the methodology implemented can be replicated by the Program for Sustainable Agriculture in Latin American Hillsides (PASOLAC in Spanish) in order to addressthese types of topics at local, territorial, national and international levels. PASOLAC also works in El Salvador and Nicaragua.
  • the working experience in this project enables PASOLAC staff to enhance their professional experience while transferring knowledge and concepts regarding SARD within a wide perspective to different actors and at various levels.
What are the project's next steps for the future, taking into account the third team leaders' meeting held in Rome on 24-27 November 2003?

A.K. A.K. After this meeting we will submit the first mid-term report on the case-study by 22 December; and continue to work on proposals and recommendations for SARD evolution before the fourth team leader meeting to be held mid-March in Mali. After that meeting we will submit the final report on the case study by April 2004. Workshops to validate tools built by FAO will be carried out eight months later. A final report will be submitted by 2005. Three regional (one each in Africa, Latin America and Asia) workshops are also scheduled to take place in the future.

A.Q.: Our next step is to continue the dialogue among different stakeholders, in order to prioritize future steps and recommendations. Our research team will be completing an initial draft report in early 2004, which will be discussed at a national multistakeholder workshop. With national elections coming in May 2004, we hope we can formulate strategic recommendations in time for the next incoming administration.

J.S.: At local level, a series of inter-municipal and municipal workshops will be carried out in order to give partners participating in the case studies the opportunity to validate results presenting their analysis and suggestions for innovative policies and strategies related to maize and bean farming development. These policies and strategies will help national government in its decision making process to achieve a sustainable agriculture development. Other steps forward include the realization of national workshops organized by the National Coordinating Committee to reach conclusions and discuss the proposed policies that will help government and non-governmental organizations in their decision making process.

To read more information on the SARD-FSE please download the Project's brochure here.