June - August 2007
The representatives of the four regional networks open dialogue with the EC to receive funding support

November 2007 - November 2008
IFAD, FAO, CTA and the four regional networks negotiate the agreement with the EC for financial support

December 2008 - January 2009
Signature of the EC-IFAD agreement to channel funds to the four regional networks: SFOAP becomes effective

March - June 2009
Detailed regional and national programming is undertaken through a participatory process of consultation among the organizations in Africa. A total of 40 workshops take place, 34 at national level, 4 at regional level, and 2 at continental level

June 2009
The programme is launched with a start-up workshop held in Johannesburg

July - December 2009
National, regional and pan-African activities begin


Strength in numbers

Strength in numbers

Strong farmers’ organizations can help smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishers play a role in the market economy and benefit from it. Cooperation among rural producers improves their access to finance, technology, land and water, and to local, national and international markets. It allows for economies of scale and stronger bargaining power in value chains. It increases their capacity to manage resources and to collectively influence policy and development programmes.

Today, there are tens of thousands of grassroots farmers’ organizations across Africa. Most play a dual role: as producers’ groups or cooperatives, they provide services to their members and they represent their members’ interests with other stakeholders, including business partners, development projects and agricultural policy makers. Many grassroots farmers’ organizations set up local federations or unions that are joined to national umbrella organizations. These umbrella organizations set up four regional networks in sub-Saharan Africa: Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), Plateforme Sous-Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC), Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA), and Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU). 

Providing support from the ground up

Providing support from the ground up

The Support to Farmers’ Organizations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) was initiated in 2009 to provide assistance to membership-based farmers’ organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, which are made up of tens of millions of smallholders and family farmers. The programme strengthens the institutional capacity of these organizations, and helps them have a greater say in agricultural development policy and programmes.  

SFOAP is the first continental programme in Africa to be initiated by the four regional farmers’ organization networks and that provides support from the ground up. The objectives and activities are entirely defined and implemented by national farmers’ organizations and by each regional network. Funds are provided to the four regional networks which redirect most of the funds to national organizations (see chart 1).

The programme currently supports 55 national organizations in 39 countries, their regional networks, and the Pan-African Farmers Forum (PAFFO). PAFFO was established during a Constitutive General Assembly held in Malawi in October 2010, by the four sub-Saharan regional networks of farmers’ organizations and the Union Magrébine des Agriculteurs (UMAGRI). ROPPA manages the budget for activities at the pan-African level.

IFAD supervises and finances the programme, while the EC provides its funding through IFAD. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) provide additional support. The programme is endowed with €6.1 million: the EC contributes €5 million from 2009-2011, and IFAD provides €1.1 million from 2010-2012 (see chart 2).

Programme partners

Programme partners

IFAD’s strategic partnership with farmers’ organizations dates back to the early 2000s and grew with the Farmers’ Forum initiative launched in 2004. The Farmers’ Forum is an ongoing, bottom-up process of consultation and dialogue between farmers’ organizations, national governments, and IFAD. Under SFOAP, IFAD plays the roles of donor, intermediary executing agency for the EC and supervising agency for the programme.

The EC officially acknowledges that agricultural and rural development in Africa could be more easily achieved by supporting farmers’ organizations. Through SFOAP, the EC is providing financial support to African farmers’ organizations for the first time.

FAO has a long history of working with farmers’ organizations. It provides technical assistance to the four regional networks and is increasingly linking its own technical and policy support programmes to the efforts of African organizations.

CTA seeks to develop the capacity of organizations to generate, share and use information in various areas, including policy development. CTA was one of the key actors to facilitate EC partnerships with farmers’ organizations.

A toolbox for building capacity

A toolbox for building capacity

SFOAP activities are organized around capacity-building and involvement in policy processes. (See chart 3)

The capacity-building component provides farmers’ organizations with:

  • strategic tools such as constitutional texts and membership databases
  • staff, equipment and resources
  • training and expertise
  • consultations and communication
  • support to PAFFO

The component on policy processes helps farmers’ organizations:

  • produce policy studies and analyses
  • promote meetings to forge common policy positions
  • carry out advocacy and lobbying activities
  • support the monitoring of policy implementation

The detailed activities are defined in annual work plans prepared by all participating farmers’ organizations.

SFOAP is guided by a set of key principles:

  • ownership: organizations define objectives and activities, and are responsible for implementation
  • sustainability: organizations are more capable of mobilizing resources
  • coherence: coordination and consultation between national and regional levels are maintained to develop synergies and generate stronger impact
  • flexibility: if opportunities or unforeseen constraints emerge during implementation, the programme can be adapted to achieve its objectives
  • gender mainstreaming: women’s quotas are established and a focus on women’s leadership is at the core of the programme.

SFOAP achievements to date

SFOAP achievements to date

Increased management capacity: At national level, 18 organizations have secured staff for day-to-day management and financial accounting. In Gambia, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Seychelles, Sierra Leone and Swaziland, farmers' organizations recruited and paid salaries of professional staff for the first time in their history. In Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Republic of the Congo and Swaziland, organizations recruited financial accounting staff. Retaining professional staff for day-to-day and financial management is significantly contributing to the capacity of organizations to plan, manage and monitor their activities, and to increase accountability to their membership base.

Farmers' organizations as players in policy processes: African farmers’ organizations launched their first continental forum (PAFFO) in close collaboration with the African Union. Regional networks have further consolidated their position as counterparts of the Regional Economic Communities and other institutions. For example, EAFF attained observer status in the East African Community, and the President of EAFF was elected the Chair of the Board of the Alliance for Common Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa. In Central Africa, PROPAC negotiated with the Central African Economic and Monetary Community to become its institutional partner. At national level MVIWATA (Tanzania) has been involved in national programming for the entire agriculture sector and CPM (Madagascar) positioned itself as a key player in the national policy dialogue on the impact of commercialization of land to poor farmers.

Formulation of policy positions: EAFF and SACAU carried out evidence-based studies on land issues in their regions and launched policy discussions among their members and other stakeholders. EAFF and ROPPA launched a study on adaptation to climate change, and in August 2010 EAFF declared its policy position on measures needed to support small farmers to adapt to climate change.

Other achievements: Increased communication and transparency between national platforms; strengthened younger and weaker organizations through peer support; enhanced capacity for regional networks to provide technical assistance and guidance to their members.

  • Union Nationale des Paysans Algériens (UNPA),
  • Central Agricultural Cooperative Union (CACU),
  • Syndicat Général des Agriculteurs et Éleveurs Libyens, Libye
  • Union Marocaine de l’Agriculture (UMA), Maroc
  • Fédération Mauritanienne de l’Agriculture, Mauritanie
  • Sudanese Farmers and Pastoralists Union, Soudan
  • Union Tunisienne de l’Agriculture et de la Pêche(UTAP), Tunisie

Eastern African Farmers Federation

National members:

  • CAPAD, Burundi
  • COOCENKI, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • FOPAC, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • LOFEPACO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • SYDIP, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti Breeders Association, Djibouti
  • NCEW, Eritrea
  • Oromia Coffee Farmers
  • Cooperative Union, Ethiopia
  • CAK, Kenya
  • KENFAP, Kenya
  • IMBARAGA, Rwanda
  • INGABO, Rwanda
  • ACT, Tanzania
  • MVIWATA, Tanzania
  • TFC, Tanzania
  • NUCAFE, Uganda
  • UCA, Uganda
  • UNFFE, Uganda

Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest

National members:

  • PNOPPA, Benin
  • CPF, Burkina Faso
  • NACOFAG, Gambia
  • FONG, Ghana
  • CNOP-G, Guinea
  • QCOPGB, Guinea Bissau
  • ANOPACI, Ivory Coast
  • CNOP-M, Mali
  • PFP-N, Niger
  • CNCR, Senegal
  • NAFSL, Sierra Leone
  • CTOP, Togo

Plateforme Sous-Régionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale

National members:

  • UNACA, Angola
  • CNOP-Burundi, Burundi
  • CNOP-CAM, Cameroon
  • CNOP-CAF, Central African Republic
  • CNCPRT, Chad
  • COPACO PRP, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • FENOGE, Equatorial Guinea
  • CNOP Gabon, Gabon
  • CNOP Congo, Republic of the Congo

Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions

National members:

  • BAU, Botswana
  • LENAFU, Lesotho
  • CPM, Madagascar
  • FEKRITAMA, Madagascar
  • FUM, Malawi
  • NASFAM, Malawi
  • NAU, Namibia
  • SEYFA, Seychelles
  • AGRISA, South Africa
  • NAFU, South Africa
  • SNAU, Swaziland
  • ACT, Tanzania
  • ZNFU, Zambia
  • CFU, Zimbabwe
  • ZFU, Zimbabwe