Over the last almost 10 years, several leading analyses on agricultural production and consumption have been published. All arrive at a similar conclusion: the current agricultural production and consumption system needs to urgently change (IAASTD, 2009; UNCTAD 2013; De Schutter, 2014; FAO, 2006).

Despite the boost in agricultural production over the past decades, hunger is still prevalent. The current production and consumption system has caused many environmental problems such as soil erosion, pollution, an increase of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and loss of (agro) biodiversity. There are also unfavourable national and international financial and trade policies that result in a retreat from farming in developing countries with large numbers of predominantly young people forced to migrate to cities.

By 2050 Africa will be the most populated continent with one fourth of the world‘s population being African. This is why addressing agricultural production and consumption challenges by supporting approaches to change in this region of the world is both timely and critical.

Farmer organisations have a critical role to play in this context. They are the ones who can achieve concrete improvements at the ground level by providing services to farmers and by supporting the development of virtuous local food systems. They are also the ones who can bring a change at a national and regional level through their advocacy work and cooperation with their local and national authorities. At the same time, they are facing challenges in fully playing their role, reinforcing their capacities and working together. Local food systems, transition towards agroecological practices and gender approaches, are both necessities and opportunities for farmer organisations to fulfil their potential.

The celebration of the IYFF (International Year of Family Farming 2014) gave impetus to the launch of the EFC European Foundations for Sustainable Agriculture and Food working group. This group has allowed several collaborations to emerge, among them, JAFOWA in 2015.

Vision and Strategy
JAFOWA envisions and supports a dynamic and equitable farmer movement in West Africa that enables organisations of smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishers to create and manage quality local food systems that benefit families and communities in their region in ecologically sustainable ways. The movement advances local and regional policies promoting ecological solutions, and enables the leadership of women, indigenous peoples and youth.

Principles of engagement
What brought the movement together is a shared interest in sustainable agricultural production and food systems and a recognition that farmer organisations are critical players in this field. Even the smallest ecosystem around food in the community has a link to wider supply chains, which often have a correlation with poverty, deprivation , and well-being in communities. JAFOWA will support farmers’ organisations through grant making and capacity development in West Africa, with an initial focus on Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Senegal. It also envisions a partnership approach that is co-designed and co-built in cooperation with participating farmer organisations. After a first consultative meeting in Dakar in July 2015, JAFOWA has identified three fields for its funding:

▪ Supporting services for Family Farms: Strengthening FOs at national and local level to provide support services to smallholder farmers (notably financial services, farmer led technologies, technical support and monitoring at farm level).

▪ Improving Local Food Systems: Support to enable small-scale producers, processors and traders to access urban markets, to benefit from favourable prices and incomes, and to enhance the contribution and priorities of women who play a central role.

▪ Supporting Advocacy efforts of JAFOWA partners: Support for negotiation with decision makers of public policies to ensure that small-scale producers, processors and traders have secure access to resources (such as land, technology, credit, markets and decisions) and support for their innovation and solutions.

Partner Foundations
The five current JAFOWA Partner Foundations are:
Fondation de France (France), Compagnia di San Paolo (Italy), Fondazione Cariplo (Italy), New Field Foundation (US)

JAFOWA is hosted by the Network of European Foundations (NEF) and is a collaborative re-granting programme with its Partner Foundations playing a key role in its governance. These roles include:

  • The Steering Committee is made up of one representative of each foundation and meets on a bi-annual basis to discuss strategic directions of the programme. A Chair of the Steering Committee (Fondation de France for the pilot phase) steers the group and liaises with the JAFOWA Programme Manager for regular updates.
  • The Programme Manager participates in the elaboration of the strategy, and (s)he will be responsible for its implementation and overall coordination. (S)he will liaise with NEF Brussels on a regular basis for financial and operational matters.
  • An Advisory board will be set up, which will ensure co-design and co-piloting of the initiative with the stakeholders, and more particularly with farmers’ organisations. The Advisory Board will also supervise the feasibility study that JAFOWA will launch in early 2016 in order to identify existing support services to smallholder producers, processors and traders in the four selected countries, the role played by FO organisations in their delivery, and the political and economic context within which the services are provided. The study will guide the design of the funding mechanism which must be launched by mid 2016.

By joining JAFOWA new foundations‘ partners will learn and share with other foundations active in the field of sustainable agriculture, agroecology, food systems, smallholders/family farming; they will give much greater world-wide visibility to their contribution. They will also contribute to the shaping of the initiative from its onset, being part of key strategic orientations (e.g.. design of the 1st call for proposals to be launched by Mid 2016).

Benjamin Bellegy, Chair of JAFOWA: Benjamin.Bellegy@fdf.org
Peggy Saïller, NEF Executive Director: Peggy.sailler@nef-europe.org