An interview with Sabrina Amburgey
AMEA board member from ACDI/VOCA
We spoke to Sabrina Amburgey, a member of AMEA's board and the Vice President for Strategic Growth and Partnerships at ACDI/VOCA. We discussed AMEA's beginnings and current projects, as well as goals for the future.
Solutions to these global problems will require experimentation, shared outcomes, and evidence of success to encourage investments. AMEA offers a platform to bring key players and perspectives together to solve these problems on a global scale.
One global definition allows all actors in the agribusiness market ecosystem to speak the same language. It provides a basis for setting expectations and goals for farmer organizations themselves, and for the actors that do business with them.
As a member of AMEA, ACDI/VOCA is able to collaborate with and learn from a community of like-minded organizations and individuals committed to unleashing economic opportunity and improving farmers’ lives.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the ways in which you are involved in AMEA’s activities?
I’m the Vice President for Strategic Growth and Partnerships at ACDI/VOCA, an economic development organization that fosters broad-based economic growth, raises living standards, and creates vibrant communities. I support our efforts to diversify our funding streams, explore new ways of doing business to achieve broader impact, and develop alliances that go beyond transactional project partnerships to advance our mission. I have the pleasure of representing ACDI/VOCA on the AMEA Board of Directors, and I also chair the Working Group that is guiding the development of a standard global definition for professional farmer organizations, a cornerstone of the AMEA framework.
ACDI/VOCA is one of the founding partners of AMEA - what was the incentive behind the decision to join this process and establish AMEA?
ACDI/VOCA has a long and proud history of working with farmer organizations. In fact, we were originally founded more than 50 years ago by members of the U.S. cooperative community, based on their conviction that cooperation was key to their success and that this model could greatly improve the livelihoods of farmers the world over. Like our founders, ACDI/VOCA still believes we can achieve better results working together than alone. As a member of AMEA, ACDI/VOCA is able to collaborate with and learn from a community of like-minded organizations and individuals committed to unleashing economic opportunity and improving farmers’ lives.
How would you describe AMEA’s role in the world of agribusiness? Do you see it as a force of change or more as an actor, that is improving, upgrading existing ways of doing business in agriculture?
I think more the latter. I don’t think AMEA is seeking to completely transform the sector, but rather to help it function more efficiently and effectively, for the benefit of all stakeholders. AMEA provides a common language, through the development of a globally accepted definition of professional farmer organizations, and a framework for quality assurance in the delivery of farmer organization strengthening by curating and facilitating access to proven, high quality capacity building tools, materials and service providers. By introducing and tracking common indicators, AMEA will also develop an evidence base for continuous improvement and more cost-effective impact over the long term.
Where do you see the value of having one global definition for professional farmer organizations? What are the main advantages of a higher level of professionalism in agriculture?
ACDI/VOCA is in the process of getting its assessment tool approved and included in the AMEA Framework. Where do you see the importance of using the same assessment tools across membership ?
The common toolbox offers multiple benefits. It provides access to proven, best-in-class tools that members can apply in their work; enables comparison of results across organizations and countries to better capture and understand impact; and offers the opportunity to have one’s own tools tested and used more broadly, ultimately helping to make them even better.
Where do you see AMEA in 10 years? What are the potential challenges in the global agribusiness sector it might have to react or even adapt to?
In 10 years, I hope to see AMEA as a thriving network of agribusiness stakeholders, with self-sustaining local networks around the world actively applying the AMEA Framework and toolkit to help farmer organizations operate more professionally and profitably. I think one challenge we face is that while a lot of the value in AMEA is around agreed standards, proven tools, and common indicators, ours is an industry that demands constant innovation, and is always looking for the next silver bullet. The competitive environment for those of us reliant on donor funding means that we are constantly seeking to differentiate ourselves through “unique” or “signature” approaches.
Speaking more broadly, access to information and improved agricultural technology in rural areas is steadily improving. Inclusive and sustainable growth will require strong farmer organizations and other market system actors who can take advantage of these technologies. Food security for growing urban populations will require improved relationships and sustainable production, which means farming needs to be an attractive and profitable occupation to encourage youth to replace the ageing farmer populations. Solutions to these global problems will require experimentation, shared outcomes, and evidence of success to encourage investments. AMEA offers a platform to bring key players and perspectives together to solve these problems on a global scale.
Billions of dollars are spent every year by both public and private sector actors to build reliable supply chains, reduce poverty, and improve food security. More professional farmer organizations will be better able to negotiate and deliver on contracts, attract necessary credit and investment, and provide better services and financial returns to members. One global definition allows all actors in the agribusiness market ecosystem to speak the same language. It provides a basis for setting expectations and goals for farmer organizations themselves, and for the actors that do business with them. This can enhance efficiency and reduce frustrations. Helping farmer organizations be more business-like allows them to have more productive relationships with buyers and bring more income to their members, and ultimately contributes to more sustainable supply chains and inclusive economic growth.