Successful Meeting of Stakeholders IWA 29

Global Guidelines for Professional Farmer Organizations

On 7 and 8 November, participants in the development of IWA 29 gathered in Delft, Netherlands, to review 300 comments to the draft global guidelines for professional farmer organizations, and reached consensus on the final version.


Photo credit: NEN

AMEA initiated the development of an International Workshop Agreement (IWA) to create a common language on the core capacities of professional farmer organizations for successful access to markets and finance. With a common guideline all stakeholders can benefit from clarity on what a professional farmer organization is, for continuous improvement and development of these organizations. The guideline can be used as a reference and can be used regardless of the products, region and type of farmer organization.

The IWA 29 identifies core capacities for professional farmer organizations regarding:

  • Organizational Purpose and Governance Practices,

  • Business Management,

  • Member Engagement and Planning,

  • Human Resources Management,

  • Financial Management,

  • Community and Stakeholder Engagement, and

  • Member Services and Business Activities.


The ISO/IWA development procedure guarantees open participation, credibility, impartiality and recognition.


AMEA member organizations including ACDI/VOCA, IDH, ICCO, IFC, NCBA CLUSA, Nuru International, Rainforest Alliance, Rikolto, and SCOPEinsight were part of this meeting as well as several other organizations.


The process is led by  the Dutch Standardization Agency (NEN) on behalf of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Over 220 stakeholders from 50 countries have been involved in the development process, and many more participated in 7 regional workshops in Uganda, Ethiopia, Cote d’ Ivoire, Thailand, US, UK and Peru.

“We had some tough discussions over two days, but the power of ‘when the world agrees’ could be felt in the room. All arguments and proposals for changes were seriously considered.  It is great to see so many voices from so many organizations and countries included. The publication of these guidelines will be a major step forward as it will enable a shared understanding of how to most effectively build the professionalism of smallholder farmer organizations in emerging markets.”

Alan Johnson, Chairman of the AMEA Board

Main changes to the draft

The meeting reviewed all 300 comments to the draft and made consensus-based decisions on how to address these comments.


Key decisions made in response to the comments to the draft included changing the title from Global Definition to Global Guidelines, to emphasize the fact that it is intended to be used for continuous improvement rather than as a prescriptive document.


The meeting agreed on how to address the inclusion of all groups (including potentially underrepresented groups such as women or youth), the meaning of professional and of farmer organizations and the core capacities needed for farmer organizations to thrive as successful businesses.

The meeting also agreed to include a reference to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:


The IWA 29 was also reviewed for consistency of language, and now includes clarifications such as the importance of monitoring and transparency within a professional farmer organization.

Key takeaways and next steps

Next steps include an overall editorial review, review by stakeholders not at the meeting and final technical review by ISO.


As the meeting found consensus on the final version, it is expected that the IWA 29 Global Guidelines for Professional Farmer Organizations will be published in early 2019. The IWA 29 will be made available through the 162 national standardization agencies who are members of ISO.


We are very much looking forward to seeing the IWA 29 published and having the guidelines globally recognized and widely used to advance many more successful professional farmer organizations around the globe.

If you would like to learn more about the process and the content of the guidelines, see further information from AMEA here and from NEN here.