Introducing the IWA process to stakeholders in Washington D.C.
AMEA workshop on defining professional farmer organizations

Embarked on its journey to facilitate the development of the global definition for professional farmer organizations, AMEA has organized a workshop on 20 March 2018 in Washington D.C. to actively engage stakeholders in the process. The workshop was hosted by one of AMEA’s Founding Partners, the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

This event was part of a series of regional engagements with the aim to introduce the International Workshop Agreement (IWA) process led by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to stakeholders in the regions and present the current thinking on the core capacities and characteristics that define a professional farmer organization.

The ISO/IWA process was recently initiated by AMEA to provide market actors, capacity builders, donors, commodity certification schemes and regulators with a common language around the core capacities for farmer organizations to be considered “professional” and thus suitable for market engagement. The IWA will bring the individual requirements of all stakeholders together in one definition and can be used in a flexible manner using assessment methods for understanding the levels of professionalism. AMEA believes that this is an important step towards a more efficient and sustainable development of farmer organizations.

The Washington workshop brought together a diverse group of stakeholders working in the field of agriculture and actively engaged in the commercialization of smallholders’ produce, capacity-building, and the development of farmer organizations around the globe.

One of the key take-aways of the workshop was that the collective effort put into uplifting smallholder farmers is costly but crucial and it is better to bring a solution then excluding these farmers from supply chains. A global definition for professional farmer organizations will help bridge the pillared approaches, and ease the challenges in smallholder value chains by providing a common language for all stakeholders. Moreover, the workshop emphasized that this global definition is not a certification scheme, but rather a reference  that all stakeholders working with farmer organizations (including the farmer organization members and leaders, donors, governments, buyers, banks, capacity builders and certification bodies) can build upon.

During the workshop, AMEA was happy to introduce Joanne Sonenshine to the participants, appointed as the independent chair for the IWA process developing the global definition.

The participants of the workshop agreed that to reach a consensus on a definition for professional farmer organizations, a wide range of stakeholders need to be involved. As the IWA development of the global definition is an iterative process, all stakeholders registered with ISO for this IWA are able to give ongoing input and reach consensus over time.

The next regional workshops that will provide a forum for engagement will take place in May in Kampala, Addis Ababa and Bangkok.

​​Stay tuned as AMEA will announce when the registration for participating in the IWA development is open. The IWA global definition for professional farmer organizations will be available in January 2019.