By Byron Mutingwende and Miriam Zvomuya
Contract farming has the potential to improve family farmers’ access to markets and boost their incomes while ensuring that agribusinesses have a stable supply of produce that meets their quality standards.
This emerged at the International Symposium on Contract Farming and other inclusive business models organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies (SMAIAS) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Harare from 8 to 9 November 2018.
Dr. Patrick Kormawa, the Sub-Regional Coordinator for the FAO Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa said contract farming is important because it gives smallholders a stronger negotiation power in the market.
The symposium brought together buyers (agribusiness) and farmers (producer organisations) of various value chains, or commodities, in order to enhance discussions on how to improve contracts using the CFS-RAI, the OECD-FAO Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains and the FAO policy on contract farming.
“Smallholders are major investors in the agricultural sector, in particular taking into account those family farms that invest their own capital and labour in their agricultural activity. In addition, public investments that match investments by smallholders are important for fighting poverty and hunger,” Dr Kormawa said.
Mr Michael Riggs, a FAO Capacity Development Officer said supporting investment in agriculture is one of the most effective strategies for economic growth and to reducing hunger.
“We are working towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate poverty especially in Africa and to ensure a zero hunger tolerance by 2030” reiterated Mr Michael.
Mr Joshua Nyoni, Chairperson of the SMAIAS said that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2016 to further the Agrarian Work .The MOU stated that, Investment needs to contribute to food security nutrition, gender equality, women empowerment, eradication of poverty and ensures safe and healthy food systems.
Mr Freedom Mazwi a member of the SMAIAS spoke on a state-led Contract Farming. ”There was underperformance of food crops hence a state led contract was initiated in 2016/17 agricultural season for maize – Command Agriculture”.
Command Agriculture is a an example of a successful state led contract farming although it did not address different Agro –Ecological zone needs in terms of inputs hence some farmers failed to meet the requirements of 5 tones per hectare.
Contract farming tends to marginalise the youth and women. ”There are barriers to entry as most people below the age of 35 are not allowed to own farms in Africa, and the Patriarchal set up in Africa which favours men,” said Mr. Walter Chambati, a member of the SMIAS.
“The Contract is written in English which some peasants do not understand. Contract farming requirements should be revealed so that it does not fuel differences to farmers by targeting commercial farmers than small scale farmers,” added Mr Chambati.