FEATURED: We are reinforcing accountability mechanism through empowering smallholder farmers – EU

Ambassador Nicola Bellomo, EU Head of Delegation to Rwanda.

“Citizen participation in identification of needs and monitoring of implementation makes policy making for sustainable development of agriculture more effective. Such involvement of citizens offers relevant information and increases ownership among the population – two elements crucial for design and successful execution of government policy initiatives.” said Amb. Nicola Bellomo.

According to Arnaud de Vanssay, the Head of Rural Development at the European Union Delegation in Rwanda, the EU’s decision to direct support towards Strengthening CSO Capacity in Promoting Sustainable Agricultural Policies and Citizens Participatory Budgeting in Rwanda (SCAB) project is in line with the EU work in Rwanda.

“We have been supporting Rwanda’s agriculture sector for many years, and the support for this project was particularly in line with the work we have been doing in building capacity of farmers. There’s so far good development of the sector with more productivity being realized, and a lot of farmers are getting out of poverty,” he said.

Although the sector still faces challenges like land constraints and climate change, Vanssay said that the government’s willingness to continuously develop policies aligned to the local circumstances has made them feel even more optimistic that the sector will grow.

“It is really important to work on the resilience of farmers. We believe there is so much that can be done, and this is why we are supporting this project (SCAB),” he noted.

He explained that what they are doing is to reinforce accountability mechanism through empowering smallholder farmers with trainings so that they can know what’s happening with their money, as well as take part in decisions that government is making.

“We are already seeing the benefits. Today, we are seeing citizens being engaged within the policy-making and budgeting processes. This project is one of the initiatives contributing to such  impressing results. Last year, there was a revision of the budget, and part of it was related to the advocacy that was made by women smallholder farmers in parliament through SCAB project,” he said.

He added that citizen participation in accountability and governance has the power to positively change the course of what is not being done well, as well as make sure that right resources are allocated to important sectors that greatly benefit them.

The EU official also highlighted that the project was promoting dialogue among stakeholders, and resulting in concrete recommendations that will lead to better results.

“The project proves to the policy makers and citizens the importance of dialogue in the whole value chain of agriculture. A farmer is a logic economic and social decision maker. Having a dialogue with them facilitates the understanding of what needs to be done, and this consequently contributes to a cohesive society,” he said.

According to Jean Bosco Senyabatera, the Programme Manager at CCOAIB, an umbrella organization of local NGOs;about 205 farmer cooperatives have already benefitted from the programme and 12 CBOs benefited.

“We are proud to be associated  to  such a project that is helping locals. At the moment, about 205 farmer cooperatives, most of whose members are women, have benefitted from the project,” he said.

This impact that the project has made, portrays that non-profit organisations can play a significant role towards developing some of the critical sectors of the economy in which many people are involved.

Senyabatera strongly emphasises that through SCAB project they will continue to  build capacity of Civil Society Organisations, Community based organisations, and smallholder farmers in the formulating  and  implementation of agriculture policies in a more sustainable manner as well as advocate for more support towards the farmers.

Kayisharaza,one of the representatives from Community Based Organisations requesting government intervention in teaching citizen participatory budgeting.

Farmers’ needs, ideas reach policy-makers -- CLADHO

Jean Leonard Sekanyange, CLADHO Chairperson and Spokesperson of Civil Society Platform says CLADHO has worked with ActionAid in the implementation of SCAB project and the results have been impressive.

“We work with ActionAid in implementing SCAB Project supporting our own members -8 CBOs  and   farmers to participate in policy formulation and  budget planning. This came after realizing that farmers never played their role in designing agriculture programs

He said that members of CLADHO and CCOAIB were exhaustively trained in organisational management and development, advocacy and power relations to enable then improve their capacities to sustain the project results.

He said that CLADHO has recently taken about 20 people from the CSOs, CBOs and women farmers networks  on tour in Kenya to learn and share experience with Kenya association of ax payers on advocacy approach.  And as a result the group learnt about using disaggregated data, lobbying support from like-minded organisations to easily advance issues at hand and through documentation of facts in order to convince the parties involved during dialogue.

“We recently held a public dialogue to present farmers dissatisfaction on agricultural service delivery and farmers participation in the sector planning. As a result, the Minister of State visited importers of agri-inputs to see the issues behind late delivery of fertilisers and seeds to farmers. Following the engagements at the public dialogue, we are hoping to see good results in the near future.

CSOs engagement in influencing agriculture planning and budgeting processes very vital

Emmanuel Kwiizera, the Project Manager, highlights there is nothing more important than supporting CSOs and farmers given their vulnerability that is as old as humankind to fully participate in governance issues especially in a sensitive sector like agriculture.

He noted that the project mobilises Civil Society Organisations and community based organisations who in turn mobilise the citizens particularly women small holder farmers to fully engage in this process.

“So, it is a policy-influencing project but using the bottom-up approach because in most cases the policy makers tend to focus on the technical expertise in policy formation, budgeting  and  planning but we are happy that since this project started, it has been able to contribute to full engagement and commitment of the government to actually increase the voice of citizens in these processes,” Emmanuel said.

SCAB project operates in eight districts of; Gisagara, Nyanza, Nyaruguru, Muhanga, Kamonyi, Karongi, Musanze and Gakenke.

It is a three-year project that started in April 2016 and will end in March 2019, being implemented at a cost of Euros 800,000 of which Euros 600,000 is a funded by European Union with Action Aid covering the rest of Euros worth 200,000.

Over 205 farmers’ cooperatives regrouped in 20 networks are benefiting from the project. A total of 20 community-based organisations were also trained.

Media houses capacity has also been built through sensitizing them on agriculture budget information analysis. They have also been empowered with skills on writing advocacy stories regarding the agriculture budget,through the SCAB project. Media has since been keen on delving into into stories of advocacy relating to the agriculture and citizen participation.

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