“Reforming Agricultural Policies for a Sustainable Future in Africa: Reflections from the President of ROPPA, Mr. Ibrahima COULIBALY”
Kigali, May 17, 2023 – During a session titled “Political Engagement and Advocacy of Peasant Organizations (OP)” organized by the Pan-African Platform of Peasant Organizations and Agricultural Producers (PAFO) as part of the FO4ACP knowledge management event, the President of the Network of Peasant Organizations and Producers of West Africa (ROPPA), Mr. Ibrahima Coulibaly, underscored the importance of improved collaboration between agricultural sector stakeholders and government institutions to enhance the lives of rural populations.
“If public policies are good in favor of the rural sector, people’s lives improve, poverty recedes,” stated Mr. Coulibaly. “But as long as we cannot find a good consensus to negotiate policies, implement them, follow them, evaluate them together – we, the agricultural profession, state actors, and funders – it will not work.”
He highlighted that the previous approach, where decisions were made without any consultation with farmers, was ineffective and resulted in little progress in the sector. Fortunately, this approach has evolved over time, and now, dialogue with farmers is becoming increasingly frequent.
“We began to engage in political dialogue with the government, which was very difficult at first because most governments were not used to peasants proposing to improve public policies,” he continued.
Mr. Coulibaly noted some notable improvements, including the allocation of subsidies to small initiatives and peasant organizations by some governments. However, he emphasized that the major challenge remains access to financing for farmers.
“As a peasant movement, we are facing ourselves. We must ask if these 10% or 15% allocated to agriculture are really present and, if so, how they are used effectively to change life in our villages, our farms, and peasant operations. This is the most important challenge today,” he stressed.
He recalled the revolutionary agricultural policy of 2006 by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which recognized small family farming as the pillar of development. Yet, he lamented the lack of adequate funding for this policy.
Mr. Coulibaly argued that the greatest challenge for the African peasant movement is to ensure that public money is invested in agriculture in a way that transforms the lives of peasants. “The real problem remains the same, how do we ensure that public money is invested in agriculture to change the lives of peasants?” he asked.
The active involvement of peasants in shaping agricultural policies and advocating for investment in agriculture is more crucial than ever. It is essential to have a strong policy framework, backed by significant investments, that recognizes small family farming as the main driver of agricultural and rural development.
“It’s a real challenge to prove that we are taking concrete actions, despite the establishment of observatories and systems to document the life of farms using our own data collection tools,” explained Mr. Coulibaly. He stated that the peasant movement is making efforts to document and share experiences, successes, and lessons learned, and to participate in ongoing political dialogue.
“Neither ECOWAS nor the African Union speak of agriculture without calling on us as a peasant movement, whether at the regional or continental level,” he added, emphasizing the now essential role that farmers play in political debates about the future of agriculture.
Mr. Coulibaly’s intervention highlighted the progress made in recognizing farmers in policy-making but also underscored the ongoing challenges related to financing, investment, and the effectiveness of public spending. He concluded by calling for more determined action to ensure that public money is effectively invested to transform the lives of peasants and ensure a sustainable future for agriculture in Africa.
Communication and knowledge management officer