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Report on SWOT, capacity and communication needs of farmer organisations in the SADC region
October 2005



Executive summary

This study was commissioned by FANRPAN and SACAU to analyze the profiles of farmer organizations (FOs) in the SADC countries. The study was commissioned because the information about farmer organizations in the SADC region has mostly been incomplete and fragmented. Such a situation has made it difficult SACAU to mobilize brad-based support on regional and international matters that affect farmers in the region. This study is an attempt to address that need by profiling and identifying capacity constraints of farmer organizations that have a national constituency in the SADC. The countries included in the study include South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Mauritius and Tanzania. SACAU has already been interacting with Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. It therefore intends to direct its efforts to attract membership in the countries of Lesotho, Botswana, Tanzania and Mauritius as well as strengthening policy analysis and representation capacity of the FOs in the region.

This report mainly highlights the key aspects of the farmer organizations in the SADC countries in terms of typologies of FOs, operating environments, structures (membership and leadership), roles and services, linkages, opportunities and constraints, key challenges faced, capacity needs and strategies for empowering FOs.

The information about farmer organizations for each country was collected and compiled by country consultants who conducted interviews with senior officials of the identified organizations.

The study has shown
That there are many farmer organizations in the countries. The FOs are of different categories with the majority being commodity associations. The FOs are of different sizes in terms of membership, outreach, resource endowment (human, financial and assets) with the majority being small. The FOs are also of different ages with some being old and big but many being formed in recent years and still small in capacity. The FOs have been influenced positively and negatively by several external and internal factors. These factors have influenced the establishment and development of many FOs.

The profiles of various FOs in different countries highlight some strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with these national farmer organizations involved in the study. Although these are different in many aspects, there are some common elements. The tables below provides a summary of the main issues for most of the FOs:

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Membership driven by FOs in terms of leadership and funding
  • Committed leadership
  • Having written constitution to guide operations
  • Enabling policy environment
  • Available support (technical and financial) from government and donors
  • Functional secretariats with capable management and technical staff
  • Extensive networking and linkages among farmer organizations
  • Dealing with key crops and products - thereby having opportunity to influence policy / operating environment and increase incomes of members
  • Credibility with governments and other stakeholders.
  • Limited financial resources and funding sources
  • Donor dependency
  • Poor and limited communication systems
  • Lack of offices
  • Lack of own assets
  • Inadequate human capacity at leadership and secretariat levels
  • Lack of skills on leadership, advocacy and lobbying
  • Low investment levels for the members
  • Dependent on the domestic market
  • Lack of adequate accounting systems
  • Inadequate promotional activities, marketing
Opportunities Threats
  • Dealing with key crops and products in the economy
  • Trade liberalization leading to existence of domestic, regional and international markets
  • Vast untapped membership
  • Increasing donor support to social economic development
  • Availability of support structures such as government research stations, extension and training institutions
  • Favorable policy environment supporting farmer organizations
  • Political stability in most countries
  • Poor and unstable macroeconomic climate
  • Trade liberalization
  • Changes in the government policy
  • Poor infrastructure (roads, hospitals, electricity and schools)
  • HIV / AIDS
  • Non payment of registration and annual subscription
  • Lack of adequate support from donors and government
  • High levels of insecurity
  • Poor research and extension services
  • Proliferation of competition among FOs
  • Lack of sustainability
  • Unpredictable weather and unreliable forecasts


These situations affecting the FOs in the different countries of the region provide a wide avenue for SACAU and other stakeholders to support growth and development of the FOs in the region. Specifically the following actions need to be considered:

  • Identification of key FOs in each country
  • Conducting specific needs assessments on the identified FOs
  • Facilitate harmonization of roles and responsibilities of FOs
  • Support capacity building in policy awareness and analysis (national and regional policies), advocacy and lobbying skills and leadership
  • Facilitate enhanced networking and linkages among FOs in the region
  • Support improvement of communication between FOs and members and among FOs
  • Assist in raising funds to support operations of lead FOs

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