ZIMSOFF will continue with its coordination and administration function within the collaborative with Afrika Kontakt (AK) of Denmark and LVC Southern and Eastern Africa (SEAf region) on the regional project “Pathway to Climate Justice” for the next 36 months beginning January 2019. The project targets to build capacity of smallholder farmers in 9 members of the SEAf region to organise for political change and collaborate on shared advocacy strategies, which is needed to strengthen responses to climate change and to increase their representation in the current agenda of agricultural development in the region, that is being promoted by political bodies such as Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), targeted towards large-scale market actors and industrial farming techniques.
During the last phase, ZIMSOFF took on LVC’s approach more actively, which centers on organizing farmers into collectives, which participate and input into LVC international Working Collectives that influence policy particularly at FAO (Rome) and Human Rights Council (Geneva) and many other global policy dialogue spaces. The collective is a flexible and horizontal space for open discussion of men and women, in which any/all members can propose, contribute, make decisions to engage and dialogue to ensure that issues are addressed. There are two active collectives within ZIMSOFF; the Climate justice and Seed/biodiversity collectives. In the next phase ZIMSOFF will continue to strengthen this collective work, increasing participation of farmers in these collectives. The aim is to be effective and transformative in a collective space to address a complex set of interconnected objectives encompassing economic, social and environmental dimensions surrounding food sovereignty and family farming.
For ZIMSOFF the best advocacy is showcasing examples on the ground, which illustrate the potential for Agro-ecology and how a transition to increasingly effective Agro-ecology practice is possible, especially given some support from policy makers. ZIMSOFF will continue to identify examples on the ground to which key people can be taken. It will also continue documenting case studies, with more of an emphasis in this next phase on short films.
Influencing policy is at the heart of what ZIMSOFF is about. The strategic objective for this coming phase remains straightforward as a guide to what ZIMSOFF gets involved in regarding advocacy and lobbying.
During the last phase, ZIMSOFF made inroads into engaging with Government on Farmer Managed Seed Systems (FMSS) and Agro-ecology. Also, a limited number of ZIMSOFF representatives were able to participate in various meetings regionally and internationally. “Nothing about us without us” is LVC’s farmers’ voice theme, which ZIMSOFF has taken up strongly. The challenge for ZIMSOFF in the next phase is to enable a greater number of farmers to be able to participate actively and expertly in various forums.
To this end ZIMSOFF plans to develop a curriculum on lobbying and advocacy. This curriculum will cover aspects like understanding of existing policies, learning how to keep an eye out for opportunities, and engaging public officials. ZIMSOFF sees this process as a chance to bring in young people much more. Build young people’s capacity on these issues and they will struggle for them for life, understanding and being able to articulate the issues more clearly all the time. It’s time more of a young voice comes through and the voice of youth can be powerful in a world usually dominated by older men.
Nationally, ZIMSOFF has been an active partner in the Zimbabwe Seed Sovereignty Programme (ZSSP), playing a key part in the annual food and seed festival, which now includes a national seed fair aimed primarily at smallholder farmer seed custodians. The aim of this national seed fair is twofold: to enable farmers from different parts of the country to interact and exchange seed and to be an advocacy platform for the value and role of farmers’ seed varieties in a world that is trying to close them down and not even recognize them as seed.
ZIMSOFF’s advocacy work in the next phase will have a special focus on family farming, tying in with the United Nations Decade of Family farming (2019 to 2029). This will show and argue for the value of family farms economically, socially, nutritionally and ecologically. Family farms will be a special area of focus for developing case studies.
ZIMSOFF is also part of the Zimbabwe Agro-ecology Practitioners and Promoters Alliance (ZAPPA), which has been recently set up. The focus of this alliance is to influence the way government’s new Agricultural policy is implemented, in particular pillar 8 (on ——). ZAPPA has brought a range of stakeholders together and ZIMSOFF will play its part in ensuring “nothing about us without us”. There are delicate lines to tread in this process as Government’s enthusiasm for climate smart agriculture goes against ZAPPA’s Agro-ecology focus. Though on the surface Agro-ecology and Climate Smart Agriculture may appear similar there are significant differences, most notably around the role of corporates. This process is an opportunity for farmers to make very clear these differences especially in terms of the longer-term vision.
Regionally, ZIMSOFF is a special partner and the only farmers’ organization in the regional Seed and Knowledge Initiative (SKI) coordinated in South Africa by Biowatch. It is a collaborative of farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations, research institutions and the academia in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The ZIMSOFF will continue to actively participate in this initiative.