International Conference on Institutional Food Purchases

On November 24, 2015, PAKISAMA organized the International Conference on Institutional Purchases in Quezon City, Philippines which brought together 120 representatives from member-farmers’ organizations’ (FOs) and partner agencies in the Philippines, and resource persons from Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil, Belgium and FAO-Rome. The conference aims to learn from experiences and initiatives of existing institutional food purchase programs and policies, as well as identify challenges, opportunities and action points to improve farmers’ engagement in government food purchase programs. It was coorganized by Asian Farmers Association (AFA) and Collectif Stratégies Alimentaires (CSA) from Belgium, and with support from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-Région Wallonne), AsiaDHRRA, and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

In 2014-2015, PAKISAMA has organized three national conferences discussing the Partnership against Hunger and Poverty (PAHP) to address the lack of official involvement of FOs/CSOs at the PAHP national level. The forums were inspired by exchanges with Brazilian civil society on the crucial role of FOs in the design and implementation of institutional food purchase programs like PAHP. Launched in the Philippines in December 2013, the PAHP is a collaboration among DAR and Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Agriculture (DA) that will allow smallholder farmers to supply the food requirements of public day care centers. The FAO and UN-World Food Program (WFP), with the Brazilian Government, provide support and technical assistance. The goal is to contribute towards reducing poverty, increasing farmers’ incomes and nourishing families.

Through a video message, Mr. Olivier de Schutter, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (2008-2014), commended the conference in showing how the public purchasing of food can support small farmers and fishers in the Philippines. Mr de Schutter noted that 6-10% of the GDP of countries worldwide is in the hands of the public sector, and a significant part is for buying food. He said that food purchase by public administrations, schools, hospitals and other public institutions is a uniquely effective way to encourage transition to sustaining food systems that follow ecological practices. This strategy can improve health outcomes, increase incomes for small farmers by giving them better access to markets, and thus contribute to rural development and the reduction of poverty. Important laws have been adopted in Brazil (2009) and Bolivia (2015) to promote institutional food purchase where at least 30% of food in feeding programs are bought from smallholder family farmers.

Mr de Schutter also emphasized that institutional food purchases should have four components. First, food has to come from local sources to support the local community’s economy and improve its quality by cooking fresh food in, e.g. schools. Second, food must comply with certain nutritional requirements. Third, food should be sourced from small farmers who do not have the opportunity to reach markets, and who should be provided with technical support, training and space for involvement in the design of the public programs to be competitive. Fourth, the food purchase program should contribute to the shift into agri-ecology farming. Mr de Schutter remarked that they were watching developments in the Philippines so that these initiatives continue to inspire many other regions of the world.

In her keynote address, DAR Undersecretary Rosalinda Bistoyong gave an overview of PAHP. The program provides smallholder farmers with an assured market for their produce while at the same time ensuring quality, healthy and nutritious food for their children in day care centers that are managed by local governments. With Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” strategy (Fome Zero) as model, PAHP aims to integrate social protection measures in eliminating hunger, food insecurity and reducing poverty.

USec Bistoyong also shared that PAHP is being piloted in the Bicol Region, and rolled out in Region 8 – particularly in areas affected by super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) – and in the Zamboanga peninsula where poverty and severe malnutrition is prevalent. The PAHP implementers have prepared a manual on community participation containing guidelines on how FOs can participate as contractors or service providers. Once approved, PAHP’s procurement procedure is expected to be more efficient and streamlined. Two bills that promote institutional food purchase – National Food Security Act and Right to Adequate Food Framework Act – have been filed in Congress.

Mr Lawrence Cruz, the PAHP National Coordinator, provided information about innovations being introduced in the PAHP, e.g., shift from menu-based crops to crops-based menu, pro-forma Marketing Agreements between agrarian reform beneficiary organizations and local government units, and a proposal to buy at least 30% of feeding program food requirements from smallholder FOs.

Mr Celso Ludwig, Policy Coordinator of FETRAF-Brasil (National Federation of Workers in Family Farming), presented key features of Brazil’s institutional food purchase program. It aims to support food production of Brazil’s four million family farmers, supply quality food to schools and other institutional markets, produce strategic stocks, and promote cooperativism. The program started small with feeding programs in government schools, hospitals, restaurants and other institutional markets, and grew in time. Mr Ludwig stressed that food producers do not only rely on institutional markets but also go to the supermarkets, etc. Farmers’ organizations played an important role at the national level through their inclusion at the National Council for Food Security and Nutrition (CONSEA), and at the regional and local levels, e.g., in the preparation of menu in feeding centers. Several challenges, e.g., such as budget, food prices, etc, were encountered and addressed over the 10 years of its implementation.

PAKISAMA President Rene Cerilla shared his insights from his participation in a High-Level Executive-Legislative Study Mission to Brazil in July 2015 as the lone FO representative. The mission was organized with the support of WFP-Philippines and aimed to deepen understanding of Brazil’s Zero Hunger strategy to improve the implementation of PAHP by adopting the best practices and laws from Brazil’s experience. The field visits looked at “supply” (e.g., smallholder farms) and “demand” side (e.g., food hubs, canteens), and studied programs like the Food Acquisition program (PAA) and National School Feeding program (PNAE) which allow family farmers to sell their products to government at fair prices, thus empowering local farmers. Ms Violeta Corral of PAKISAMA’s Knowledge Management Unit presented the lessons learned from experience in engaging national and local agencies by member-FOs Golden Parauma Producers Cooperative (GPPC) and Casiguruhan Natin Organic Farmers’ Association (CNOFA) in Camarines Sur and Aurora provinces, respectively.

The experience underlines the need for FOs to improve their participation in the highly-promising PAHP program that responds to the need of farmers for assured market for their products. Issues like PAHP design, contracting, and FOs capacity-building should also be addressed. PAKISAMA believes that institutional purchase can bring an added dimension to enhancing farmers’ market power where farmers are also selling their products with a social purpose. The Brazilian model which increases the income of participating farmers by 10- 50% is an inspiration to Philippine farmers. Mr Ernie Lim, Policy Consultant of Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA), presented highlights of his research on expanding market access for family farmers through innovative food purchase models and policy options. He noted that Brazil’s model innovated on program management structure, menu development, support services and procurement, and responded to challenges such as competition from big food players, lower prices of government due to bidding, and effective participation of family farmers in creating structured demand. Mr Lim also shared features of alternative models in Japan, e.g., Michi-no-eki (road side stations) and Tekei (direct producer-consumer networks). Farmer leaders from AFA ’ s member in Indonesia and Vietnam also shared their experiences on institutional purchase.

Mr Lodzi Hadi of Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) said that although his country does not have a food purchase program similar to Brazil, API is involved in the government’s organic rice purchase program from small farmers. Mr Huu Van Pham of Vietnam Farmers’ Union (VFNU) presented Vietnam’s efforts to address hunger and poverty through increased farm productivity and various pro-poor programs. In Vietnam, FAO is supporting a steering committee that will draft the “five pillars” against hunger – for all people to have food; to reduce the price of rice or food; children from 2 years old to have good education; sustainable food system; and income for small scale farmers through increased harvest. Resource persons from FAO-Rome presented highlights of a forthcoming FAO study on “Institutional Procurement of Food from Small-holder Farmers” that provides an analysis of the Brazilian and Purchases from Africans for Africa (PAA-Africa) experiences in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Mr Israel Klug, PAA-Africa Coordinator, defined international purchase as government’s decision to buy food from small farmers’ associations and cooperatives that has four key characteristics: (a) why government is buying food; (b) what are the benefits; (c) what are the implications in implementing different programs; and (d) what are the basic conditions. Ms Luana Swensson from FAO-AGS discussed the lessons on legislation and contracting from cases in Rwanda, Kenya, El Salvador, Guatemala, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana. The legal issues linked to institutional purchase programs are: ( a) regulation of public procurement; ( b) development of a legal definition of smallholder or family farming producers; and ( c) legal structure and regulation of smallholder producer organizations. The PAA-Africa is an FAO-WFP managed program where the Brazilian government and five African countries (Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Malawi) collaborate on institutional food purchase.

Ms Caroline Amrom of CSA remarked that the conference has demonstrated models on institutional food purchase that bring good social, environmental and economic impacts. She stressed the importance for authorities to intervene to ensure that the food purchase program benefits family farmers who usually have a weak position in local and national markets. There are three dimensions that need to be addressed through capacitated and more efficient and competitive FOs – supply side, demand side and legal/environmental aspects. Constant dialogue with government is necessary towards a more sustainable program that responds to the needs of the farmers and their communities and targeted clients.

In summary, the international conference has shown that in the Brazilian model, farmers organizations play a meaningful role in the elaboration and implementation of institutional food purchase, whereas in the Philippines, the role of FOs is limited to participation at the local level mainly as beneficiary. The PAHP is currently not designed to maximize the participation FOs and CSOs in policy-making and implementation. The current purchases involving the feeding centers also do not offer volume nor premium price to organic products and of products by family farmers’ organizations. Moreover, the FOs’ capacity to produce and deliver on a regular and consistent manner the volume and variety of food required in feeding centers’ menu must be strengthened. In scaling-up the PAHP, it is essential to collaborate with a broader based of FOs and CSOs at the national and local level. Important bills such as the National Food Security Act need to be pushed to institutionalize the program.


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