PAKISAMA conducts International Conference on Institutional Food Purchases

PAKISAMA conducts International Conference on Institutional Food Purchases

November 24, 2015

On November 24, 2015, PAKISAMA organized the International Conference on Institutional Purchases in Quezon City, Philippines which brought together 120 representatives from its member-farmers’ organizations’ (FOs) and partner agencies in the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as resource persons from Brazil, Belgium and FAO-Rome.  The conference aims to share and 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.  The Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) and Brussels-based Collectif Strategies Alimentaries (CSA) co00organized the event, with support from FAO-Région Wallonne, AsiaDHRRA, and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

For the past year, PAKISAMA has organized three national conferences discussing the Partnership against Hunger and Poverty (PAHP), an institutional food purchase program that was launched in the Philippines in December 2013, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and UN-World Food Program (WFP) and with technical assistance from the Brazilian Government. These discussions were a response to the lack of official involvement of FOs/CSOs at the PAHP national level, and were inspired by exchanges with Brazilian civil society which has shown the crucial role of FOs in the design and implementation of institutional food purchase programs. Two bills that promote institutional food purchase – the National Food Security Act and Right to Adequate Food Framework Act – have already been filed in Congress.

Through a video message, Mr Olivier de Schutter, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (2008-2014), commended the conference on its focus on how the public purchasing of food can support smallholder family farmers/fishers in the Philippines. He shared that globally, 6-10% of the GDP of countries is in the hands of the public sector, and a significant part is for buying food.  He also said that the purchase of food 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.  Mr de Schutter emphasized that 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 in the long run, even the reduction of poverty.

Mr de Schutter also stressed that institutional food purchases need 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 the schools, local canteens, etc. 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, to be competitive, should be provided with technical support, training and space for involvement in the design of the public programs. Fourth, the food purchase program should contribute to the shift into agri-ecology farming.  Mr de Schutter ended by saying that that they will continue to observe the country’s progress in family farmers’ involvement in institutional food purchase programs that can inspire many other regions of the world.

In her keynote address, Undersecretary Rosalinda Bistoyong of the DAR gave an overview of the PAHP which the agency implements jointly with the Departments of Agriculture (DA) and Social Work and Development (DSWD).  The PAHP provides smallholder farmers with an assured market for their produce while at the same time ensures quality, healthy and nutritious food for children in day care centers managed by local government units (LGUs). With ‘Zero Hunger’ (Fome Zero) strategy of Brazil as model, the PAHP will 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. A Manual on Community Participation has been prepared that contains guidelines on how farmers organizations (FOs) can participate as contractors or food suppliers in the program.  Once approved, the PAHP’s procurement is expected to be more efficient and streamlined.

Mr Lawrence Cruz, the PAHP National Coordinator, presented the innovations being introduced in the PAHP, e.g., shift from “menu-based crops” to “crops-based menu”, Marketing Agreements between FOs and LGUs, and a proposal that at least 30% of food requirements of day care centers be supplied from smallholder FOs.

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

Ka Rene Cerilla, PAKISAMA President, shared his experience as lone FO representative at a High Level Executive-Legislative Study Mission to Brazil in July 2015 that was aimed to deepen understanding of Brazil’s Zero Hunger strategy and improve the PAHP implementation by adopting the best practices and laws from Brazil’s experience.  The mission included field visits to “supply” (e.g., smallholder farms) and “demand” side (e.g., food hubs, canteens) and looked at 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.

Ms Bobet Corral of PAKISAMA presented lessons learned from its experience in engaging national agencies and local governments in Camarines Sur and Aurora provinces.  There is growing realization that FOs need to be capacitated to engage in the PAHP program which offers an assured market for their farm products. Procurement guidelines need to be less stringent so that small farmers organizations can avail of the program. 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 serves an inspiring story to Philippine farmers.

Mr Ernie Lim, Consultant of Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Asia (AsiaDHRRA), presented his research on expanding market access for family farmers through innovative food purchase models and various policy options.  Brazil’s model innovated on management structure, menu development, support services and procurement, while responding to such challenges as competition from big food players, lower prices of government because of bidding, and effective participation of family farmers in a structured demand.  Mr Lim also shared information about models in Japan such as Michi-no-eki (road side stations) and Tekei (direct producer-consumer networks).

Farmer leaders from AFA shared their country’s experiences with institutional purchase.  Mr Lodzi Hadi of Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) remarked that though Indonesia does not have a food purchase program similar to that of Brazil, his organization is involved in the government’s organic rice purchase program from small farmers. He added that he can be able to promote the lessons from the conference in his country. Mr Huu Van Pham of Vietnam Farmers’ Union (VFNU) talked about Vietnam’s efforts to address hunger and poverty through increased farm productivity and various pro-poor programs.  He also said that FAO in Vietnam supported the creation of 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; that children from 2 years old have good education; sustainable food system; and income for small scale farmers through increased harvest.

Experts from Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented highlights of a forthcoming study “Institutional Procurement of Food from Small-holder Farmers” about the Brazilian and PAA-Africa experiences in Latin America, Africa and Asia.  Mr Israel Klug, PAA-Africa Coordinator, defined international purchase as a mechanism where government decides to buy food from small farmers’ association and cooperatives.  It has four key characteristics: a) why is government buying food; b) what are its benefits; c) what are its implications in implementing various programs; and d) what are the basic conditions.  The Purchases from Africans for Africa (PAA-Africa) is a collaboration on institutional food purchase between the Brazilian government and 5 African countries (Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Malawi), and is managed jointly by the FAO and World Food Program (WFP).

Ms Luana Swensson from FAO-AGS shared about the legislation and contracting from cases in Rwanda, Kenya, El Salvador, Guatemala, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Ghana. She said that there are three legal issues linked to institutional purchase programs:  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.

Ms Caroline Amrom of CSA shared that the conference has demonstrated models on institutional food purchase that bring good social, environmental and economic impacts. She stressed that it is important 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.  Three dimensions need to be addressed through capacitated and more efficient and competitive FOs – supply side, demand side and legal/environmental aspects. She suggested that 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.

To sum up, the conference has shown that in Brazil, FOs 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 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 must be enhanced. In scaling-up the PAHP, it is essential to collaborate with a broader based of FOs/CSOs at the national and local level.  Important bills like the National Food Security Act also need to be pushed to institutionalize the program.


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