Strengthening Armenia's Agricultural Sector Through Multi-Stakeholder Networking: A case study on the Agricultural Alliance

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Agriculture plays a vital role in Armenia’s economy, yet insufficient investment means productivity is limited and many smallholder farmers live in poverty, unable to realise the potential of their land. In 2011, Oxfam initiated a multi-stakeholder network – the Agricultural Alliance (AA) – which brings together civil society organizations to work on joint initiatives and advocacy to address problems in the agricultural sector. This case study aims to show the positive impact of the AA in Armenia, explore the challenges it faces, and suggest ways to develop more collaborative and efficient multi-stakeholder networking/partnerships.
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY OCTOBER 2016 www.oxfam.org  Casual labourers picking grapes in Lchkadzor, Armenia. Photo: Cristina García Rodero STRENGTHENING ARMENIA’S  AGRICUTURAL SECTOR THROUGH MULTI-STAKEHOLDER NETWORKING  A case study on the Agricultural Alliance  Agriculture plays a vital role in Armenia’s economy, yet insufficient investment means productivity is limited and many smallholder farmers live in poverty, unable to realise the potential of their land. In 2011, Oxfam initiated a multi-stakeholder network – the Agricultural Alliance (AA) – which brings together civil society organizations to work on joint initiatives and advocacy to address problems in the agricultural sector. This case study aims to show the positive impact of the AA in Armenia, explore the challenges it faces, and suggest ways to develop more collaborative and efficient multi-stakeholder networking/partnerships.  2 1 INTRODUCTION The role of multi-stakeholder networks ‘Global governance is no longer viewed as primarily an intergovernmental concern but one that involves intergovernmental institutions, CSOs, citizens’ movements, transnational corporations, academia and the mass media.’ UNDP & CSOs: A Policy Note on Engagement   Multi-stakeholder partnerships are an important tool to address a variety of challenges and provide solutions to complex problems. By sharing a range of perspectives and interests through transparent collaboration and joint initiatives, multi-stakeholder networks can make a greater impact on decision makers and can achieve collective goals through their positive impact on state policy processes. The agricultural sector plays an important role in the Armenian economy. In 2014, agriculture made up 22 percent of the national GDP. According to the government, the growth of agriculture’s share in GDP was mostly due to an increase in production, which compensated for a considerable loss in other sectors of the economy. However, the state cannot ensure the funds needed to develop the agricultural sector, and in 2016 the state budget for agricultural spending is only 2.1 percent of the total country budget. The agricultural sector receives as much funding as the culture and sports sector; one-third of the funding received by healthcare; and less than one-quarter of the budget for education.  About 40 percent of the population live in 866 villages (out of a total of 915 villages) where agriculture is the main source of employment. Officially, the agricultural sector involves about 340,000 farms, and more than 90 percent of these are owned by smallholder farmers (with an average of 1.4 hectares of land). The high rural poverty rate (officially 31.7 percent of the total population live in rural poverty) is considered a direct threat to the sustainability and resilience of smallholder farmers.     3 2 ABOUT OXFAM’S PROGRAMME To address the problems facing the agriculture sector in Armenia, as outlined above, Oxfam’s strategy aims to enable:   ã  Advocacy and campaign work at national/provincial policy-development levels, through multi-stakeholder alliances (Agricultural Alliance, Mother and Child Health Alliance, etc.) in order to adopt and implement pro-poor and gender-sensitive agricultural and food security policies that can address the needs of smallholders. ã  The establishment of rural businesses and social enterprises in the form of agricultural cooperatives at community level.  At national and sub-national levels, Oxfam engaged the Ministry of  Agriculture to develop the SSARD 2015–2025 (expected to be adopted in Spring 2016); it also worked with the Ministry of Social and Labour Affairs and the Tavush provincial government (Oxfam’s target province in Armenia) to create the Tavush Provincial Social Economic Development Plan 2016– 2019. The specific focus areas of these interventions are to: ã  Create a conducive legal environment for smallholder farmers (e.g. by lobbying for and supporting the drafting of a law on agricultural cooperatives, etc.). ã  Establish and enhance sustainable development of agricultural cooperatives to pool the efforts and resources of smallholder farmers to ensure greater benefits. ã  Increase agricultural production and consumption by promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between farmers and processors. ã  Increase smallholder farmers’ resilience by using climate-adaptive technologies and improving their access to infrastructure development (e.g. agricultural insurance). ã   Ensure gender mainstreaming is present in national and provincial policies.   Oxfam’s community-level projects aim to: ã  Establish agricultural cooperatives as sustainable rural businesses and social enterprises. ã  Build capacity of smallholder farmers in innovative husbandry technologies. ã  Introduce/provide climate-adaptive agricultural technologies (e.g. greenhouses with drip irrigation, cold storage facilities, resilient/high-value crops, etc.). ã  Establish a fruit and berries processing plant. ã  Provide easily accessible loans for cooperative members at a zero percent  4 interest rate. ã  Scale up business models and campaign for their replication. Oxfam is also targeting the communication gap between farmers and the government, by guaranteeing that farmers’ concerns and expectations are included in policies (taking a bottom-up approach) and by ensuring that government policies/actions reach communities and farmers (a top-down approach). The key approach is the engagement of all relevant stakeholders through a multi-stakeholder alliance, the Agricultural Alliance (AA). BUILDING THE AA: A MULTI-STAKEHOLDER PARTNERSHIP The AA was initiated by Oxfam in Armenia and established in 2011 as a volunteer-based, multi-stakeholder national platform. Its aim was to create  joint initiatives and advocacy work in the agriculture sector. The alliance brought together 15 civil society organizations (CSOs) including local and international organizations, unions, and state scientific institutions, which are the main actors in the agriculture development sector.  AA members signed a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) on 6 December 2011, and committed to long-term partnership and collaboration to find solutions to problems facing the agriculture sector. The AA members agreed to: cooperate to find solutions to existing problems in the agricultural sector by finding efficient tools and combining human and financial resources; carry out joint advocacy and lobbying on national policy making; exchange information and learning, and raise awareness among AA members.  AA stakeholders work in all regions of Armenia, in more than 200 communities; overall there are 10,000 beneficiaries. Members of the AA have different programme approaches and areas of intervention, including: ã  National policy making and legislative changes. ã  Education and consulting. ã  Piloting new innovative project models at grassroots level. ã  Agri-lending/loans-provision to smallholders. ã  Gender issues and gender mainstreaming of national and provincial policies. Each AA member organization is unique and has its own profile, vision and mandate in the agriculture-development sector in Armenia. The AA creates an enabling environment through rotating the management of its advocacy meetings and dialogues, ensuring equal ownership and input from all member organizations. The main priorities for joint initiatives and collaborative advocacy work, as defined by AA members, are to: ã  Enhance the efficiency of agricultural-resource use and the value chain; to improve the working conditions of smallholder farmers by promoting,
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