Empowering Producers in Commercial Agriculture (EPIC) International insight pooling workshop

Wed 13th – Fri 15th November, 2019 Blantyre, Malawi.
The EPIC project aims to empower rural producers and their wider communities to influence public decisions and private sector conduct in favour of bottom-up, locally beneficial and more sustainable investments in commercial agriculture.
The event
Hosted by IIED and EPIC partners from Malawi and Nepal1, the above event will take stock of and share experiences around the world of approaches to supporting rural producers in their commercial agriculture relations. It will span experiences of supporting producers in informal local markets through to those supplying highly structured or integrated global value chains. The workshop will:
• Gather insights on effective approaches to supporting rural producers and their communities in the context of commercial agriculture, agricultural investments and agricultural value chains.
• Pool experiences and ideas into what is working well, challenges, and important lessons to help guide different actors.
• Focus on practical approaches being applied across diverse geographies and contexts drawing out the contextual factors, enablers and constraints, and considering tips for uptake, scaling and replication.
• Highlight where certain conceptual or analytical frameworks can help strengthen practical approaches, for example in relation to social inclusion and understanding issues of power, agency and behaviour change.
Event duration and structure
The event will run over 3 days, including a field trip to allow time to share insights, interrogate lessons being learnt, generate new ideas and consider ways forwards to strengthen work in this area. It will include:
• Scene setting on challenges and opportunities;
• Participant exchange and skill sharing on a number of key pre-selected tools and approaches;
• Field visits to EPIC work with the Msuwadzi Tea Association and one other site TBC.
• Digging deeper on what is effective in meeting local priorities, generating bottom up approaches, addressing social inclusion and relevant policy and practice spheres ripe for influence;
• Taking forwards the agenda – by documenting and deepening the learning and sharing and engaging with key players.
1 Malawi: Women’s Legal Resources Centre (WOLREC), NEPAL: Centre for community self-reliance (CSRC), Nepal Agriculture Central Cooperative Federation Ltd (NACCFL)
Who is it for?
There will be up to 25 participants with representation from:
• Practitioners supporting rural producers, their associations and their wider communities (e.g. NGOs, development agencies);
• National and regional federations of small-scale rural producers;
• Best-practice agribusinesses and their investors and service providers;
• Policy makers, especially from low and middle-income country governments;
• Donors active in commercial agriculture.
Background to the event
Increased private sector investment in commercial agriculture – from production to aggregation, processing and distribution – has created both risks and opportunities for rural livelihoods in low and middle-income countries. Developing value chains and linking farmers to markets could transform the livelihoods of millions of rural people, expanding choice and creating income-generating opportunities. But there are also concerns about top-down approaches, unequal negotiating power, unfair business relations and social differentiation among rural people.
The ability of rural people to make informed choices, exercise rights and have their voices heard when dealing with the government or the private sector is a key factor in enabling, or constraining, fairer investments, which deliver positive sustainable development outcomes. Yet interactions between governments, companies and rural people in low and middle-income countries usually involve asymmetries in capacity, resources, influence and negotiating power. There is a need to develop, use and upscale innovative legal and other empowerment approaches that strengthen the position of rural people, particularly in their supply chain relations.
EPIC responds to this challenge. Through research and lesson-sharing, alongside testing approaches in two countries, EPIC is generating evidence on effective approaches to supporting rural producers in their commercial agriculture relations. EPIC is funded through the UK Department for International Development (DFID)’s Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness (CASA) programme. For more information visit the webpage or read the latest research report sharing the conceptual framework being developed and interrogated through EPIC.
Event results
In addition to the learning and knowledge generation and networking amongst participants, the event will result in a briefing note to disseminate the discussions and findings widely and cases discussed may be further developed to contribute to the development of a practitioner toolkit.
IIED will support travel and accommodation expenses associated with participating in the event
Please RSVP to Jack Lloyd jack.lloyd@iied.org cc. Emily Polack emily.polack@iied.org

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