Civil society, sustainable family farms and the case of the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso
In order to promote their produce, family farmers need access to multiple things, including inputs, seeds, markets, information - and credit. In Burkina Faso, a partnership between civil society organisations (CSOs), microfinance institutions and other political authorities contributed to the creation of the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso. The existence and dissemination of considerable evidence enabled the CSOs to influence and convince decision makers of the importance of creating this new bank for the development of family farming in the country. The Voice for Change Programme significantly contributed to building the CSOs’ capacities to achieve this. Today, these CSOs have the capacities and the necessary means to be actors of development and to sustainably influence policies.
This is their story.
Today, about 80% of Burkina Faso’s population works on a family agricultural farm. Family agriculture, while the first source of employment and provider of food products, also comprises most of the country’s poorest citizens. To meet its full potential as well as the challenges of the future, family agriculture must be supported by adequate public policies. The establishment of the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso (BADF) is a key milestone in this process and is the result of successful advocacy by the Voice for Change Programme’s CSO partners.
But the process would not be easy.
An unfavourable banking environment
Four farmers' organisations (Agricultural Services Provision Cooperative (COPSAC), the Burkina Faso Federation of Professionals in the Agricultural Sector (FEPAB) and the Burkina Faso National Union of Rice Producers (UNPRB)) have been partners to the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) since 2016. V4CP is an evidence-based advocacy programme led by SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
Forming an alliance
These CSOs started their journey by building an alliance with nine other organisations, signing a charter to join forces and thus reach their common goals. V4CP CSOs convinced the Farmers’ Confederation of Burkina Faso, the country’s largest farmer organisation, to join the alliance. With new evidence on funding for family farms and trainings on conducting evidence-based advocacy under their belts, they would soon be advocating for the creation of the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso (BADF), after presenting the unfavourable conditions under which credit is allocated by classical banks.
Identifying the problem with evidence
With their alliance established, the CSOs then came together to analyse Burkina Faso’s agricultural practices and techniques. In 2017, V4CP financed a study about family farms financing. This study suggested the creation of an agricultural bank, with CSOs as members of the Administration council and their contribution in the capital – for low cost – and an agricultural development fund – to solve the problem of guarantees. Their research revealed the obstacles that limit food sovereignty in Burkina Faso.
"The information we received from the base (farmers) enabled us to understand that people not only did not have the appropriate technology to improve their output, but also did not have the possibilities to have access to funding adapted to our activities because we were given season credits and non-investment credits, which were not accessible at all, given the difficult conditions,", said Marc Gansonré, farmer and Secretary General of the FEPAB.
This situation is unfortunately made worse by the state's withdrawal from the productive sectors (production, trading, processing) under pressure from the Bretton Wood Institutions on one hand, and by the difficult credit conditions by classical banks for the farmers on the other hand (only 15% of them had access to the bank credit, PNDES 2016).
In fact, many ordinary banks were not interested in investing in agriculture, especially in the field of food crops. They would cite factors like variability in the climate, lack of adequate insurance in the agricultural field and lack of real guarantees due to constraints in the credit grant process for agricultural farms.
Using evidence for advocacy
The unfavourable credit context affected efforts to create and modernise agricultural family farms. It is on this basis that initiatives were taken, led by the farming organisations, to call on the Head of State to create the Agricultural Bank, starting on National Farmer's Day in 2017. Through this bank, the CSOs argued, the government would create conditions for access to agricultural credits in order to ensure sustainable food security in Burkina Faso.
With an agricultural policy aimed at ensuring food sovereignty, the CSOs believed that Burkina Faso would make the agricultural sector the driving force of its national economy. The need for an innovative mechanism to ensure real access to credit and to better promote family farms was urgent.
The V4CP programme sought to support the CSOs in their mission to modernise agricultural family farms, by providing technical and financial support for all key meetings about agricultural financing and inclusive financing. It supported the CSOs in building their capacities to identify and use relevant evidence, especially those related to funding in the agriculture sector. "What I commend about SNV and the Voice for Change Programme is the production of evidence," rejoices Marc Gansonré, Secretary General of the FEPAB.
Athanase BIRBA, FEPAB Coordinator left), Marc GANSONRE, Secretary General FEPAB
Multi-stakeholder partnerships and disseminating evidence
The dissemination of evidence and the carrying out of a study on funding family farms ended up convincing the most sceptical. In order to reinforce dialogue between farmers' organisations, banks and microfinance institutions, multi-stakeholder talks were initiated by V4CP. The V4CP CSOs contributed by disseminating the family farms financing study to multiple key stakeholders, through several workshops with banks, monetary financial institutions, the Ministry of Agriculture, the parliament, development partners, as well as through briefs, leaflets and letters addressed to relevant actors, from 2017 to 2019. This created a space to reflect on and commit to the development of better-adapted products and services. In order to harness the potential of all the actors in the agricultural value chain and to enable stronger synergy of actions, consultations were organised between the CSOs, Members of Parliament, Central Directors of the Ministry of Agriculture and Hydro-Agricultural Development, the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Development and other technical services of the State.
"Any time we had the opportunity, we advocated for the creation of an Agricultural Bank by reminding the policy makers that at least 15% of the producers, all categories considered, have access to agricultural credit (PNDES 2016)," said Athanase BIRBA of the FEPAB.
One such example is the National Rural Sector Programme review in 2017, which presented a key turning point in CSOs’ advocacy. V4CP organised meetings before this review to support CSOs in formulating their contributions to the programme document, and supported CSOs’ participation in order to influence the agenda. This ultimately helped to build legitimacy around the idea of the creation of an agricultural bank in the second phase of the National Rural Sector programme.
During the national forum on the transformation of family farms organised from 17 to 18 January 2019, the V4CP CSO coalition working on food and nutritional security in Burkina Faso wanted to find answers to the following question: "How can we support family farms with the means of production, inputs and a close support for a better output that will ensure sustainable food and nutritional security in Burkina Faso?"
The answer soon became clear. At the end of the participative talks, one of the recommendations, according to Bassiaka DAO, President of the Farmers' Confederation of Burkina Faso (CPF), was that "the government should create a guarantee fund specific to agriculture, as an incentive for the banks to have interest in the agricultural sector. The banks must provide and develop products and financial services adapted to the needs of family farms."
Creation of the Banque Agricole du Faso (Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso (2019)
The calls made by the Farmers' Confederation of Burkina Faso (CPF) and the actions conducted by the CSOs for stronger involvement of the government of Burkina Faso to consider the needs and expectations of family farmers were critical. They were heard by the highest authorities of Burkina Faso.
A strong signal was sent to the agricultural sector on the occasion of the 20th edition of the National Farmer's Day in 2017 in Kaya by the President of the Republic, Rock Marc Christian KABORE: the agricultural bank creation project was officially added to his Social and Economic Development Plan (PNDES). From then on, the farmers' organisations, led by the CFP, aimed to closely monitor the case to ensure effective implementation. This included the mobilisation of own resources for ownership.
The Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso (BADF), with a capital of CFA 14.2 billion (EUR 21.7 million), was launched on 29 March 2019 in Ouagadougou. It facilitates farmers’ access to funding, taking into account their insufficient access to bank credits (only 15% have access) in order to contribute to the development of agriculture, forestry, livestock, fish and fauna activities and, in general, to the modernisation of family agricultural farms. A group of thirteen farmers’ organisations, including the Farmers' Confederation of Burkina Faso and the Union of Seed Producers, are potential parties to the capital. These organisations are represented by three administrators out of the ten that make up the bank’s Board of Directors. The new bank is committed to improving services for farmers and is working to develop more adequate banking products. And the icing on the cake is that unions that are members of the FEPAB were able to get a credit with an interest rate of 8% this year, which was marked by the opening of the Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso. This is unprecedented as most banks have a double-digit interest rate.
The main beneficiaries are very pleased with this development and convinced that it will lead to more sustainable food and nutrition security for the country’s population. SAWADOGO Nebnoma, President of the Provincial Union of the Yatenga and Honorary President of the FEPAB said: "If we want to remain professionals in the field of agriculture, we need to have financial means and, most importantly, equipment, transformation and trading systems that will enable us to boost the sector. The bank will help to relieve the stress experienced by producers." According to Athanase BIRBA, coordinator of the FEPAB and President of the Farmers Confederation of Burkina Faso, no mistake should be made, and there is still a long way to go. "We urge the Government to ensure that this bank effectively meets the challenges of the agricultural sector. We do not want these efforts to be wasted and we are working together for this project to be successful again," he said.
A bank for farmers, with knock-on benefits
In order to create the funds, BADF's shareholding is comprised of thirteen organisations of the agricultural sector, legal entities, three state-owned enterprises, eight private enterprises and seventy individuals.
The Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso was created with slightly more than CFA 14 billion (EUR 21.4 million), which will provide financial services to rural areas. It also benefits from a CFA 6.3 billion (EUR 9.6 million) loan granted by the Agricultural Development Bank for the creation of an agricultural insurance and a warrantage system. Fortunately, these provisions are also leading to some changes in the banking field in Burkina Faso. "The Agricultural Bank of Burkina Faso is welcome. It is making things move on... Since its creation, the other banks have been more interested in the agricultural sector and are ready to support the farmers organisations and to work with them in order to suggest more adequate services", says Seydou OUEDRAOGO, Moderator and Trainer at the Farmers Confederation of Burkina Faso.
It should also be noted that the capacities of the CSOs to negotiate credits have been strengthened. Their participation in consultation frameworks with financial institutions enables them to discover other funding models. They are, therefore, better equipped to make concrete proposals to influence the new agricultural bank in the conception of banking products adapted to the farming field.
The existence and the dissemination of evidence enabled the CSOs to not only influence but also better convince the decision makers on the importance to create a new agricultural bank for the development of family farming in Burkina Faso.
Scaling up the bank’s presence across the country
The CSOs’ actions, through the varying consultation frameworks that they created, helped banks and the IMF to understand the needs and (or) intrinsic concerns of the small holder farmers. Now, the farming world has the capacity to sustainably influence policies.
The technical and financial partners, and the V4CP programme in particular, significantly contributed in building the CSOs’ capacities, helping them to become key actors in the development of these initiatives.
The CSOs’ work will not stop here. In terms of challenges, the President of the Provincial Union of Niébé Producers in the Province of Sanmatenga shared his thoughts: "We wish this bank could listen to us, understand the challenges we face, better know our status to adapt the conditions for the farming field", said OUEDRAOGO Salifou.
According to Marc Gansonré, in spite of the eased conditions, there are still some difficulties for small holders to have access to the agricultural bank. "The bank does not have a presence in other parts of the country. Moreover, it is not excluded from rules and procedures applicable to commercial banks imposed by the Central Bank of West African States. As a consequence, it operates as a commercial bank. Yet it should ease its conditions to be closer to family farmers, which the other banks do not do.", he says.
In order to meet the expectations of its customers and to be closer to its potential customers, namely producers, a new BADF agency opened in Bobo-Dioulasso on 14 October 2019. The producers are expecting a scaling the opening, very soon, of agencies in other cities across the country.
The active involvement of the CSOs and their boldness positively influenced decision makers to take interest in the need to fund family farms, so much so that the agricultural bank project was featured in the Social and Economic Development Plan (PNDES), established, and in the process of being scaled up across the country. Civil society has helped make strides for the agriculture sector in Burkina Faso, and will continue to do so.
Who we are
The Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) strengthens the capacities of CSOs to foster collaboration among relevant stakeholders, influence agenda-setting and hold the government and private sector accountable for their promises and actions. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Bassiaka DAO, President of the Farmers' Confederation of Burkina Faso.