Learn, Learn And Learn, Experts Recommend

Sustainability, the value of learning from practical experiences and the importance to focus on building the capacity of the farmers’ organizations were some of the key issues raised by the P4P Technical Review Panel during its third annual meeting held in El Salvador from 5 to 8 September 2011.

SAN SALVADOR -- The TRP, a panel of nine experts from academic institutions, development agencies, implementing and government partners, provides high level independent advice and expertise to WFP on the implementation of the P4P pilot across the 21 countries. The El Salvador meeting brought together the TRP members as well as a number of external observers including farmers, private sector grain buyers, representatives of the Centro American Agriculture Council, FAO, UN Woman, and WFP staff involved in the implementation of P4P in Central America and Africa.
Almost three years into the implementation of P4P, this was a time to take stock of what has been achieved and advise on adjustments to ensure that the initiative reaches its goals. 
“This meeting reminded us that is critical that P4P goes beyond meeting indicators or interventions at the field level, but rather it has a greater goal of generating knowledge that could be shared and used by all of those participating in the value chain of cereals and legumes, including government and partners”, said Miguel Garcia of Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
Participants prioritized the opportunity for learning that P4P offers. The recommendation is for P4P to shift its focus from its specific targets to the understanding of why such targets can or cannot be achieved. According to the TRP, the lessons learned also offer relevant material for P4P to have a greater role in the policy dialogue. WFP and partners are developing a significant body of knowledge to make a significant contribution to the policy dialogue on issues related to market development and smallholder agriculture. 
The TRP cautioned against the risks of a potential expansion of the project to involve new farmers organizations over the next two years. Instead, it recommended focusing on continuing strengthening the farmers’ organizations currently involved and ensuring that they are truly equipped to operate in formal profitable markets by the end of the project. This recommendation was part of the discussion on the sustainability of the initiative, which was also considered a priority.
Sustainability of what is being achieved with P4P and what will happen to farmers’ organizations once the project comes to an end is, indeed, of major importance to all involved. Adilio Aguera, one of the farmers benefiting from P4P provided a relevant insight when he said that getting funds for a project was not what P4P was about. For him the most important contribution of P4P to the farmers’ organizations was to enable them to learn about how to earn, invest and manage funds. That was, according to Adilio, the main contribution that P4P brought to them and a critical contribution to ensure that the farmers’ organizations continue to operate and provide services to its members.  
Permanent Members of the TRP: 
1.       Christopher Dowswell - Sasakawa Africa 2000
2.       Riikka Rajalahti  - World Bank 
3.       Dave Tschirley - Michigan State University
4.       Jamie Anderson - International Fund for Agricultural Development 
5.       Lydia Kimenye - Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa
6.       Marta Valdez - OXFAM
7.       Maximo Torero – International Food Policy Research Institute  
8.       Miguel Garcia - Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
9.       Shukri Ahmed - Food and Agricultural Organization