2RMIT, Melbourne, Australia
Partnerships are an important element in any initiative to achieve improved livelihoods for small holder farmers and are particularly relevant when working in conflict-vulnerable areas. The Mindanao Agricultural Extension Project (AMAEP), funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), has been refining and evaluating extension methods in the complex setting of conflict-vulnerable areas of western Mindanao. The refined model is based on three strategies 1) improving farmer access to knowledge and skills; 2) Building community social capacity and 3) Collaborating closely with local institutional partners. The last strategy to regularly engage with partners such as local government has led to farmer groups successfully engaging in the planning and development process of local government; accessing government programs and receiving grants. The ability to have input into the local development council planning process ensures an ongoing political commitment to the farmers programs – an important strategy for sustained support. Trust is a valuable commodity in conflict areas and there have been positive changes in the project sites. Significantly for the farmers and their communities, there is renewed trust in providers and access to government and other services that had been previously lost as a result of past conflict.
Dr Mary Johnson, RMIT Research Fellow, has worked extensively within Australia and internationally in agriculture, natural resource management, education and community development. Mary’s recent work has focussed on strategic partnership building; social, political and natural capital; social learning and rural women.