What links are there between Fert and the French professional agricultural associations?

Fert was established in 1981 primarily at the initiative of leading agricultural professionals in the “Céréaliers de France” group: AGPB, ITCF (now Arvalis) and Unigrains. It receives financial support from Unigrains.

Fert uses the experience and know-how of French agriculture and mobilises the most-needed skills to support on-the-ground programmes and serves as a base for training and experience exchange for local partners.

The association supports the actors in development of agricultural economies in developing and emerging countries by working to lay the groundwork for a lasting economic partnership between French and foreign professional organisations.

Who are the current members of the Fert board of directors? Do they serve as individuals or do they represent their professional organisation?

Some members of Fert and of its board of directors were or still are people involved in professional agricultural organisations; they show a strong interest in the issues of developing countries and are involved personally in the association’s efforts and directions.

Other Fert members and directors are from other professional milieus who share the same humanistic values and are also concerned by agricultural and nutritional problems in developing countries.

This mixture of backgrounds is a source of richness; it was essential right from the start that the approach to these issues not be only that of agricultural experts.

Do the cereal-grower organisations, as institutions, have a say in how Fert’s efforts are channelled (geographic location, length of support provided, methodology, etc.)?

Fert’s directors do not sit on its board on behalf of their professional organisation but as individuals; in fact, Fert is an association made up of individuals and not of corporate entities.

On the other hand, the Unigrains board of directors has a say in those Fert programmes that are partly co-funded by a financial contribution from Unigrains.

How much autonomy does Fert have?

Although it was established at the initiative of the Cereal Growers of France group and supported by it, Fert responds to the requests of farmers in developing and emerging countries in all types of agriculture (stock raising, field crops, market gardening, tree farming).

With its private funding, Fert is able to commit itself for the long term alongside its partners in developing and emerging countries, beyond the often very short terms of projects carried out with public financing.

What makes Fert different from a development NGO?

Governed by Law 1901, Fert is an association for international cooperation for rural development and can therefore be called an NGO.

But it differs from a classic development NGO because of:

– its connection to the French Professional Agricultural Organisations, which makes it an “agri-agency”;

– its approach, which seeks to promote specialised producer organisations and to support them, for the long term and continuously, towards self-sufficiency.

Why does Fert stay so long in those countries where it is involved? Is that really necessary?

Aware of the time it took for agriculture to develop in France, Fert is convinced that agricultural development, and especially the training of men and woman and the building of professional organisations capable of carry out that development, require long periods of time.

It is not necessary to stay indefinitely but only until the partner organisations achieve self-sufficiency. After that, Fert considers several possibilities, depending on the situation: i) withdrawing, ii) continuing its support at a higher level of organisation or with other functions that better suit the problems identified by the local partners, or iii) supporting farmers in other regions.