The West African Smallholder Farmers Organization (WASFO) is the largest smallholder farmers organization in West Africa It is founded on the principles of collective action and is democratically governed by its members.
All WASFO's operations are guided by its vision to be:
“the leading smallholder-owned business and development organisation in West Africa, producing economic and social benefits for members, their communities and the country”.
with the mission of WASFO being:
“to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Through a sustainable network of smallholder-owned business organisations, WASFO promotes farming as a business in order to develop the commercial capacity of its members, and delivers programmes which enhance member productivity”
Funded by ECOWAS member states, Agricultural Development Bank and European Union (EU), the WASFO concept was set up in 1995 to support and organise smallholder tobacco production. Since that time, the WASFO focus has diversified to production of other cash and food crops. WASFO, as it is now, was legally registered under the Trustees Incorporation Act in February 1998.
How WASFO is organised
WASFO is a farmer-member controlled system. This control starts at Association level. The WASFO system is organised into a unique extension network to support its membership of around 100,000 smallholder farmers. The smallest operational unit of WASFO is the Club, made up of 10-15 individual farmers. Clubs combine to form Action Groups that are the key points in the extension network for dissemination of information to members, and for the bulking of member crops. Action Groups combine to form WASFO's Associations. Currently, WASFO has 43 associations.
WASFO Associations are legally registered entities, member-owned and managed by annually elected farmer Boards. The Associations are grouped by geographical location in 15 countries within the region under 14 Association Management Centres (AMCs). These provide management and operational support to the Associations in terms of production, marketing and community development. The AMCs are in turn supported and managed by the WASFO Head Office structure.
WASFO functions are split into Commercial and Development activities. These provide members with both the commercial and development services they need. Commercial services include improved access to output and input (e.g. seed and fertiliser) markets and expanding range of value-addition opportunities.
Development services include comprehensive training support in best agricultural practices using conservation principles adapted to climate challenges; programmes on HIV and AIDS, gender equality, food and nutrition security and association governance. Services are propagated through direct member contact supported by radio and ICT approaches and supported by active engagement in the policy arena.
WASFO's Commercial and Development operations are respectively divided between an independently registered for-profit company and a legally registered NGO. Both are governed by a Farmer Board, which is democratically elected each year by the membership.