Werner Schwarz, new president of AgriCord
Werner Schwarz, new president of AgriCord
Werner Schwarz, pig farmer in Schleswig-Holstein and vice-president of the Deutscher Bauernverband, the German farmers’ organization, has been nominated as the new president of AgriCord in November 2019.
In AgriCord farmers are in the leading position. AgriCord is the alliance of agri-agencies, an initiative of farmers’ organizations and cooperatives from Europe, Canada, Africa, Asia and Latin America. A farmer driven mandate to embody the farmer organizations support to their peers in low income countries, makes the alliance unique on the international level. Capacity development of farmers’ associations and cooperatives contributes to more democratic societies, to higher economic growth and to a more equal and more inclusive distribution of income and wealth in order to end poverty and hunger.
A game changer in Werner Schwarz’s own professional life as a farmer was the moment when he decided to look for a fellow farmer to create a cooperative. “We were growing slowly. We had a lot of interesting discussions and were in essence working already together by jointly addressing our problems. We have finally also put our businesses together and after several years, other farmers joined. It was in that way that we made a success of our farming business.” By organizing this collaboration, Mr. Schwarz became an expert in organizational development, eminently, and he’s currently chairing the Farmers’ Association of Schleswig-Holstein with nearly ten thousand members.
AgriCord came to his attention when he joined Andreas Hermes Akademie (AHA), the German agri-agency, as chair of the Advisory Board. AHA strengthens capacities of farmers’ organizations in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe to provide specific services that boost individual farmers’ entrepreneurship and leadership to translate their talents into their business.
Through AHA, Werner Schwarz has witnessed the power of the farmer-to-farmer approach of AHA. Recently, there was an exchange between young farmers from Germany and Uganda: “It’s exciting to be among farmers, we build trust and better understanding for both our challenges. We can learn a lot from each other!” In Zambia he has seen how farmers organized themselves in cooperatives to feed local, urban and regional markets.
The new president sees AgriCord as a strong alliance to support farmers all around the world: “To see how many different agri-agencies work on the same Farmers Fighting Poverty program in the same direction and towards a common farmers’ goal, is remarkable. That they rely on farmers’ expertise from all over the world to reach this goal makes this approach even stronger. These partnerships and collaborations are the answer to development challenges, which themselves have become global. Global collaboration is the best way to fight poverty and hunger. It’s a question of humanity to engage in this subject. And farmers play a crucial role in this matter. The scale of what AgriCord offers is hereby very important. AgriCord is open to more agri-agencies to support a wider range of farmers’ organisations and be better embedded in all parts of the world. The alliance will find ways to manage the integration of new members in an efficient way for all involved.
It is a great challenge to coordinate such work and a global network. An international network is by definition not easy, combining different cultures and local solutions. Working together with respect for every one is our most important guideline.” To ensure this, it is important to establish a governance structure where good decisions can be taken quickly. “The main strength is that we trust each other. Together we can do more than alone.” This way AgriCord can grow further as a recognized partner and counterpart for international institutions, governmental organizations, technical partners and the private sector.
The new president has lot of appreciation for the day-to-day work of the more than 500 staff members of the agri-agencies in their headquarters and in the field, as well as the AgriCord’s head office in Brussels. “They are all doing a great job.” In his new role as the president, he is planning to meet some of them in the field to support them so that they can do a good job also in the future: “When I started, I was alone on my farm and realized that was a major limiting factor, not only for myself in my business but also in my ability to address global challenges. At AgriCord, all together we form a great team. We can excel, feel and act together. As always in life there will be difficulties and challenges to be solved. I am happy to contribute to solutions and to overcome, together, whatever problems we might encounter.”
Schwarz asks all farmers’ organizations to think what one can do to support other farmers to become organized in associations and to be the voice of rural areas. “AgriCord is a good way for small farmers organizations to work with other farmers organizations in the world. No one should shy away from asking for support. That way we create a strong community, where we talk to each other and build a future for and with the next generation.”