We present here a selection of brief case studies of ways in which farmers have linked with markets, through their own efforts and with assistance from others. Not all can be considered success stories, because in some cases problems have been encountered, but all illustrate different approaches to improving farmers' market access.
This limited collection of case studies is divided into four broad categories of linkage: farmer to trader, through a leading farmer, to a private company, through a cooperative. These categories serve to identify the chain interactions through which farmers are linked to buyers. They do not, of course, represent the whole range of market opportunities available to farmers. Furthermore, they are not always mutually exclusive.
In about half the cases, there has been external intervention (Bangladesh (1) and (2), Cambodia, El Salvador, Indonesia (2), Philippines, Syria (2). The Philippines case provides information on ways that NGOs can make their interventions sustainable. Conversely, the risk of dependency on the external organization is illustrated by the El Salvador case. It is interesting to see that in almost none of these cases, have traders been proactive in initiating arrangements with farmers. An exception is the Bangladesh (2) case in which there have been remarkable synergies and collaboration between a proactive trader and the development project. In most of the cases without external intervention traders have taken an important role in developing markets together with farmers. The Vietnam and Thailand cases in particular show how proactive traders can assure high quality and reliable supply chains. Trust is an important element for almost all cases. There are rarely written contracts between farmers and traders. Often, there is an element of collective action involved in the farmers-to-traders linkages. While often, the cooperation between farmers in dealing with traders is induced by an external organisation, two cases (Indonesia (1) and Syria (1)) illustrate how such arrangements may develop endogenously.
The four case studies from Lao PDR, Thailand and Philippines (1) and (2) illustrate how farmers have coordinated supply from other farmers in their areas. The products that are sold are in all cases vegetables. The Philippines (1) case describes a value chain that involved close liaison with input suppliers, transporters and buyers, which was developed with donor assistance. The group of vegetable growers coordinated by their chairman in Thailand had access to low-interest credits and financial aid. The linkages in the other two cases (Philippines (2) and Lao PDR) were initiated by entrepreneurial farmers who actively searched for market outlets for their own and the other farmers’ production.
The cases from Brazil, Ecuador, Ghana, Indonesia (1), Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa (2), Thailand and Viet Nam show how private companies initiated linkages without outside assistance. In the other cases (Indonesia (2), Kyrgyzstan, Lao PDR (1), (2), and (3), South Africa (1) and Zambia) donor or NGO support had been essential. Private company developments have not been without problems. In the case of Guinness in Nigeria, the original contract farming scheme failed because farmers failed to honour contracts and diverted fertilizer supplied for sorghum to other crops. The difficulties of externally initiated linkages are furthermore illustrated by the case studies from Indonesia (2) and Lao PDR (3). The case of Kyrgyzstan, on the other hand, provides insights in how a development project can move away from subsidized support of farm-market linkages towards more commercial provision of service. Moreover, the example from Zambia illustrates how small farmers can take advantage of donor activities to develop a warehousing and inventory credit programme.
Among the case studies, five (Argentina, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Guinea) involve cooperatives who have developed agribusiness ventures with only limited external assistance. Other cooperative ventures (in Brazil, Guatemala, Fiji, El Salvador, Haiti, Kyrgyzstan, South Africa and two cases in Ghana) have benefited to a greater or lesser extent from external assistance, by governments, donors or NGOs. Despite this assistance, problems have been encountered. Loss of export markets and problems in obtaining payment from buyers highlight the risks associated with producing for export, as apparent in the Brazil and Ghana (2) case studies. Nevertheless, there have been many positive results in terms of offering new or higher-priced market opportunities.