Approaches to linking producers to markets
This Occasional Paper examines experiences of linking farmers to markets, in order to
reach some tentative conclusions regarding success factors. It considers examples of
linkages promoted both by linking organizations and by the private sector without external
support and then reviews in detail the linkage activities of the former. Emphasis is placed
on markets chosen for linkages, on the capacity of the linking organizations, and on the
relationship between the private sector, linking organizations and farmers. Mutual trust
between all actors in a chain is essential and the paper discusses how such trust can be
developed. Linking farmers to new markets invariably involves farmers organizing into
formal or informal groups. Experiences with group organization are reviewed, as is the
question of finance. Problems faced by farmers in maintaining linkages are examined and
sustainability and scaling-up of linkage activities considered.
Broader issues also emerge. Working with farmers will have little impact if the
enabling environment that governments provide is inappropriate for development of
market linkages. A question that may merit research is whether linking organizations are
actually increasing the size of the market or whether they are just replacing one group of
farmer suppliers with a new set of “target beneficiaries”. Finally, it needs to be asked
whether the limited donor, NGO and government resources would be better channelled
towards activities likely to benefit a larger number of farmers.
The paper is aimed at staff of NGOs, both those working at the policy level and in the
field; at donor organizations and the projects they support; and at ministry of agriculture
policymakers and extension services. It is hoped that it will also prove useful for private
sector companies seeking to develop linkages with small farmers.
Keywords linkages, contract farming, trust, external support, group organizations, enabling environment, laws, policies, private sector