Dear FSN Forum Members,
My name is Chris Ramezanpour and I formerly worked with the FFS Program in Kilifi, Kenya, providing business and marketing training for the farmers, drafting proposals to support farmer initiatives and FFS development, and facilitating partnerships with regional businesses to help farmers access more profitable supply contracts for watermelon, Africa Birds-Eye Chili, and cashews. As a result of our initial promotion of Africa Birds Eye Chili in Kilifi, and the successful marketing of the crop by the FFS Network (with the assistance of FAO and Coast Development Authority), this contract farming initiative has spread across other districts in the coast (Kwale, Malindi, Tana Delta and Lamu).
I am currently an agribusiness consultant in the United States, but I have not lost my connection with the farmers in Kenya. Presently I am acting as a business advisor to an FFS network in Lamu, Kenya to help them identify export market opportunities for their cashews.
It is within this context of value-added agribusiness initiatives for small-scale farmers that I thought the FSN Forum discussions would be an excellent resource. Economic benefits for farmers are thought to improve as farmers are able to market their product further down the supply chain. For example, networks of small-scale farmers who can sell direct to retailers, exporters and processors are going to receive more money than they would if they had to go through a middle man.
There are numerous challenges to helping small-scale farmers in developing countries to participate in agribusiness initiatives in these supply chains. They need to produce and perhaps process for clients with greater demands and expectations - for quality, quantity and consistency -than they are used to, or even capable of meeting. How can these initiatives be successful when farmers may not have the production skills, knowledge of markets, or capital, but do have the land, natural resources and motivation?
What experiences (success and failures) do members of the FSN Forum have in supporting small-scale farmers to access these markets? Examples can include projects in contract farming, agro-processing or other agribusiness initiatives for FFS farmers to access higher-value external markets.
To be clear, the purpose is to learn from these experiences. In order to do so, it may also be helpful to think about: how the market was identified; how the farmers were funded; what kind of trainings were provided for the farmers; what other stakeholders were involved (and how so); and how was the process managed.
I am interested in collecting your perspectives as a preliminary to building case studies on the subject. Documentation of the work that has been done can be a useful way to institutionalize the learning about agribusiness development for small-scale farmers and help practitioners more successfully assist farmers in the future.
I would like to thank the members of the FSN Forum in advance for sharing their thoughts and experiences.
FFS Kenya (2003-2005)