FAO Investment Centre

Different training models show improved farmer productivity and profitability


Farmers today face profound changes – from climate change, labour shortages and global pandemics such as COVID-19, to an explosive rise in digital technologies, shifting diets and rigorous global and national food safety standards.  

Agricultural producers need the capacity to analyse, innovate and respond, to keep up with this rapidly changing environment and optimise their efforts in managing their agricultural enterprises. 

To understand what is needed globally to make more and better investments in agriculture human capital, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) conducted a global study comprised of a number of country cases in 2020.  

In West and Central Africa, the agriculture human capital investment study was carried out in Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire. 

Cameroon’s agropastoral and fisheries sector 

Cameroon, nicknamed “Africa in miniature” because of its cultural and agroecological diversity, is a Central African country with a population of 25 million. The population is predominantly young, with 42.5 percent under 15 years of age.  

The country has huge potential for agricultural production due to its agroecological diversity, which enables a range of agricultural models (agro-industries, family, urban and peri-urban agriculture). 

This study focused on the training and vocational integration of young people in agriculture as part of the agropastoral training programme in Cameroon (PCP-AFOP). The programme supports the preparation of young people for jobs in the agropastoral and fisheries sectors and has contributed to strengthening their entrepreneurial and social skills. 

Analysis showed that the training approach helped participants gain mastery of technical and professional competencies in strategic decision-making in the management of a production system. Personal motivation played a key factor in the success of the programme, as did a learning by doing pedagogical process accompanied by support and involvement of families in the training, allowing development of socio-cultural skills essential for their integration in communities. 

“The success of this model is based on fostering common values centred on the young person’s life, the training-integration coupling, the involvement of professionals and families in the training and on building national expertise in conception, design, implementation and evaluation of the system,” said the co-lead author Martial Franck Takamgang and Frédéric Lhoste.  

The cotton and cocoa industry in Cameron and Côte d’Ivoire 

As of 2018, Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa exports accounted for 40 percent of global exports. This cash crop is mostly grown in the southern forested areas of Côte d’Ivoire by small-scale farmers owning around two to five hectares of land. This translates to about one million producers in Côte d’Ivoire and the sector further supports five million people - which is 20 percent of the population.  

The cotton sector in Côte d’Ivoire also accounts for two percent of world exports. Grown in drier, more thinly populated and less developed northern regions, cotton is an important source of direct income for an estimated 180,000 farmers while supporting an additional 2.5 million people.  

In Cameroon, cocoa exports account for three percent of global exports. There are an estimated 600,000 cocoa farmers, mostly with farms of two to ten hectares.  

This case study explored three private sector-led initiatives in both countries that focused on capacity development of farmer organizations. The approach focused on agribusiness capacities for both the organization and its farmer members – capacities that can catalyse market linkages, private sector partnership investments and wider rural development.  

These farmer organizations’ business model was to aggregate cocoa or cotton from small producers and sell to major export companies. 

“Stakeholders repeatedly commented that, following training, the farmer organizations tend to recruit appropriately qualified staff (particularly accountants), establish organizational premises, improve record-keeping, hold regular meetings, show greater transparency (sharing information with members) and hold elections,” said the author for the study, Ann Gordon.  

 “All of these are aspects of internal and financial management. There were also reports of small farmer organizations merging with others so that they were more viable. Changes of this nature (some key informants referred to this as a transformation) give members more confidence in those organizations and promote stronger participation and inclusion,” she added. 

Importance of investing in agriculture human capital 

Speaking during the virtual launch of the West and Central Africa report, John Preissing, the Deputy Director of the FAO Investment Centre, said agriculture plays an important role in feeding Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire, as well as the other countries the region exports to, in addition to generating income for those working in the food value chain. 

“Investing in farmers – or agriculture human capital – is therefore crucial to addressing challenges in our agrifood systems. There is growing evidence that when you invest in farmers, their capacity and motivation to produce food profitably and sustainably increases.” 

The global study showed that investments in developing the human capital of smallholder producers resulted in new technical and business capacities and empowered farmers with various useful skills. This led to increased incomes, yields and the inclusion of marginalised groups. 

These findings provide governments, international financing institutions, the private sector and other partners with the evidence and analysis needed to make more and better investments in agriculture human capital.   

In addition to the two case studies from Cameroon and Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire readers can also view cases from Chile, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, the United States of America, and Rwanda along with the global report.  

Photo credit Photos by FAO/Swiatoslaw Waojtkowiak