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Economic & Sector Work :: Other Agricultural Study

Making the Grade : Smallholder Farmers, Emerging Standards, and Development Assistance Programs in Africa - A Research Program Synthesis


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World Bank
2012-03-19T10:14:26Z | 2012-03-19T10:14:26Z | 2011-06-01

Market access has been identified as one of the foremost factors influencing the performance of small-scale producers in developing countries, and in particular least-developed countries. Smallholder access to markets for higher-value or differentiated agricultural and food products (hereafter HVAF) is recognized as a vital opportunity to enhance and diversify the livelihoods of lower-income farm households and reduce rural poverty more generally (World Bank 2007a). Smallholder participation in HVAF markets is typically constrained by inadequate farm-level resources, farm-to-market logistical bottlenecks, and more general transaction costs in matching and aggregating dispersed supplies to meet buyer and consumer demand. These traditional constraints have been amplified and, in some cases, surpassed by a new set of challenges associated with compliance with product and process standards, set and enforced by governments as well as private supply-chain leaders. In the face of emerging challenges and opportunities associated with standards and serving HVAF markets, many development agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and private companies have implemented measures to level the playing field, strengthen specific technical or institutional capacities, or otherwise act to facilitate smallholder compliance with standards and continued or increased participation in HVAF supply chains. Such investment, cost-sharing, capacity-building, or capacity-bridging activities have expanded considerably in recent years, especially in SSA. These initiatives have taken varied forms and involved various entry points. Many initiatives have been bottom-up, focusing on smallholder (group) capacities for production, collective action, standards compliance, and so forth; others have been top-down, seeking to better link farmers to remunerative markets through the efforts and enhanced capacities of lead firms; and others have opted for intermediary models, with donors and NGOs assuming critical supply-chain functions. Still other interventions have focused outside of specific value chains, seeking to strengthen the overall enabling environment and support services for HVAF more generally. Relatively little of this expanding field of development assistance has been formally evaluated to consider its cost-effectiveness and impacts. Nevertheless, there are evident signs of learning and adjustment within the development community regarding the strengths, limitations, and pitfalls of various approaches and, relatively recently, some efforts to begin to share these lessons and to better coordinate development assistance in this field.


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