Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets


New ESFIM Research Support Fund for market access

In 2016 AgriCord and Wageningen University have launched the ESFIM Research Support Fund. The fund provides strategic support with action-oriented research that empowers Farmers Organisations in developing countries. The objective of the ESFIM Research Support Fund is to strengthen the position of farmers, particularly smallholders, in resolving problems related with the improvement of their market position.

Based on calls for proposals, Farmers Organisations within the network of Agri-Agencies of AgriCord can submit draft research proposals for external research support to address problems that limit market access for smallholder farmers. The draft research proposals are  reviewed by the ESFIM Evaluation Committee. Farmers Organisations with an approved draft research proposal are requested to develop a more comprehensive and detailed final research proposal. In the stage of developing the final research proposal, Farmers Organisations receive support from Wageningen University in improving the research methodology and research questions. The completed final research proposal is submitted to the ESFIM Evaluation Committee and the AgriCord Project Committee for final approval.

The ESFIM Research Support Fund is part of the Farmer Fighting Poverty (FFP) programme which is financed by the Government of Netherlands. The general objective of this programme is to contribute to poverty reduction, strengthening the capacities and enhancing the operations of the organisations of smallholders’ farmers in developing countries.

For more information about the ESFIM Research Support Fund please email: researchsupportfund@esfim.org

Free download of the book: ESFIM experiences with farmer-led research for advocacy

  • Edited by Giel Ton and Felicity Proctor
  • Published in November 2013

flyer-book-promotion-def-no-border_Page_1In many countries, it is not the policy, as such, but the budgetary, technical and/or administrative implementation of the specific policy that falls short and needs to be adjusted to generate positive impact for smallholders. Policy instruments and institutional arrangements have to be designed and built in a technically feasible and effective way for the objective of poverty reduction and food security to be reached. And learning between countries on the pros and cons of these instruments is key in this innovation and policy design process. ESFIM’s overall objective is to generate demand-driven action research supportive to the policy activities undertaken by farmers’ organisations to strengthen the capacities of smallholder farmers in developing countries to generate remunerative cash income from markets by creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment as well as effective economic organisations and institutions.





Investigating the current and future drivers and barriers to youth participation in the coffee value chain in Uganda

The National Union of Coffee Agribusiness and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) was established in 1995 and has 175 members that altogether represent 170,000 households in Uganda. NUCAFE represents the interests of coffee farmers in Uganda and aims at farmer empowerment by focusing on social development and business development. The Government of Uganda regards coffee as a strategic commodity, and has the ambition to produce 20 million bags of coffee in 2020. Youth unemployment in Uganda is high with 64%. Involvement of youth in the coffee sector is regarded as important to achieve the ambitions of the Ugandan Government. ESFIM supports NUCAFE with identifying the key drivers and barriers to youth involvement in the coffee value chain. The research will result in an overview of policy actions that are needed to improve the enabling environment for job creation for the youth in the coffee value chain. Strategic actions are formulated for farmer organizations to contribute to job creation for the youth in the coffee value chain.

The research activities started in November 2016. NUCAFE expects that research will be finalized mid-2017.

Market and value chain analysis of the sugar cane sector in El Salvador

The Central Cooperativa Agropecuaria is a cooperative society with limited liability (Spanish acronym: CCA de RL), legally established on April 27th, 1994. It is a second-tier organization with eleven member cooperatives that are situated in six different municipalities along the coastal area of the La Paz department. Nine of them are agricultural cooperatives, and two are savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs). Eight agricultural cooperatives produce sugar cane and one produces grains; all of them consist of family farmers. Seven have collective management of a small herd of dairy cows. The aggregate affiliation to the cooperatives amounts to 1,120 households.

ESFIM supported CCA in its research about the way the sugar cane value chain works, focusing on the identification of competitive and sustainable strategies that in time will strengthen egalitarian production and marketing. This will be done from the perspective of the development of a joint marketing strategy, enabling the CCA to set up processes of integration for the formulation and achievement of common goals.

Since sugar cane production is being internationally questioned because of its environmental consequences, the study will include an environmental impact assessment of conventional production systems and compare jt with an assessment of an alternative system of production that is certified by (one of) the main certification labels that exist in the country. The conditions will be evaluated under which three production models can reduce their environmental impact: conventional production, certified non-organic production and organic production.

In view of the present conditions of the agricultural sector in El Salvador, the following conclusions were drawn:

  • Sugar production is an activity that has functioned for a long time in El Salvador and, it would seem, will continue to do so.
  • Sugar production is an economically profitable activity that makes an important contribution to the resilience of the cooperatives.
  • The sugar sector has to look for a sustainable production path in order to stay competitive.
  • The demands of the international market show that there is a tendency towards buying inputs produced under internationally accepted norms.
  • A production-oriented mentality prevails with technical advisors and producers, focusing on cost reduction rather than on awareness of damage to the environmental balance.
  • The agricultural workforce prefers, for reasons of ease in harvesting, to keep using traditional harvest methods.
  • Certification should be realised within a context of entrepreneurial production with social responsibility.
  • The government has to strengthen the producers and raise their consciousness, and should help to design strategies that make it possible to make progress in the “green harvest” programme that recently has been initiated, but still lacks wide acceptance.

Market and value chain analysis of carp supply chain in Nepal

Sundardeep Women Fish Farmer Cooperative in the Chitwan district in Nepal, is engaged in carp farming integrated with vegetable production. Sundardeep was founded in 2012 and unites 25 female fish farmers. Sundardeep closely cooperates with other women fish farmer cooperatives in the region: Kapia Women Cooperative and Sri Churiya Cooperative. 297 women fish farmers and their families benefit from the activities from Sundardeep.

Fish production in Nepal is dominated by semi-intensive small-scale farming of carp. Sundardeep provides inputs to their members and organises trainings to women fish farmers and nursery owners on leadership management, integrated fish farming and nursery management. An important challenge for fish farmers in Nepal is the unstable and unpredictable supply chain of inputs. Farmers are unable to source fry and fingerlings timely, and at affordable costs either from government or from private hatcheries. As a result, proper planning of fish farming activities becomes very difficult. Weak transportation networks are a logistical constraint over the whole chain: for both delivery of fingerlings from nursery to farms, as well as for delivery of fish from farms to consumer markets. Most woman fish farmers lack economies of scale, financial resources and knowledge that can be utilised in marketing and product promotion. As a consequence they are limited to production aspects. Locally produced fish often has to compete with imported Indian fish available at lower prices.

With the support of ESFIM, the Agriculture and Forestry University (AFU) in Nepal and Sundardeep partnered in 2016 to conduct a fish market and value chain analysis for carp. The ESFIM project builds further upon strengthening capacity development projects from the Finnish agri-agency for Food and Forest Development (FFD). These projects have supported the initiation of small-scale commercial ponds and integrated production of carp with vegetable farming. Economic research on improvement of the sourcing of fingerlings and insights in consumer demand however are needed to improve the market position of women fish farmers of Sundardeep. This research is supported by ESFIM. With the insights and information gathered, Sundardeep and the other women cooperatives and groups can better plan their fish production. Further, market and price information can be used to develop the marketing and sales efforts of all the beneficiaries. The results will be shared with different relevant stakeholders and provide necessary input to promote evidence-based policy making. Dissemination of results among other women fish farmers cooperatives and other stakeholders in Nepal will also be organised through the Fishery Association of Nepal (FAN).

Sundardeep started the implementation of the project by the end of 2016. The project will be finalized before the end of 2017.


Regional Fund for the Financing of Family Farms and Farmers’ Organisations in West Africa

ROPPA (Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et des Producteurs Agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest) is a regional initiative from farmers’ organisations and agricultural producers in 13 West African countries. Approximately 1 million farmers benefit from the activities of ROPPA. Founded in 2000, ROPPA represents the interests of its members, support their members with training and information, and is involved in the implementation of agricultural and rural development programs.

A previous study has shown that existing national and regional agricultural funding institutions, although they have funded quite a lot of projects and programs, have achieved only limited impact at the level of the small family farming enterprise. There is an urgent need to develop new funding instruments that also reach out to small family farmers, women and youth in order to promote agricultural development in West Africa. Appropriate funding for new technologies, value chain development, production factors, etc will contribute to the modernisation of current family farms and help them to respond more effectively to market demands. Several national and regional agricultural funds have been put in place (PAU, ECOWAP/PDDAA), but without taking into account the farmers’ voice in the creation and the governance of the funds.

Through a thorough ESFIM-study ROPPA aims to collect sufficient relevant data on how the existing national and regional funds, the way they are actually conceived, will indeed be able to foster the modernization of the family farms and respond to their ambition to be better integrated in the markets in order to ‘feed the African towns’. The recommendations of the study will be used by ROPPA to dialogue and lobby with the policy makers and the people in charge of the funding institutions so as to incite for innovative strategies and mechanisms that help to realize this ambition.

The implementation of the project started at the end of 2016. The project will be finalized mid-2017.

Value chain analysis for acacia products and feasibility assessment of PEFC and FSC group certification in Vietnam

The Thua Thien Hue Cooperative Alliance (TTHCA) provides marketing and production services and manages the development of 256 cooperatives. 128 of the cooperatives own mainly acacia forests and produce woodchip, which is mainly sold on the domestic market after which it is exported to China, Taiwan or other Asian countries. TTHCA and its members risk a reduction in income because of the increasing sustainability requirements of the international market for forest products. However, the cost of accessing forest management certification is a big financial barrier for small forest owners (on average owning 1-3 ha of plantation forest). Group plantation forest management certification could be a potential solution for forest owners to improve their market position. To be able to assess the benefits of group certification, TTHCA and its members first want to gain insights in the current value chain of acacia products. read more »

New ESFIM Research Support Fund for market access


AgriCord and Wageningen University have launched the ESFIM Research Support Fund. The fund will provide strategic support with action-oriented research that empowers Farmers Organisations in developing countries. The objective of the ESFIM Research Support Fund is to strengthen the position of farmers, particularly smallholders, in resolving problems related with the improvement of their market position. read more »