farmers cooperative sign board


Farmers in the driver’s seat in eastern and central Africa

CDI and its partners aim to support small-scale farmers by developing the technical, organisational and institutional capacities needed to enable farmers’ organisations to provide improved market access to their members.

Smallholders join together

Meeting the increasing demand for food, feed and fuel depends on the productivity and market access of small farms, operated by households with limited hired labour. These small-scale farms remain the most common production units in agriculture. Smallholder agriculture in Eastern and Central Africa holds tremendous opportunities for sustainable local economic development. Farmers’ organisations that represent and empower farmers are an essential partner in technical, commercial and organisational innovation and transition processes in agriculture.

Farmers’ organisations as key actors

Farmers’ organisations can take collective action for creating economies of scale, reducing transaction risks and costs and thereby improving the access to input and output markets. They can support the generation and adoption of technological innovations that are very often linked to organisational and institutional innovation. They are also vehicles for small farmers to voice their views, to participate in policy making and trade negotiations and to develop countervailing power.

Empowerment of farmers’ organisations

Improving the performance of producer organisations has become a pervasive notion in many international policy documents. Farmers’ organisations require effectively linking with (market) knowledge, services and policy development in a feasible, self-financing manner. They need to be learning and innovative organisations in full contact with external stakeholders and in tune with the demands of members at all levels of the organisation.

Together with the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), LEI and five partner organisations in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), Wageningen UR works on a project for ASARECA (Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa) to enhance farmer and FO-led agribusiness development. The project focuses on improved facilitation of farmers’ organisations for market-led innovation, whether this is technological, organisational or institutional.

About tools, triangles and multiplier effects

The project works on different levels: grassroots farmers’ organisations, apex farmers’ organisations, networks of multiple stakeholders, with the aim to create multiplier effects. The partner farmers’ organisations obtain the tools and skills to assess their functioning, followed by organisational change to improve their management and governance and to improve the participation of their members in value chains. ‘Innovation triangles’ are set in place for multi-stakeholder learning processes about selected value-chains. This builds the capacity of farmers’ organisations to provide market access services to their members.

A better service delivery for an enhanced agricultural system

An organisational change process, based on the outcomes of the self-assessment, results in better service delivery to members of the farmers’ organisations. Furthermore service provision is better tailored to the demand. Supported by the process engaged through the innovation triangles and with the help of service providers, particularly the apex farmers’ organisations, grassroots organisations innovate and improve their performance. This leads to a gradual upgrading of these organisations within the selected value-chains.