An overview of case studies and best practices

Ethiopia: The highlands turn green

In the past, the highlands of northern Ethiopia, including the Tigray region, were among the most drought-prone areas of the country. The rainy season here lasts two to three months at most. The village of Abraha Atsbeha, with its population of around 5,000, was chronically dependent on food aid from the World Food Programme – a not uncommon situation in Tigray. Today, where hunger once held sway, sustainable land management is transforming the region into a patchwork of green oases. Since the village has taken up the fight against drought and erosion, many things have changed. The groundwater table has risen from 15 meters’ to 3 meters’ depth in the dry season. Today, a green ribbon of irrigated plantations winds through the valley, visible even on satellite pictures. The villagers now cultivate vegetables, fruit and maize even in the dry season – often in such quantities that they can sell the surplus on the local markets. Read more

Thailand: Sustainable palm oil production

It is a global challenge to feed a growing population in the face of climate change, limited land area, and food insecurity. Given that palm oil is the most competitive vegetable oil crop in terms of price and productivity -yields per hectare are almost ten times higher than those of soy-, the world demand of palm oil for food, fuel and chemical industry is steadily increasing. While palm oil is usually associated with big plantations it is estimated that one third of global palm oil is produced by approximately three million smallholders. Their farms, in general, yield only less than half of those larger and professionally managed plantations and entail fluctuations in quality and quantity of fresh fruit bunches. Thailand shares only about three percent of global palm oil production and about 80 percent of palm oil fresh fruit bunches (FFB) are produced by smallholders. A good managed oil palm farm can provide about one FFB (weight approximately 15-35 kilogram) per tree per month throughout the year, which is a unique crop specific characteristic that distributes farm income to all seasons and increases income security compared to other annual or seasonal crops. However, Thai palm oil millers struggle with utilizing their full capacity especially in low yielding seasons. Low quality of FFB from unripe fruit harvesting and postharvest mishandling by middle men further reduce efficiency of palm oil production resulting in a loss from the market failure of about 0.6 billion U.S. dollar per year. Read more

West Africa: Sustainable cocoa business

Cocoa is one of the most significant crops in West Africa, occupying between five and six million hectares in the coastal humid zone. The region accounts for nearly 70 percent of the world’s cocoa supply. Cocoa is mainly grown by small-scale farmers on fields of two hectares or less. The ‘brown gold’ is one of the leading foreign exchange earning crops and a source of income for two million smallholder families. 92 percent of their agricultural income in 2010 was derived from cocoa, ranging from 1,300 to 3,400 U.S. dollar (Baseline WCF-Mathematica, 2011). However, cocoa farms are ageing and average cocoa yields are declining. Farmers lack resources, technical knowledge and particularly business skills to modernize and take full advantage of the opportunities of growing cocoa. Read more

The competitive African cotton initiative

Cotton production is an important factor in driving economic development in Africa. The cotton grown on the continent amounts to five percent of global production, while with a 10 to 15 percent share of the world market, sub-Saharan Africa is the fourth largest exporter of cotton. It is one of the most important agricultural export commodities on the African continent besides coffee and cocoa: Sahel states generate 1.5 billion U.S. dollar each year by exporting cotton. This accounts for up to 35 – 75 percent of the agricultural export earnings in the region, where cotton is cultivated in crop rotation with staple food crops (such as grain, corn, and sorghum) under mostly rain-fed conditions. Today, twenty million people are directly or indirectly associated with cotton production. In western and southern Africa, cotton is typically cultivated by smallholder farmers (approximately three million in number); however, little knowledge about adapted methods of sustainable cotton production, a lack of access to services, poor integration into international markets, and unfavorable policy frameworks hinder progress. It is necessary to address these problems in order to increase the contribution of smallholder cotton production to economic development and poverty reduction. Read more

The African cashew initiative

Nearly 40 percent of global raw cashew nuts (RCN) are produced by about 1.5 million small farmers in Africa, from which the vast   majority (90 percent) belong to poor households and struggle to earn as little as 90 to 330 euros per year. Cashew has high       nutritional value and it owns the potential to increase resilience of smallholder farming systems due to climatic tolerance and low opportunity costs. On the producers’ side low incomes result from a number of factors, including low yields, poor quality nuts, and a lack of business skills. Also, in Africa, cashew farmers are rarely organized, which weakens their bargaining position selling their products. In addition, they are not sufficiently integrated into international markets due to the low quality of their produce. On the processors’ side limited access to advisory and technological resources hinders valuable development and progress. Besides, market information systems and financial services are mostly absent. Hence, in order to contribute to a sustainable reduction in poverty a   comprehensive approach towards a competitive African cashew sector is needed that promotes the modernization of production and processing. Read more

South Africa: Agro-processing clusters

Despite considerable economic growth in recent times, the high levels of unemployment and inequality are considered by the Government and most South Africans the cause of the economic problems facing the country today. Between 1948 and 1990, the rural farming population lost large areas of land and the small-scale farming that helped rural households to survive was undermined, causing high levels of poverty. In 2007, the South African Government decided to redistribute five million hectares of agricultural land to 10,000 previously disadvantaged farmers. This would present the small-scale rural farmers a chance to improve their livelihoods as well as contribute to the country’s economic growth, if supported by the right business development approach. UNIDO provided a Training of Trainers approach and institutional capacity-building services to enhance the overall competitiveness and sustainability of those small-scale farmers. Read more

Nicaragua: The Bosawas biosphere reserve 

The Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) of Nicaragua represents 14% of Nicaragua´s national mainland and is an important ecosystem in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. The eight municipalities located in this area face conditions of extreme poverty. One of the main sources of income comes from cocoa plantations and their commercialization. Funded by the Spanish MDG Achievement Fund, UNIDO and six other United Nations agencies initiated a joint programme, which targeted disaster risk management, access to drinking water, rural energy supply and the improvement of livelihood and income generation options for people living in the Bosawas area. Through this joint programme, UNIDO promoted productive activities in integrated agro-forestry systems—a combination of cocoa, the main cash crop, and native forest trees with food plantations. Read more

Egypt: Trace me back              

Ever since the Pharaohs, Egypt has pioneered and perfected farming methods in the fertile Nile Valley. For more than five thousand years, the country was an important producer and exporter of various crops to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Today, the agro-industrial sector accounts for 20% of the country’s total exports, most of which are exported to the European Union (EU). Interestingly, and due to different harvest periods, Egyptian farmers are able to offer a wide range of produce without competing with farmers in European countries. However, because of their lack of traceability compliance and quality control systems, Egyptian exporters have been faced with trade barriers, which resulted from EU regulation on food safety and circulation. UNIDO established the Egyptian Traceability Centre for Agro-Industrial exports (ETRACE), which was funded under an Italian-Egyptian Debt-for-Development Swap programme. Through financial and technical assistance, ETRACE aims at making Egyptian agro-industrial export safer,more competitive and compliant with stringent market standards and regulations. Read more

Côte d’Ivoire: Safer cocoa and coffee beans for export markets

Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa, as well as the seventh largest exporter of coffee beans. While the production of both cocoa and coffee beans sought to recover from recent civil unrest, the overall situation further deteriorated because of a fungus, which contains Ochratoxine A (OTA) – a toxin that leads to liver and kidney damage while weakening the immune system. To preserve access to foreign markets, and especially those of the European Union, the Ministry of Agriculture of Côte d’Ivoire requested UNIDO’s assistance. With funds from the European Union, UNIDO assisted the Ministry in adapting an internationally acceptable analysis of coffee and cacao beans. The project had three focus areas: monitoring the status of the toxin and the impact of its removal; identifying the critical points where the bean picks up the fungus; and controlling the relevance of the sampling methods used to establish the level of toxin. Read more

 Morocco: Women entrepreneurs

Some of the most promising sectors of the Moroccan economy, and those in which women are numerous, can be found in the northern region, which is also one of the most disadvantaged regions of the country. Inefficient harvesting and production mechanisms, as well as the lack of managerial skills, have led to a loss of productivity and income opportunities for women entre- preneurs. Cultural constraints are an additional obstacle. All of this has an adverse effect, not only on women’s income oppor-tunities, but also on the country’s economic growth.As a response to this, UNIDO, in collaboration with the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), devised an entrepreneurship programme to improve the income opportunities of the rural population whilst enhancing the competitiveness of small-scale olive oil producing, textile and fruits and vegetable drying groups managed by women. Read more

Tanzania: Community-level cashew processing

UNIDO together with local partners in Tanzania has promoted the setting up of pilot community-level units for the preprocessing of cashewnuts. The pilots shall demonstrate how pre-processing can be made a viable business which helps farmers and rural people to gain higher shares in the value that is generated in the cashew value chain. Following the idea of integrated value chain development the project foresees to support community-level groups to engage in the first phase of the process, the pre-processing of kernels, and then support the end-processors located in the same geographic region to
finalize the processing and sell the kernels on the international market. The project, still in its initial phase developed viable business and management plans for 8 community level units,
benefiting 800 workers directly and several thousand farmers indirectly. However, if the
model is further up-scaled to the country level it would be of benefit to 700.000 farm
households, most of them currently living below the poverty line. Read more

Lao PDR: Rice millers drive productivity and capacity in smallholder rice farming

The Enhancing Milled Rice Production in Lao PDR (EMRIP) Project has been able to develop fair trading relations between 21,361 small holder rice producers and 21 selected rice mills within 23 months of the project’s duration. The project proved a unique success due to the stimulation of co-operation between millers and farmers; millers supported farmers with inputs, extension services and better prices. In return for investing their time and money in small farmers, millers received project support, funded by SNV, Helvetas and an EU grant, to improve milling facilities and equipment. At the base of the success of the project lies a rigorous selection process which chose the most promising millers for the project. Farmer crop yields increased by 30%; income from rice increased by around 60% and millers saw improved profitability in addition to a 10 percent increase in throughputs and supply of high quality, single variety rice. Elements of the programme are now spreading (including spontaneously), especially through “miller groups”. Read more

From saplings to satisfaction in Nepal: Increasing market access for small apple farmers by brokering the relation with national agribusinesses

The case study presents a relatively small but meaningful pilot project that is presently scaling up from 400 to 3,000 farmers (with an ultimate goal of 10,000 participants) in Nepal’s most important apple growing district. The project focuses on increasing market access for small farmers from a remote district through brokering improved commercial relationships with agribusinesses operating in the national market. A concrete account is given of a value chain development intervention that addresses demand, transactions, supply and policy issues. Farmers’ incomes improved as apple prices increased with 200 to 300%. Business have benefited significantly due to more reliable supply, improved quality grading and certification, and import substitution. Read more

 Ethiopian honey: Accessing international markets with inclusive business and sector development

Ethiopia exported its first consignment of honey to the European Union (EU) in 2008 after a three year period of preparations towards attaining Third Country Listing status. This was the result of a deliberate set of interventions to help increase processing capacity in combination with an out-grower scheme to supply honey. This case study explains how increasing exports was achieved with inclusion and expansion of smallholder beekeeping practices, and the development of the business sector as a whole. The 8,193 small holder farmers, who were directly trained as part of the out-growers programme of 8 leading exporters, saw an increase in production of 23%, and a revenue increase of 27%(US$) / 83%(ETB) during the last three years alone. An additional 72,000 beekeepers experienced indirect and smaller effects of the training on their income. The additional incomes enabled farmers to improve the living conditions of their families and send their children to school. Based on its 122% growth in exports value and 107% growth in its share of the world exports, Ethiopian honey export was categorized by the International Trade Centre as a ‘star’ in structural performance. Read more 

Zimbabwe: Learning from smallholder farmer contributions to seed multiplication and food security

In Zimbabwe, contract farming for seed production has traditionally been the domain of commercial farmers due to the high levels of care necessary in production and perceived high risks associated with contracting small holder farmers. With limited supply and market options, medium-sized seed company Agriseeds sought to use smallholder farmers as a production base and approached SNV to facilitate the development of a workable smallholder out-grower model. The co-operation of Agriseeds with smallholder farmers was very successful for both parties: the farmers increased their incomes significantly from US$250 per annum to an average of US$800 per annum, leading to improved quality of life; whereas the company had by 2011 ended up with three years’ worth of stock that could be exported. The programme has attracted the interest of other companies, who want to enter into contract schemes with small holder farmers, as they have realised that it is possible for rural farmers to be reliable business partners. Read more

Peru’s Chira Valley small banana producers compete in international organic markets

Dole in Peru, a company that traditionally sources from large producers and company-owned plantations, implemented an Inclusive Business model that links small-scale banana producers to the company’s value chain through a mutually beneficial relationship. Productivity and quality of production of 2500 small farmers was increased with 75% over a period of 3 years. This went together with the organic certification of their product, and forward integration of farmers in the chain: they are now obtaining added value to their product through packaging the bananas themselves. Certification, together with the transfer of processing capacities to farmers’ associations generates increased sustainable incomes for the producers and improves employment conditions in an economically depressed zone that has considerable potential for agricultural business. The company gained through increased efficiency and larger export and trading of organic banana, a product with a growing demand in international markets. Read more

Peru: Boosting specialty coffee supply by including small farmers

Leading Peruvian coffee exporter Perhusa discovered the value of working with small-scale producers in order to increase its market share in certified specialty coffees. The farmer’s technical and organisational capabilities were increased by an extension program developed by Perhusa and SNV, and are now integrated in the specialty coffee value chain. After successful engagement with 4,000 farmers, with technical and financial assistance from SNV and IDB, the company expanded the programme to include an additional 5,000 farmers at its own cost. Farmer’s income from coffee production has grown by over 30%, on the basis of increased production and improved prices for the certified specialty coffee. Fifty people in the coffee company were trained in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for the production and management of specialty coffees and rural extension methodologies. Perhusa can now continue to expand the impact of the program. Read more

 A women-owned shea butter company in Burkina Faso: from a social model to a competitive market model

The Nununa Federation brings together 4,000 women shea producers in Burkina Faso. Shea is traditionally collected and processed by women. In 2009, the Federation changed its business model completely with the support of SNV to become, today, a profitable semi-industrial processing unit with diversified export outlets, whose shareholders are the women producers. The production of shea butter was increased by industrializing the processing of the butter, which enabled the
Federation to become more competitive, to increase profitability and redistribute more profits to its thousands of women members. At the same time women earned more from selling the kernels and could diversify their income by for example producing and selling sesame. The 4,000 members have profited from a 95% increase in income from shea production, while the position and workload of women shea nut collectors has also improved. Additionally, together with their families, they are benefiting from social activities stimulated and financed by the Federation, such as health insurance and education. In total, these changes in shea production have changed the lives of more than 24,000 people. Read more 


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