Small-scale farmers remain crucial to Vietnamese pork industry

SaPa-FZ181030919

Pigs feeding at a farm in Vietnam: Small-scale farmers remain crucial to the growth of Vietnam’s pork industry (photo from Flickr by Stephen McGrath, Rock Portrait Photography).

A project that evaluated pig production and marketing in Vietnam shows that supply shortages could be responsible for the current high prices of pork in the country. Supporting small-scale farmers to produce more pigs and improving pork distribution and marketing chains could hold the key to keeping rising prices of pork in the country in check.

Between December 2010 and June 2011, Vietnam experienced a 22 per cent rise in the food price index (a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities). A spike in the prices of pork, a key part of the Vietnamese diet, was largely responsible for this rise in food costs. Government and pork industry players in the country have blamed the rise in pork prices on both unregulated pork exports to China through cross-border trade and a rise in global food prices generally.

Even though industry stakeholders, including the government, say importing more meat and supporting large commercial producers will stabilize the pork market in Vietnam, research suggests that developing large farms to address supply constraints will not solve the price problem over the long-term. According to the project, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh and six of Vietnam’s provinces, large farms will provide ‘only a small share over the next decade, offering only up to 12 per cent of [the country’s] total pork supply.’ The project, titled ‘Improving competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market’, was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Many pressing challenges face the Vietnamese pork industry, including increasing feed prices and demand for pork, poor management of the pork value chain, concerns about pig diseases, difficulty finding piglets and other inputs and poor veterinary and credit services.

‘Demand for pork in Vietnam is growing faster than its domestic supply,’ said Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI in Vietnam. ‘What our research found was that the recent steep rise in the pork price is most likely a result of inefficiencies along the value chain rather than a critical shortage in pork supply. Normally, high pork prices might encourage pig farmers to expand their production, but in this case, despite the high prices, farmers seem hesitant to raise their pork production,’ said Lapar.

Small-scale farmers in particular worry about pig diseases and the difficulty they face in getting hold of piglets and support services. ‘We need to find ways to address these constraints and bring about substantial improvement to the pig production system,’ said Lapar. ‘Even though efforts by those involved in the pig industry are focusing on increasing large-scale farming of pigs, they must not neglect smallholders who will almost certainly continue to play a significant role in meeting the growing demands for pork in Vietnam in the near future.’

Vietnam’s smallholder pig producers will remain viable because they are able to produce pork at lower costs than large-scale farms by using household scraps and other feeds that would otherwise be unused and thus do not need to rely on feed imports. These practices make small-scale pork production efficient in the long term, translating to better pries for consumers.

‘A combination of small household producers and large pig producers is most efficient for Vietnam at this stage of its pork industry’s development,’ says Lapar. The implications from this project’s findings suggest that the Vietnamese Government and pork industry players should put in place systems and practices that make the pork value chain more efficient and support markets for both small and large producers in the country.

To read more about the project and its findings, visit: http://www.ilri.org/PigProducers and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/606/browse

Market-oriented smallholder development in Ethiopia

Today, the ‘Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers Project’ holds an experience-sharing workshop on market-oriented smallholder development.

This project – www.ipms-ethiopia.org – is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a contribution to the Ethiopian Government’s ‘Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty’.

At its establishment in 2005, The project was designed to follow a participatory market-oriented commodity value chain development approach. This is based on the premise that technology uptake is significantly influenced by the profitability of production, and that production is driven by market demands for specific commodities. The approach is participatory in that it involves farmers and other value chain actors as well as associated service providers in diagnosis, planning and implementation of the interventions through formal and informal linkages.

The workshop is designed to facilitate experience-sharing – the 150+ participants are drawn from national, regional and district governments, the private sector, civil society, research institutions and universities, and development agencies. It focuses on specific commodity value chain interventions – livestock and crops – as well as essential enabling methods, approaches, and processes the project has applied. Exhibition-type displays showcase interventions on specific commodity value chains. Cross-cutting issues such as knowledge management, capacity development, and gender, are also explored.

After five years intense applied work, the workshop also provides an opportunity for project lessonsa nd outputs to be shared with the Government’s new Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) that re-emphasizes the role of smallholders in the commercialization of Ethiopian agriculture.

Watch a video with project manager Dirk Hoekstra

Follow the event and its outputs online:

Wiki about the event
Photos from the event
Presentations and posters
Video interviews

Research proposal for ‘More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’ submitted for funding

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish: Opening slide in a series of 16 slides presented by ILRI director general Carlos Seré to the CGIAR Fund Council 6 April 2011 (credit: ILRI).

Carlos Pérez del Castillo, on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Consortium Board, which he chairs, wrote the following earlier this year in a cover letter to submission of a research proposal for consideration and approval by the CGIAR Fund Council.

‘The Consortium Board (CB) of the CGIAR has the pleasure to submit to the Fund Council (FC), for its consideration and approval, the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) 3.7, entitled “More Meat, Milk and Fish by and for the Poor.”

‘This proposal, submitted by ILRI (lead center), CIAT, ICARDA and WorldFish, focuses on improving productivity and profitability of meat, milk and fish for poor producers. This CRP constitutes a key link in the overall chain of impacts of the Strategy and Results Framework of the CGIAR. The CB considers that this research area, which has received relatively low attention from donors up to now, is of strategic importance for the livelihoods of the poor in developing countries. The challenge in this CRP is to set up market chains that fully address the special needs and circumstances of the poor smallholders and fishermen.

‘An additional challenge, fully in line with the spirit of the reform, is to create new research synergies by working on productivity improvement for livestock and fish in a more integrated manner than before the reform. The Board particularly appreciates the genuine integration of activities across the participating CGIAR centers that are proposed, and the overall quality of this proposal. We think that the proponents of this CRP have laid the ground for very innovative breakthroughs in research for development. . . .

‘The CB considers that the impact pathways described in the various log frames presented in the proposal are convincing. The identification of the eight target value chains is likewise a good mechanism for clearly focusing the work on addressing development challenges. The CB concurs with the referee who states that this is a very innovative dimension of the proposal, and a very effective one as well. ‘Concerning quality of science, the Board concurs with the referees that it is sound. The Board appreciates the explanation of the value addition of ILRI and WorldFish working alongside on genetic issues, as well as the description of the value chain development work. For the CGIAR, these are novel, and much needed, approaches.’

Read the full proposal: ILRI: CGIAR Research Program 3.7: More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor—Proposal  submitted to the CGIAR Consortium Board by ILRI on behalf of CIAT, ICARDA and the WorldFish Center, 5 March 2011.

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish

CGIAR Research Program 3.7 on livestock and fish: First in a series of 16 slides presented by ILRI director general Carlos Seré to the CGIAR Fund Council 6 April 2011 (credit: ILRI).

View the whole slide presentation on this proposal made by ILRI director general Carlos Seré to the CGIAR Fund Council on 6 April 2011 in Montpellier, France.

More on the CRP and its development process

New initiative to boost food production in eastern Africa’s drylands

Ethiopia, Addis Ababa

A boy tends cattle in Ethiopia. A new initiative supported by the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the CGIAR will boost smallholder farmers’ resilience to drought in the Horn of Africa. (Photo credit: ILRI/Gerard)

A new initiative to help pastoralists and smallholder farmers cope with the twin pressures of drought and climate change was launched recently at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The initiative, ‘Climate change adaptation and mitigation for communities in dryland regions,’ is conducted by a group of development partners that include the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Vétérinaires San Frontières, Solidarites and Action Aid among others. The initiative will work towards securing the agro-pastoral livelihoods of poor livestock keepers in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

The meeting, held on 22 March 2011, brought together donor representatives, regional research and development partners, national research and extension representatives and non-governmental agencies engaged in promoting dryland agriculture. The meeting aimed to create awareness of the challenges facing the drylands and to share information about existing technological and institutional innovations that can address some of their most pressing challenges.

The drylands and other marginal environments of eastern Africa have high population growth and climate variability and few livelihood options other than livestock keeping. Such marginal lands around the world, however, produce about 20% of the world’s food, have rich cultural and social diversity and are inhabited by people whose traditional ways of coping with climate change can be harnessed for improved small-scale agriculture and livelihoods.

The new regional drylands initiative will help increase crop and livestock productivity in the three countries as well as add value to supply chain processes and help build supportive institutional frameworks for enhancing food production and marketing.

The initiative hopes to boost food security and livelihoods by increasing the resilience of vulnerable livestock keepers and is expected to reach about 1.3 million people at a cost of USD15 million in its first phase, which starts this year and will go on until 2013.

‘As a key partner in the project,’ said James Kinyangi, a regional program leader of CCAFS, who is based at ILRI, ‘CCAFS will apply lessons from successful past CGIAR research to intensify agricultural production in marginal environments. This should help eastern Africa’s dryland communities to develop greater resilience to climate change.’

The drylands initiative follows a workshop on dryland farming practices held in 2008 to map strategies for improving farming in eastern Africa’s drylands and identify high-priority crops for adaptation.

For more information about the regional drylands initiative visit: http://typo3.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/drought/docs/Dryland%20Flyer_final.pdf

To find out more about CCAFS visit: http://www.ccafs.cgiar.org/

Research group helps pig business become bigger business in northeastern India

 Pig in Nagaland, India

Pig kept in Nagaland, in northeastern India, where pig production and consumption by poor tribal peoples is commonplace (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Small-scale pig production is the basis of livelihoods of many poor tribal people living in India’s remote northeast corner. Pigs could provide a pathway out of poverty for many people if they were able to transform their subsistence production into market-oriented systems. Few people in India’s state of Nagaland are vegetarian and pork is the most preferred meat (50% of all pork consumed in India is consumed in the northeast). Although only about a quarter of all pigs in India are in the northeastern states, some 80% of tribal families keep at least 2 to 3 pigs. Pig meat is so in demand that these states import pigs from northern Indian states and Myanmar. Nagaland alone imports about 10,000 pigs per month.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) undertook the first comprehensive assessment of the whole pig value chain in northeast India in 2006–07. Reports were published for the state of Assam as well as Nagaland and set out the role of pig production in people’s livelihoods and the current state of pig production here, identifying some of the sector’s technical, economic, social and institutional constraints and opportunities.

As part of a National Agricultural Innovation Project (NAIP) funded by the World Bank, the Government of India and the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), ILRI is implementing a project with other local partners in Mon District of Nagaland to improve livelihoods through development of the pig sector. With few good roads or other infrastructure, most people here are very poor, and their pig farming remains very traditional. The small, local pig breeds raised here are fed forages harvested from the jungle and kitchen wastes and are housed in unhygienic pens with virtually no veterinary care. With no concerted effort made to improve pig production in the villages, it remains very traditional and largely unprofitable. While most of the farmers produce one mature pig, of 70–80 kg, in a span of 3–4 years, the same sized pig can be produced within 8–10 months through adoption of a few relatively simple improved practices.

In the pilot project in Mon, ILRI and members of the community together identified a package of integrated, locally appropriate interventions: (a) improvement of the local pig genotype through distribution of higher-producing pig breeds, (b) development of community-based veterinary first aid services, (c) cultivation of dual-purpose crops that can feed pigs as well as people, (d) better pig housing, sanitation and quarantine measures (e) closer links among stakeholders in the value chain, from input suppliers to pork sellers, (f) creation of business development services and (g) building the capacity of target groups using local resource persons and influential groups.

ILRI’s initiatives raised the level of interest of community members in pig keeping, especially for breeding. The ILRI project promoted the adoption of clean and hygienic practices in the pig sty and encouraged the cultivation of food-feed crops. Two trained paravets in each village became sufficiently confident to provide veterinary first aid and business development services. And household income from pigs increased from one year to the next by 133–457 per cent.

With funding from the Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust under their North East Initiative and in collaboration with several local non-governmental organizations, this successful model will be extended to other parts of Nagaland and into Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Several government and non-government organizations in northeast India are interested in replicating this model and have sought not only ILRI’s technical support but also its help in framing a people-centric policy for development of the pig sub-sector initiated by the government’s North East Council.

For more information, contact Iain Wright, ILRI’s representative for Asia, at i[dot]wright[at]cgiar.org

Livestock sector in India’s Jharkhand could move millions out of poverty

A woman in Jharkhand tends her goats
A woman in Jharkhand, in eastern India, tends her goats (photo credit: BAIF).

A new report from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) highlights the potential for the livestock sector in the state of Jharkhand, in eastern India, to move millions of people out of poverty.

Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar, was created as a new state in 2000. Despite having rich mineral resources and some of India’s most industrialized cities, its population of 27 million are amongst the poorest in India. Some 26% of the population is classified as ‘Scheduled Tribes’ and a further 12% as ‘Scheduled Castes’.

The rural economy is dominated by smallholder rain-fed farming and use of extensive common property resources. Nearly 56% of holdings are less than 1 hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Most farmers here raise livestock and grow rice, although pulses, maize, wheat and oil seeds are also grown. Lack of investment in infrastructure (only 9% of the sown area is irrigated), poor extension services, lack of input supplies and services as well as a lack of training have led to low agricultural yields and very low incomes.

The Sir Ratan Tata Trust, which has been funding rural livelihood programs in Jharkhand for several years, commissioned ILRI to undertake a study of the livestock sector to explore its potential for improving livelihoods in this state. As in the rest  of India and other developing countries, the demand for livestock products in Jharkhand is increasing. With 90% of rural households in the state keeping livestock, there is a huge opportunity for these small and marginalized farmers to supply the growing livestock markets with livestock products. In areas around towns, the study found a booming demand for milk, much of which has been met by imports from neighbouring states, but peri-urban dairies are developing to supply the demand locally.

Dairying, however, is not an option for all. As Iain Wright, ILRI’s regional representative for Asia and one of the report’s authors, explains, ‘In the tribal societies, there is no tradition of milk consumption or of producing milk, so there  are no traditional skills in dairy production. These communities do, however, have a long tradition of keeping goats and pigs. And with high goat meat and pork prices driven by growing demand, many rural communities, including those of “Scheduled Tribes” and “Castes”, have the potential to supply pork and goat meat for markets outside as well as within the state.’

Assessing the results of surveys carried out in different parts of the state, the authors of the report recommend the following ways to overcome the technical, institutional and policy constraints to livestock development, especially among poor and marginalized livestock keepers: (1) tailor development programs to suit different ethnic communities and locations and build on the traditional skills and knowledge of local communities, (2) help livestock producers to access markets and improve their marketing skills, and (3) implement community-based programs to support livestock development.

The report concludes that poor coordination among the key stakeholders in the livestock sector—from government officials to livestock researchers to staff of non-governmental organizations, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions—is what is most hindering the development of the livestock sector. A main recommendation, therefore, is to establish a common platform, facilitated by the government, where key players can come together to exchange information and experiences and identify knowledge gaps.

ILRI will be implementing some of the recommendations of the report in two new projects in Jharkhand. An imGoats project will work to strengthen goat value chains in Mozambique and India, including Jharkhand, and as part of an ELKS Project, ILRI is supporting an organization called ‘Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI), which is supported by the Sir Rattan Tata Trust, in the design of a new project to improve the livelihoods of goat and pig keepers.

For further information, contact Iain Wright (i.wright@cgiar.org), the author of this blog post, or read the ILRI report by Rameswar Deka and Iain Wright: Potential for livelihood improvement through livestock development in Jharkhand, January 2011.

Help us refine the CGIAR’s livestock and fish research proposal

In September 2010, four CGIAR Centers – CIAT, ICARDA, ILRI and WorldFish – formally submitted a proposal on ‘livestock and fish’ to the CGIAR Consortium Board (CB).

We just received feedback and guidance on the proposal. Overall, the Consortium Board “appreciates the innovations in this proposal, and its overall quality. The Board considers that, with a few additional improvements, the proposal will be ready to be submitted to the Fund Council.”

The Board and the reviewers also raise some important questions about our proposal: We need your help to respond to some of the critical questions raised by the reviewers:

Question 1: Can we really expect livestock and fish production ‘by the poor’ to contribute meaningfully to nutrition ‘for the poor’?

Question 2: How best to partner with the private sector in pro-poor livestock and fish value chain development?


How do we get more poor people into the world’s vibrant and emerging livestock markets?

Mozambique, Maputo

Livestock products in a supermarket in Mozambique. The vibrant and emerging livestock markets in developing countires offer new economic opportunities for smallholders (Photo: ILRI/Mann)

Across much of the world, especially in developing countries, market opportunities for livestock products are increasing rapidly as a result of rising demand for animal products driven by growing populations, rising incomes and urbanization. These new markets have created opportunities for smallholder livestock producers, including poor rural farmers, to benefit from ready markets for milk, eggs and meat. But as markets expand, they also often give way to complex supply and distribution channels and the need for high-value products that can end up locking out smallholders from enjoying the benefits of these expanding markets.

How do smallholders maintain their ability to contribute to and benefit from the complex systems that will inevitably result as livestock markets grow?

According to researchers John McDermott and Berhanu Gebremedhin, from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Karl Rich and Heather Burrow, from the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and the University of New England, Australia, respectively, assessing existing relationships in these increasingly complex livestock value chains can not only reveal the reasons behind the increasing complexity of these systems, but also identify potential opportunities for smallholders and show policy and other constraints that can be addressed to encourage more of them to engage in the markets.

In findings presented in The role of livestock in developing communities: enhancing multifunctionality, a new book co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural Rural Cooperation (CTA) and ILRI, the researchers suggest areas that can be improved to encourage smallholder participation in livestock value chains. These include ‘local and informal markets, which offer the primary initial growth potential in poor countries’ and post-production systems such as that for processing manure for fuel and for processing hides and skins, which can provide important value addition for smallholders.

Smallholders are best at managing informal production environments, where they can make good use of household labour and low-cost production inputs. The authors cite widespread successful smallholder dairy production systems in South Asia, East Africa and Latin America, which are thriving.

This book reviews how smallholders are participating in emerging and growing livestock markets in Ethiopia and South Africa. The authors note that smallholder participation in livestock markets is particularly influenced by whether organizations within the livestock value chain encourage smallholders to join their organizations, which promotes ‘chain-level interventions that give opportunities for smallholders to participate in markets’.

In Ethiopia, for example, the emerging dairy market is served by farmer organizations like the Ada’a Cooperative in Debre Zeit, an hour’s drive from Addis Abba, which is working to provide feeds and animal health services to members, to improve local dairy breeds and milk collection and to introduce value-added processing. These efforts have led to a tenfold increase in milk collection, to 2.6 million litres, between 2000 and 2005, a gradual strengthening of smallholder links to markets, and a growing demand for breeding and feeding services, which are starting to be met by private companies.

‘There is evidence that setting up and maintaining strong organizations to manage market chains not only leads to improved economic benefits for producers but also leads to broader social benefits like gender development and education,’ the authors say. They recommend improving animal breeds, improving animal nutrition and integrating input supplies and knowledge and financial and market services into the market systems. ‘Smallholders are more likely to benefit from market initiatives when these markets are oriented towards sellers, where enabling policies from government exist and where collective action and support is mobilised . . . .’

‘Commodity-based trade approaches’ also help to bring more smallholders into the market. In Ethiopia, for example, a phased export program for beef that allows quarantine, vaccination and disease control followed by observation in an export-zone feed lot before slaughter has provided a way of certifying meat as disease-free for export to Middle Eastern markets.

The authors warn, however, that not all livestock value chains will be accessible to smallholders. Few of Africa’s small producers export beef and other meat because these products are governed by unique tariff systems and international trade rules and are open to international competitors.

The book recommends regular review of the performance of value chain systems to ensure they are responsive to both small-scale producers and changing consumer demands.

Read more about The role of livestock in developing communities: enhancing multifunctionality.

Download the full text.

India, Mozambique goat value chain project starts

This week, partners in the ‘imGoats’ project meet in India to finalize plans and outcomes for the project.

The project – official title ‘Small ruminant value chains to reduce poverty and increase food security in India and Mozambique’ – is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and is implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute with CARE (Mozambique) and The BAIF Development Research Foundation (India).

The project aims to transform goat production and marketing in dryland India and Mozambique from an ad hoc, risky informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market.

Download the project brochure

Rural transformation: How a dairywoman and beekeeper in the Ethiopian highlands turned their farms into profitable businesses linked to markets

Discussion at Tigest Weycha's compound

Participants in this week’s ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture’, organized by ILRI in Ethiopia, visited two women farmers in Debre Zeit (Picture credit: ILRI/Habtamu)

AgriGender 2011 logo

On the third and last day of the ‘Workshop on Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (AgriGender2011), organized by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) this week (31 January–2 February 2011) in Ethiopia, two women farmers shared how they transformed themselves from farm labourers to agricultural businesswomen as they increased both their food production and marketing.

In a field visit to Debre Zeit, a town 50 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, the workshop participants visited Tigist Weycha, a mother of three and dairy producer. Weycha is a member of the local Ada’a Dairy Cooperative that processes about 5,000 litres of milk a day obtained from farmers in the area. She owns 12 cattle, including 7 improved-breed dairy cows. She has been in the milk business for six years, though her livestock husbandry experience goes back 11 years.

‘Each day I deliver between 50 and 60 litres of milk to the cooperative and I make about 5,000 Ethiopian birr (US$294) a month in profits. Dairying is very profitable here and income from this work is maintaining my household and educating our children,’ says Weycha. Her husband, after losing his job when a project that employed him in the town closed down, joined her in the farm work and they are now together enjoying the benefits of keeping dairy cows.

Weycha is a beneficiary of the Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project, which began in 2005 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency. IPMS is implemented by ILRI and other partners on behalf of the Ethiopian Government.

A goal of the IPMS project was to help improve livelihoods of the poor in Ethiopia by linking rural smallholder producers to markets. The project connected Weycha with the Ada’a Cooperative, which became a reliable buyer of her milk. Project staff also gave her training in managing her dairy farm business and animals and the benefits she has accrued are clear to see six years on.

‘The cooperative pays us after every two weeks. And this money is deposited into a personal bank account which I manage for the benefit of my family,’ Weycha says.

Weycha is one of the successful dairy farmers in Debre Zeit. With support from her family and her husband—who is trained in animal health management and uses this expertise on the farm—she has excelled as a model dairy farmer. And this despite the fact that dairy farmers in this area have to pay dearly for veterinary services and drugs, when these are available, and for animal feeds, the price of which fluctuates. Weycha feeds her cows mostly on maize and teff residues and alfalfa. She supplements this with oil cake and molasses that she buys every two weeks from traders in Debre Zeit town.

Participants also visited another beneficiary of the IPMS project, Elfnesh Bermeji, a beekeeper who makes 50 birr for every kilogramme of honey she sells from her 20 modern and traditional hives. She harvests the honey two times in a year and the income she has earned from selling the honey has enabled Bermeji to build a home and to educate her children, who are now supporting themselves after graduating from university.

These two Ethiopian women are examples of the many benefits of targeting women for capacity building. Their successes are bettering not only their own lives, but also those of members of their families and communities. These two women have, with the help of their spouses and families, transformed themselves into entrepreneurs in an area where few other women have managed to break with rural traditions. The success stories of Weycha and Bermeji should now give other women, and men, confidence to do the same.

—-

Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.

Read more on Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS) project

Improving women’s participation in dairying: Lessons from the East Africa Dairy Development Project

AgriGender 2011 logo The East African Dairy Development (EADD) project, implemented by Heifer International in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), TechnoServe, the World Agroforestry Centre and the African Breeders Service Total Cattle Management, works to improve the lives of one million smallholder dairy farmers in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.

Started in 2008, the EADD project employs a ‘hub’ approach, in which farmers organize themselves in cooperative groups to pool resources and buy milk-cooling facilities. These facilities also provide services for improved animal breeds and fodder and offer farmers training in milk management practices. The project has successfully increased incomes for dairy farmers—including many women—in rural areas of East Africa.

The experiences of the project in working with women in the dairy value chain were shared by ILRI agricultural economist Isabelle Baltenweck in an on-going workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held this week at the ILRI campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The EADD project is driven by the collective action of farmers who come together in these hubs, which help them collect and bulk milk. Most of these hubs centre on milk chilling plants set up by funds contributed by farmers themselves with additional support from the project.

The project also supports the participating farmers with feeds and animal health services. Other actors in the milk business, such as milk transporters and hardware suppliers, soon form around these hubs, which helps to create dynamic dairy value chains.

This “hub approach”, says Baltenweck, has led to improved access to inputs and services for women and other smallholders; it has brought services closer to the dairy producers, and given them access to credit and obtained better milk prices for them. ‘However,’ she adds, ‘women’s participation in the chain is still much lower than men’s.’

‘More male- than female-headed households have joined the hubs, even though a large number of spouses in many male-headed households have registered,’ says Baltenweck. ‘And we are finding that women household heads are making less use of animal health, feed and breed improvement services than male household heads, which is likely to lead to lower milk yields and income for the women.’

The project implementers are working to address this gap in women’s participation. A new strategy aiming to put more women on the front lines of the project should lead to more women joining extension work, including working as trainers and helping to make decisions in hub budgeting and operations.

This strategy is already yielding fruit. More women are now taking up leadership positions in the hubs and in related services in the project sites. The project partners are also focusing on improving hub governance and encouraging more women to participate in hub management and operations.

View the presentation:

‘It takes an orchestra to play a symphony’: Jemimah Njuki on making market-oriented agriculture work for women

Jemimah Njuki

Agricultural intensification in many parts of Africa has meant that traditional food crops such as bananas and beans have entered sophisticated market chains which, though they provide benefits, also carry certain risks for smallholder producers, most of whom are women.

Jemimah Njuki, a Kenyan sociologist and gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), says that ‘despite women’s involvement in agricultural development in rural parts of Africa, how they benefit from this involvement is often unclear, because as commodity market chains become increasingly commercialized, they often end up marginalizing the women they sought to help in the first place.’

In a keynote speech at the opening of a workshop on ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ (#AgriGender2011) being held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Njuki noted that ‘with the emergence of regional and export markets, as soon as women’s crops become profitable, they are no longer women’s crops. And we can end up doing as much harm as good.’

Cautionary tale
Njuki told a story to illustrate this. It’s about a farmer named Mercy that she knew and worked with in Malawi. Mercy is a smallholder bean farmer from Chinseu Village who often intercropped her beans with maize on her small plot of land. Using little fertilizer or other farm inputs, Mercy produced between 50 and 100 kilogrammes of beans in a good year. Her family consumed half her bean crop at home and she sold the remainder on the roadside near her village. She used the money she earned from the sale of the beans to buy food and clothes for her family.

When a new farming project was started in Chinseu, Mercy got access to improved bean varieties and markets. Because the new bean variety could not be intercropped, she had to grow the beans on a different plot of land from her maize. The investment paid off, however, and in the first year she produced nearly one ton of beans. To sell the increased produce, she needed to find new markets, and these were far from her village. Her husband thus started to transport the surplus beans to the city for bulking and sale there. He began spending less and less time at home, and sometimes he spent the income from the beans before he reached home. Meanwhile, Mercy remained at home, often with less bean income than she had before she began to adopt the ‘improvements’.

Doing right by women does right by everyone
Njuki believes that market-oriented agriculture will succeed in helping women only if it moves beyond ‘doing right for women.’ ‘We should not include gender development in agriculture to help women only; we ought to focus on women because if we do not, there will be adverse repercussions for the incomes, nutrition and empowerment not only of women but also of households, communities and countries.’

To get market-oriented agriculture to work for women, Njuki suggests the following ways of raising the often under-recognized role of women in agricultural production.

Increase women’s decision-making in agricultural projects to enable them play a role in identifying markets and commodities in specific value chains. ‘We should not push any one commodity at women to bring about change; we must first understand from them what they need.’

Work with both men and women because women live in households and communities that include their husbands, brothers and other men. ‘If we do not put money in pockets of men, we will not manage to put money in the pockets of women.’

Raise women’s assertiveness and leadership skills by linking them directly with (especially urban) consumers who buy their products so that the women producers understand at first hand how markets work and what kinds of products their clients prefer.

Encourage women to come together in groups, which give them better bargaining power to access banking and other financial services.

Increase women’s access to technologies and inputs and services to ensure that they can on-goingly adopt production practices needed to meet new and changing market needs and demands.

Njuki recommends that projects widen their indicators of success beyond just increases in women’s income. ‘We need to expand our indicators to look at the distribution of this income. We need to know which households and individuals are benefiting. We need to pay attention to labour issues.’

Finally, Njuki warns that success in work aiming to redress gender imbalances depends on a multitude of actors working together. ‘No one (woman) can whistle a symphony. It takes an orchestra to play it,’ she concluded, quoting Halford Luccock. ‘These initiatives need to be driven and replicated by many individuals and organizations working together to scale up community successes regionally.’

AgriGender 2011 logo

Working with women and men in agricultural market development: The missing link

View more presentations from ILRI CGIAR.
Read more about the ‘Gender and Market-oriented Agriculture: From Research to Action’ in the ILRI gender and agriculture blog.