Lessons

The following conclusions and lessons emerge from the experience gained in implementing this programme:

The availability of the Innovative Grant Facility has been instrumental to the development of practical partnerships in the field:  Public, Private Partnerships appear to be more successful when promoted around some practical opportunity in the field (eg. a private sector player is interested in increased availability of raw material and therefore keen in partnering with the public sector (NGO/Government) to organise/train farmers). A key instrument (“call card”) for the BAGC Secretariat has been the Innovative Grant Facility. The facility has served as an incentive for the development of Partnership that address the service needs of commercial smallholder farmers.

Outgrower schemes provide an opportunity to boost smallholder agricultural productivity and marketing when well designed. Two outgrower schemes supported by the facility were very successful. A common element of these schemes is that i) the outgrower businesses are strategically aligned with that of the anchor business, ii) the businesses have established processing factories and present low risk of abandoning the outgrower scheme and, iii) the businesses are mature and have the necessary interest (commercially and from a corporate responsibility perspective) to make it a success. 

Outgrower schemes generally fail with start-up businesses or where such outgrower activities do not form part of the core business model of the promotor. A number of smallholder outgrower schemes were promoted under the facility as complementary investments to the BAGC Catalytic Fund. Some of these schemes failed largely due to the fact that the anchor business did not have sufficient conditions to host outgrower businesses. The promotors of the businesses were oblidged to take on outgrowing activities as a condition for accessing concessionary funds under the Catalytic Fund. There was therefore no immediate alignment or  shared vision with the promotors on the strategic relevance of these outgrower schemes to their businesses.  

Value Chain with long production cycles do not lend themselves well to support outgrower schemes. Therehas been a growing commercial interest in recent years to the production of export tree crops such as macadamia nuts, litchis, avocados and mangos (Sofala and Manica).  While these may present opportunities for outgrowing, the length of period it takes to receive revenues (up to 6 years) make it unattractive for a majority of smallholder farmers. This element partly contributed to the limited interest by farmers in the scheme. To succeed it will be necessary to include a strong annual cropping programme that will allow farmers to meet their immediate cash requirements

Agricultural Training Institutions within the Corridor need to be restructured in order to provide sound practical training to students.The facility has been supporting a number of agricultural training institutions to expand their infrastructure to be able to provide practical training to their students and make graduates more relevant to the industry. The results of this experience have been mixed. The biggest weaknesses has been lack of managerial capacity within these institutions to be able to make use of the infrastructures and profitably manage the facilities in a way that not only meet the training objective but also generate income to make the investments sustainable. Best practices from else would point to the need for agricultural colleges to have as part of their staff a team of full time technical staff whose main responsibility is to commercially manage available infrastructure.  

Poorly developed Seed Systems continue to inhibit farmers entering promising value chains. The Facility has promoted some innovative technology development and transfer activities. The case of Irish Potato illustrate this gap. Although Irish potato is a crop with growing commercial interest in the corridor, improved seed is all imported.  It was considered relevant for the facility to support an initiative leading to the release of local potato varieties that require minimum inputs to get reasonable yields and thus appropriate for resource poor farmers. Using the grant facility, BACG developed and field tested improved local varieties of potatoes such as Lulimile, Calinga, Chitukuko, and Kholophete.  These varieties are currently undergoing the required trials to enable their official registration

Farmer Organisations (FOs) need to be horizontally and vertically integrated into supply chains in order to effectively provide services required by their members. The initiatives started with the funding facility to increase capacity of FOs in the corridor require further investment. A major weakness that FOs in the corridor continue to face is the lack of competent professional staff that are capable of managing programmes that would be able to increase availability of farmer services.  

Availability of marketing infrastructure such as warehouses is an important element for smallholder farmers to successfully market their produce. The Patani Phasa Association comprising 31 clubs with a total of 1,527 members has secured a warehouse with an office and selling point which has made it easy for the farmers to meet the stringent quality standards required by the WFP. The warehouse has a capacity to carry 150 000 tonnes of crops. Batani Phasa Association is a regular borrower from BOM and last year it received 600,000MT ($20 000) that it distributed to selected members through the clubs to cover the hiring of extra hands for weeding, seeding and other agriculture operations. Farmer’s payback the loan after harvest with an interest of about 3% per month. The warehouse has enabled the farmers not only to secure their harvest to service the lucrative WFP contract but also to market their crops when the prices peak. The clubs recently sold 300 tonnes of soya beans to chicken farmers and 300 tonnes of white maize to WFP.