Author Archives: Laureene Reeves Ndagire

Farmers’ Organisations make agro-food chains work: Lunchtime Conference

24 May 2016. Brussels.

Recent experiences of cooperation between farmers’ organisations.

AgriCord is an initiative of farmers’ organisations and their cooperative businesses to support their colleagues in developing countries by mobilising funds and expertise from organised farmers.

Representatives of farmers’ organisations explained the evolution of their position in specific agro – food chains and the impact on incomes of their members (dairy value chain in Uganda by UCCCU, cashew nut value chain in Benin by URCPA).


▪ Piet Vanthemsche, Chairman of AgriCord – Belgium (and head of the Farmers’ Union in Belgium from 2008 to 2015)

▪ Clayton Arinanye, General Manager Uganda Crane Creameries Cooperative Union (UCCCU) – Uganda

▪ Gwenaël Salaün, Responsable du service technique et expérimentation de la Coopérative Unicoque – France



Photo Credit: PAEPARD

Full Presentations can be found on the PAEPARD blog


Bridging the gap between farmers, investors and food professionals

8 – 9 December 2016. Brussels.

This event will a unique opportunity to connect with farmer organisations, private sector actors and financial institutions and to discover sound assessment tools for farmers’ performance and professionalism

5 reasons to attend:

  1. Discover how to obtain a complete profile and rating of farmer organizations on their professionalism and entrepreneurship by using a sound tool
  2. Meet farmers, investors and food professionals in the heart of Europe
  3. Exchange finance and business experiences with smallholders
  4. Exchange learnings and insights from assessments of farmer organizations with the SCOPEinsight’s tools
  5. Connect to a platform that builds global curriculum for capacity building of smallholders to become performant business organisations


Registration and information on the seminar visit the website

















Understanding the value chain to benefit both consumers and farmers

Originally posted on the CIAT blog

A research project tackling malnutrition among vulnerable populations in Kenya and Uganda has been launched in Nairobi .

The three-year initiative targeting women aged 15-49 years of reproductive age, and children aged 6−59 months, aims to develop a quick-to-cook porridge from at least four food groups, affordable for poor communities. Poor dietary diversity among the poor is a key contributor to malnutrition, said Dr. Mercy Lung’aho, a nutritionist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi. Non-staple legumes such as beans and vegetables like amaranth can increase diet diversity for a more balanced diet. But the are often underutilized in diets, say researchers. The project aims to create a win-win situation, improving nutrition of low-income vulnerable groups, while also benefiting smallholder farmers with improved income generating opportunities. It will do this by improving the availability, quality, safety and price of more nutritious foods cultivated by small holder farmers.

Understanding the value chain to benefit both consumers and farmers

A first step is to analyze malnutrition levels among a study group of poor households in Kenya and Uganda. That data will provide nutritional information about individual health, where families source food from, and how much they pay for it. This will help researchers understand which nutrients are a priority to add to the porridge.

“While a family may not have the resources to cook dry beans, vegetables, and cereals three times a day, they can boil this bean-based porridge which is nutrient dense and affordable, as an ideal supplement in the diet,” said Dr. Christine Chege, an agricultural economist and nutritionist at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Nairobi.

Making safe, nutritious and affordable food available, especially for urban consumers, means working with the private sector and engaging everyone involved in food production – including farmers, say researchers.

Understanding how the whole food value-chain functions, including nutrient leakages and critical points of contamination – from food produced at the farmer’s gate to what arrives on the consumer’s plate – and evaluating how nutrition can be optimized and transaction cost reduced throughout this chain, is vital to supply nutritious foods to the poor

Linking farmers to more nutritious markets

Researchers aim to benefit rural and urban consumers, reaching around five million small holder farmers in Uganda and Kenya by the end of the project. An analyses of business bottle-necks to reduce costs along the value chain – for example using low-cost, energy-efficient dryers instead of electricity – will be made, and bean farmers will be linked with processors through inclusive business models.

Dr. Marcus Nagle, from a research team at the University of Hohenheim in Germany, which is evaluating the energy efficient dryers, said: “We are very excited to evaluate the dryer performance in the local climates of Kenya and Uganda with a focus on the specific key staples of the region. We expect that solar drying will be more safe and reliable, with an improved product quality, especially in respect to insect and fugal infestations.”

In conjunction with an economic evaluation carried out by the University of Göttingen, it should become apparent whether this technology can be cost-effective on a wider perspective for local villages and cooperative in Eastern Africa, he added.

“Making Value Chains Work for Food and Nutrition Security of Vulnerable Populations in East Africa’ is supported by BMZ and GIZ, and is a Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance initiative. The project will be led by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, in collaboration with The University of Hohenheim (UHOH), the University of Göttingen (UGOE), the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and Ugandan Nutrition and Agriculture Research Organization (NARO).


Scoping Study in Manafwa and Kapchorwa Districts

In November 2015, the project ‘Developing value chain innovation platforms to improve food security in East and Southern Africa’ carried out a scoping study in 2 of the project sites in Uganda; Kapchorwa (sub-counties of Kapchesombe and Tegeres, Kapteret and Kawowo) and Manafwa (sub-counties of Nalondo, Bunghofu and Bumbo) districts. The project aims to identify principles and drivers that support scalable establishment of effective and equitable innovation platforms that enhance food security through greater engagement of smallholder farmers (with particular focus on inclusion and improving livelihoods of women and youth) with markets.

The research sites are located in the eastern part of the country, clustered around Mount Elgon an extinct volcano that spans the Kenya and Uganda border. The area holds high potential agricultural production due to fertile volcanic soils on the slopes of Mount Elgon, which has three major topographic zones: lowland, upland and mountainous zones. The lowland areas are covered by savannah grassland, upland has remnants of the tropical rain forest and the mountainous zone is mostly covered by the Mt. Elgon National Park with the Alpine mountain vegetation.  The Mt Elgon ecosystem hosts approximately two million people who derive their livelihoods from the natural resource endowment. Nearly 80% of residents depend directly on land for the direct use of resources and agriculture-dominated activities. The Mt. Elgon sub-region is a highly productive agricultural zone. However, opportunities are not fully realised as both districts are characterised by few and poorly developed markets, necessitating farmers to travel long distances to sell their farm produce and purchase inputs. Farmers are further constrained by remoteness of urban market outlets, poor infrastructure, limited range of processing opportunities, access to market information, lack of collective institutional arrangements and limited land holdings.

The Mount Elgon region of Uganda has also been a hotspot of landslides and flooding in the last decade, aggravated by recent settling and farming practices. It took the lives of hundreds and created a continuous threat to livelihoods of both upstream and downstream communities. In spite of this, inhabits of the land provide an interesting case study because communities are distant enough that local production networks are independent. This enables comparisons of social networks’ contributions to agricultural innovation and investigations of cross-cutting themes that impact innovation and change.

The majority of people in the Mt. Elgon Sub-region depend largely on smallholder agriculture and natural resource-based commodities obtained in the region’s ecosystem for their livelihoods. During the scoping study, the six  most important crops enterprises prioritized by the farmers and key informants in Manafwa include coffee, beans, maize, banana, vegetables (onions, cabbage, tomato, kales) and fruits  in order of importance. The criteria used by the farmers to rank the enterprises include the size of income generated by the enterprise, the number of people involved in the enterprise, market demand for the products, contribution to food security and household income, continuity of the income throughout the year and low input requirements (labour, land, capital), duration taken by the crop to reach maturity and fewer production risks (pests and diseases). While in Kapchorwa, the most important crops enterprises prioritized by the farmers and key informants included banana, maize, Irish potato, coffee, cabbage, beans and onions, with the criteria used by the farmers to rank the enterprises being very similar to that of Manafwa.

Differing levels of satisfaction with business development service providers have been reported by the farmers, but key ones include access to extension services and market information systems, where a vacuum in the provision of the former was created following the phasing out of the NAADs programme. Its derivative ‘Operation wealth creation’ (OWC), which ought to have taken over the advisory services, instead leaned towards input distribution. There is limited coordination between the local government staff and the implementers of OWC programme on the one hand and the local government staff and those in the ministry of agriculture on the other hand. In addition, there is limited attempt to harmonise the provision of market information services as the private sector service providers act independently from the local government staff and sometimes provide contradictory information to the farmers.

Access to markets: farmers currently prefer to sell individually to traders who come to the farm gate because they pass on the risks as well as transport cost to the traders. Due to a lack of proper storage facilities and post-harvest handling equipment, most of the produce with the exception of coffee, are sold without any form of value addition. There is the potential to improve farmers’ income through product differentiation and market segmentation, and this will be explored further in the selected commodities for the project. Several attempts have been made prior to add value to various agricultural commodities such as coffee and sunflower, however the processed products have not been able to gain reasonable market share. The quality and quantity of processed products (banana into wine, roasted coffee, sunflower into oil) needs to be improved  by improving processing methods, packaging, and branding to target urban markets.

Despite the existing and growing demand for most of the agricultural products, farmers have not been able to exploit this potential because of unstructured and disorganised markets for most of the produce as farmers prefer to sell individually, rather than as a collective.

Inclusion: Initiatives such as the ‘Youth Livelihood Programme’ are encouraging young farmers to get into groups to apply for loans, made available by the government. However, an audit of the selected enterprises to check their viability and returns has not been done on the program, with many youth applying for loans to start boutiques and businesses such as salons. There is a need to carry out capacity building around innovation and entrepreneurship , starting and maintaining a business, which is another training opportunity coming up around the country.

A number of opportunities exist in the districts which can be tapped into such as availability of an enabling environment in the form of organised farmer groups and local cooperatives around different commodities, the existing and growing market demand for  agricultural products both locally and regionally, and availability of business development service providers and chain enablers who are focusing on different value chains for potential collaboration and the possibility of exploring public-private partnership in the provision of market infrastructure (post-harvest handling equipment).


The Blended Learning Program for Facilitators of Innovation Platforms


Solutions to the complex agricultural problems facing us today require a systems approach. Inputs need to be sought from multiple stakeholders including farmers, researchers, government, and the private sector. Interventions may target multiple points in the value chain. Innovation Platforms (sometimes known as multi-stakeholder processes, learning alliances, self-help groups, or social learning and innovation platforms) have been found to be successful vehicles for designing and implementing systemic solutions. Innovation platforms are groups of stakeholders who work together to identify research and policy interventions to address weaknesses in agricultural systems. They may then initiate scaling out activities, possibly in conjunction with development partners.

However, the facilitation of an innovation platform remains more of an art form than a science. The skill set required of a successful facilitator ranges from excellent communication and negotiation skills to an understanding of how to monitor and evaluate the unique processes inherent in platform interactions.

The ILRI Learning Platform has developed a course for facilitators of innovation platforms, which draws on the experience of multiple CGIAR partners and that of key agricultural research organisations including FARA, the BMGF, and the FAO, who have been working in this area. Recent training workshops coordinated by ILRI in Africa and the Mekong will provide a framework for the course. The task will require a thorough desk review as a base for generating teaching/learning materials consistent with internationally recognised best practice in adult learning.

Six online modules of the course have already been developed and can be reviewed on ILRIs eLearning portal at These modules and the follow-up workshop component of the course were pilot tested with active IP facilitators in the Mekong in late 2015.