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Chapter 1 : Elaborating a collective reflection process and the selection of local initiatives for study and comparison

Chapter 1 : Elaborating a collective reflection process and the selection of local initiatives for study and comparison
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alothore , patrickdelmas 18 January 2010

Part 1: Principles and major steps in the method guiding the Working Group

The method of the Working Group was based on a double process of (i) highlighting initiatives by farmers and
(ii) building collaborative thinking around these initiatives. Two key principles guided this work: a focus on local
dynamics, with diverse analytical frameworks and collective reflection involving local groups of directly involved
actors; and comparative analysis, comparing projects across different locales, and assessing the long-term
evolution of single projects.
The Working Group of course involved groups of farmers not only in the case studies of local initiatives, but
also in the creation of support exchange groups aimed at spurring debate around these initiatives, to gain
a wider perspective on specific cases that were presented. To this end the Working Group relied on preexisting
dynamics between actors already engaged in activities or thinking about the marketing of agricultural
products. These included farmers and their organisations, and support organisations in the rural development
world. A number of field visits, concrete case studies and information exchange activities (written work, sound
recordings, videotapes) were carried out between 2004 and 2007, with the participation of actors in Benin,
Cameroon, Guinea and Mali, who were the main drivers of the project. Actors in Burkina Faso, Madagascar,
Niger and Senegal also contributed. For each experience, attention was paid to the analysis of processes
enabling an awareness of the evolution of activities of each FO: the historical approach allowed us to have a
dynamic understanding of the initiatives, since something that works at one moment for one FO can become
obsolete a few years later. The initiatives were then shared via presentations and other forms during workshops
and forums, which brought together representatives from more than ten countries in Africa. These materials
describing the initiatives were also distributed on the Internet.
Through these different events and methods of exchange we were able to highlight the FOs’ initiatives and open
them to discussion. Comparative analyses that looked at case-by-case examples across different FO actors took
place on various occasions, in particular through workshops and forums (for example, comparison of different
warehousing activities undertaken by different FOs). These studies grounded in specific types of activity were
intended to give critical distance from the specific cases of each FO, and to extract general knowledge which
could be useful to other actors in different contexts. The style used to present the activities of farmers and FOs
was also intended to enable objective distancing as well as to make the information more useful. Chapter 2
presents some comparative studies by type of activity carried out by the FO, while chapter 3 draws some more
general insights from these case studies.

Part 2: Overview of FO initiatives studied by the Working Group and emblematic cases chosen to
enrich comparative and transversal analyses.

The numerous initiatives studied by the Working Group – and briefly presented here – show the diversity of
buyers and markets. Depending on the case, farmers may sell their goods to an intermediary, an FO, individual
merchants, businesses, cooperative organisations, the final consumer, or to an institutional actor (public office,
WFP). Transactions can be done at the farm gate, in the village, at a local, regional, urban or export market.
The product may be on display or not (traditional physical markets or agricultural exchanges). The methods of
sale are also quite varied: in cash or credit, before harvest, at the peak of production, or later during the lean
season, etc.
The initiatives illustrate different types of activities that FOs carry out to facilitate access to the market and
the marketing of products: direct or indirect services and functions to move products, improve production, and
obtain better conditions of sale and/or marketing, particularly through the creation of strong support networks
for dealing with buyers.
Among the initiatives studied, ten emblematic and exemplary cases were chosen for comparative and
transversal studies in chapters 2 and 3. These consist of long-established FOs that have carried out a number
of long-term collective marketing activities.

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