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Introduction : Market Access and Agricultural Product Marketing : Promoting Farmer Initiatives

Introduction : Market Access and Agricultural Product Marketing : Promoting Farmer Initiatives
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alothore , patrickdelmas 18 January 2010

Part 1: Contextual background of agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa
Many farmers and breeders in sub-Saharan Africa face significant difficulty when trying to bring their products
to market. They also complain about the low level of profit that they are able to earn from their products. One
constantly hears complaints that “prices are too low,” “erratic price fluctuations,” as well as reports that denounce
“unstructured markets” and “disorganised supply chains”. In order to confront these difficulties, farmers, breeders
and their institutions are developing collective and individual strategies.
These initiatives remain too few in number and are not well-known. Neither shared nor reinforced, they are rarely
used by or for rural development practitioners. One still encounters among farmers (and others), persistent and
inaccurate caricatures of market function and of other actors in the marketing process, particularly merchants.
The poor level of knowledge about local initiatives and the functioning of markets and their actors are prejudicial,
in the first instance, to farmers who cannot position themselves favourably in these markets. These factors
create problems for local rural development, and in a more general way for entire countries. It is in this context
that in 2004 Inter-réseaux initiated a program to analyse and collectively reflect upon these matters in a Working
Group devoted to “Market Access and Agricultural Product Marketing.”

Part 2: Choices that impacted the methods and results of the Working Group
The theme of market access and agricultural product marketing being extremely vast, choices were made to
selectively limit the scope of the Working Group’s field of study.
The first choice was to examine only initiatives undertaken by family farms and breeders, because family-scale
operations constituted the large majority of agrarian production in the countries where the Working Group
operated. This restricted the field of study by only a small amount, since family-scale operations are highly
diverse. This document therefore presents a partial view, but attempts to encompass the diversity of different
family-scale farming operations.
A second choice was made to focus on concrete cases: initiatives where farmers, breeders and their organisations
(FO) worked effectively to improve market access and the marketing of their agricultural products.
A third choice was made to follow a program of collective reflection, designed to place actors at the centre of
the process. These actors thus participated in exchange visits, carried out comparative studies and worked on
written materials, video films and audio media to describe these initiatives on a case-by-case basis. Specific
forms of support were provided by Inter-réseaux to carry out these activities: organisation/oversight of the
process, logistical support, and financial support. The case-by-case analyses of initiatives and exchange
visits were followed by further comparative analyses allowing researchers to take a step back from individual
initiatives that each had their own particular features. The study then involved drawing general insights from the
specific context of each of these initiatives.

Part 3: Objectives and audiences for the present document
This document is intended to compile and validate (i) the process of collective reflection developed within the
Working Group to study and share case studies, and (ii) the comparative studies carried out and the insights
taken from the various initiatives. It is meant to both support information sharing and encourage discussion of
these points.
It can be used by anyone working with methods of collective reflection and validation of local initiatives as tools
for change (in particular chapters 1 and 3, which focus on methods and tools). However, it is above all intended
for people involved in activities to organise actors in agricultural product marketing: farmers and FO staff and
also people working in support of these actors.
The case studies are situated in sub-Saharan Africa, but their significance and their use should not be limited to
actors in this region, nor to the African continent.


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