Among the activities that farmers and FOs have carried out in terms of access to markets and marketing, fifteen are presented here. They follow one after the other in the form of relatively independent “information sheets” to be used “a la carte”. For many farmers, sales are made individually with buyers or intermediaries at the farm gate (sheet 1) or at nearby markets (sheet 2). All of the FO activities illustrated here can be grouped into four main categories:
1) FO activities to support farmers by increasing the value of a given product: transportation of the member’s products by the FO to distant markets or buyers; purchasing and warehousing of stock to enable it to be sold after a period of storage; credit provided by the FO for the marketing of products (warranted credit given by the FO can allow farmers to defer sales); transformation and conditioning of products post-harvest to create added value; access to other markets where there is the possibility of selling for a better price later on (sheets 3 to 6).
These activities, which we might term “classic”, often seek an increase in price levels for products: gains from a geographic differential (price difference between village and town), gains from a temporal differential (price fluctuation between harvest and shortfall periods), gains from value added. These gains are in fact highly variable for farmers and their FOs; many attempts are marked by failure and finally by a move toward contracts with private companies or external organisations to carry out these activities.
2) FO activities well upstream of the marketplace, seeking to improve production techniques and quality and reduce the cost of bringing produce to market (sheets 7 and 8). These activities, developed for given markets (specific places, volumes, qualities and buyers) can often help improve access to markets for produce and boost demand, to the benefit of farmers.
3) FO activities seeking to improve transaction and market conditions, with a favourable environment and greater transparency between supply and demand for products. In this case we find: buyer searches, steps to improve the transparency of supply and demand, better weighing and measuring stations, concentrating product sales in one specific area of the market, regulating supply, organising agricultural exchanges, etc. (sheets 9 to 13).
Here the FO plays an intermediary role between farmers and buyers, but does not itself purchase products: it brings actors together, facilitates transactions and the creation of contracts. As well as reducing the cost of transactions, these activities tend to create a better balance of power and negotiating positions between farmers and buyers. Farmers who sell their products within certain common guidelines see their position improve thanks to better access to the market and higher earnings from the sale of their products.
4) Activities and participation by the FO with other sector actors at the level of consultation platforms, interprofessional regulatory spaces and/or with the State. In this case, agreements and regulatory policies can be established to help the FOs improve their positions and participate in setting up policies, rules and agreements for markets that are more favourable to them. FOs can also participate in policy negotiations in the agricultural sector, such as action by FOs concerning borders (sheets 14 and 15).
Here the action of FOs seeks to establish rules and regulations of operation that are durable over the long term, as well as to develop activities among suppliers that benefit individual farmers. The forms of interprofessional organisation are quite varied, and do not always work when they have too many aims or when members are too widely dispersed. In the interprofessional organisations that do work, the FOs are only present if they are well-prepared and intervene with clearly defined positions. At the political level, FOs have gained considerably in terms of legitimacy and awareness, but there is still a long road ahead .
Each sheet gives a complete description of objectives, principles and concrete examples, as well as critical analysis underscoring important aspects to be considered by FOs, NGOs and other organisations carrying out similar activities with farmers.