UN World Food Programme

Smallholder Farmers Begin To Connect With Markets

Smallholder farmers in Zambia, where WFP is working with the Agricultural Commodity Exchange to help farmers sell their produce.

(Copyright: WFP/Laura Melo)

In the first year of an exciting initiative funded mainly by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, 42,000 smallholder farmers all over the world have been involved in selling food to WFP through the 'Purchase For Progress' pilot programme.

BAMAKO -- Faso Jigi, a federation of farmers’ associations in Mali, scored a first this year. Its 2,500 members were finally able to participate and win a tender to sell 600 metric tons (MT) of cereals to WFP.

“This year the sale was quick, they paid us promptly and we made a good profit. If they do the same after the next harvest it will be a good thing,” said 60-year-old Mamadou Traoré, a longtime member of Faso Jigi.

Up to now most farmers in Mali – particularly those with small plots and low incomes – were unable to meet the requirements of WFP tenders. Faso Jigi made its breakthrough largely because of changes in tender procedures brought in by Purchase for Progress (P4P). Under the pilot programme, WFP actively looks for bids from farmers organizations and is willing to purchase small quantities.

Engage in markets

P4P was launched a year ago to improve smallholders’ ability to engage in and benefit from agricultural markets. The starting point is the agency’s purchasing power, part of which can be used to support smallholder farmers as they produce and sell their staple commodities.

Supported by the P4P framework, poor farmers – most of whom are women – can boost their incomes and see how to connect to markets in general. Overall, 21 countries have been selected to pilot this approach over five years.

Since its launch in September 2008, P4P has purchased food commodities from 30 farmers' organizations with some 42,000 members. Overall, in 2009, WFP expects to buy up to 55,000 MT of food from smallholder farmers – either directly from farmer organizations or through other marketing platforms such as warehouse receipts systems or commodity exchanges. More than 5,400 farmers have also been trained in a variety of skills like basic management, farming techniques, quality control and post-harvest handling.

Expertise of partners

WFP is not alone in this enterprise. It relies on the expertise of partners that include governments, international organizations and the private sector. They provide technical skills, training, facilitate access to inputs and credit.

Connecting farmers to markets

WFP’s has started to use a range of procurement approaches tailored to benefit smallholder farmers more directly. In Zambia, WFP is working with the Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) to help farmers sell their produce; in Uganda and Tanzania we are buying through warehouse receipts systems; in Guatemala, rather than buying directly from farmers, WFP links them with the manufacturer of Vitacereal – a locally produced blended food. WFP buys and distributes Vitacereal to its beneficiaries.

With P4P, WFP is turning local procurement into an effective tool to address global hunger. Our vision is that by 2015, agricultural markets will have developed in such a way that many more low-income or smallholder farmers will produce food surpluses, sell them at a fair price and increase their incomes.  With this cash, the farmers are then able to purchase services such as education and healthcare that improve their livelihoods.