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Capacities assessment of farmers’ organizations to provide advisory services.

Case study in the cotton area of southern Burkina Faso

A.Toillier & G. Faure (CIRAD)


In the cotton area of Burkina Faso the Cotton Producers Organizations (CPOs) provide services to their members by providing fertilizers, credit, and technical support. They also organize cotton trade at village level. And they link farmers to the major regional cotton firm, the SOFITEX. In order to strengthen Famers’ Organizations (FOs), an AFD project in connection with the SOFITEX enabled the creation of UNPCB (National Union of Cotton producers of Burkina) in 1998. This organization is based on preexisting local unions of CPOs. UNPCB improves communication between producers and also strengthens producers’ bargaining capacities with cotton companies. UNPCB took over 30% of the capital of SOFITEX in 1999 and obtained a majority of seats in the cotton management committee that was established through a State-SOFITEX-UNPCB Interprofessional Agreement. UNPCB received technical assistance that enabled it to analyze the dossiers better and to play a more efficient role in managing the sector.

AFD decided to support UNPCB through projects funding. The first one started in 1997 and aimed at establishing financial management advisors for CPOs. They supported CPOs in order that they become more efficient and accountable (through book-keeping, delivery of inputs, management of credit, payment of members, etc.). They were employees of UNPCB but co-financed by AFD project and by the cotton value chain. The second one started in 2001, with similar objectives but AFD integrally transferred project management to UNPCB. A third project started in 2007 with new objectives: improvement of yields and incomes, improvement of economical and social environment of cotton production chain. This last project included the establishment of more global advisory services for both CPOs and farmers. Advisory services for farmers were based on a method called “Advisory Services for Family Farms” (ASFF), which has been designed with the support of researchers (Faure and Kleene, 2004). AFD funding ended in 2011.

After 15 years of operations, AFD projects have gone beyond the experimental stage to become imbedded in national institutions. As a part of the cotton interprofessional association, UNPCB participates in strategic decisions concerning the cotton sector (price of cotton, price of inputs, etc).Besides it manages and integrally finances 60 financial management advisors who are in charge to support their 7000 CPOs. Furthermore, UNPCB has an agreement with SOFITEX allowing them to supervise the provision of advisory services to farmers by SOFITEX advisors.

However, according to AFD and UE, strengthening FOs in order that they become more autonomous and in a position to provide suitable advisory services to their members - i.e. both CPO and farmers, is still a real challenge that requires significant and permanent effort in terms of training and support – i.e. methodological, organizational and financial support. However, effective and efficient extension services organization scheme within UNPCB seems to be not achieved yet (Rebuffel, 2010). First, the 60 financial management advisors developed new functions and activities beyond the support to CPOs in order to address new demands of members(direct support to farmers, design of projects on behalf of the members, etc.). These new functions are neither documented nor analyzed by UNPCB or external actors in order to improve the provision of services for farmers. Second, the ASFF programs still faces difficulties to be implemented. It reflects existing tensions between stakeholders concerning the prioritization of demands to be addressed, the share of responsibilities among stakeholders, and the funding mechanisms to be implemented.

These observations highlighted that the promotion of advisory services does not take place by following a single pattern: one cannot expect to design a well suited advice method through an experimental process and after to scale-up the method through a unique framework. (Faure et al., 2011).

Based on the outcomes of these three supporting projects, this study aims at characterizing the actual advisory services (quality, relevance, inclusion, etc.) provided by UNPCB to its members (CPOs and farmers) and assessing the capacities of UNPCB to provide suitable and sustainable advisory services.

The role for Farmers’ Organizations (FOs) in extension services provision: analysis framework

The involvement of FOs in extension services provision has been identified as a solution to the limits of hierarchical extension system (state sector) and market-driven extension systems (Mercoiret et al 1997; Stockbridge, 2003). Numerous research studies mention producers’ organisations as major actors in advisory service systems, allowing a better orientation of the advisory services (Swanson, 2006). However, although producers’ organisations are active in numerous industrialised and developing countries, studies examining the role of these organisations in the provision of advisory services are scarce. The conditions under FOs provide well-fit, more accessible and sustainable services to small-holder farmers should be still explored and explained (Faure et al., 2011).

In order to explore the diversity of services provided by UNPBC and their efficiency, our analysis will be based on a framework developed by Le coq et al (2011). We will consider two levels (see figure 1 below):

- The public or private service providers who support FO activities and/or individual producers (P)
- The FO who is both service beneficiary and service provider to members (M) or non-members (P)

A comprehensive analysis of services system around the UNPCB will be done. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with members, advisors and leaders of UNPCB. They will deal with producers’ expectation toward service provision from UNPCB, UNPCB service provision through management advisors, relationships between service providers/producers/CPO, and the governance structure of service provision (coordination between actors, management tools, funding, etc.). Specific open-ended interviews will focus on strength and weakness of UNPCB to provide efficient, well-fit and accessible services. Perception of strength and weakness of FOs advisory services, as well as improvement strategies will be discussed with stakeholders, through participative workshops.

Expected lessons from the case study

This study will provide exemplary contributions of EAS in FOs development and rural capacity-building. We will draw conclusions regarding 1) the construction of demand and supply of services by FOs and farmers, and the different types of coordination between service providers, and 2) skills used to provide services, funding mechanisms, and the FO management of partnerships between service providers.


The case study is proposed for September 2012 – February 2013. The final submission for the case study would be March 1st, 2013.


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