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Linking Farmers to Markets and Developing Agro-Enterprises

posted May 26, 2011, 11:28 AM by Andrea Bohn   [ updated May 26, 2011, 12:03 PM ]
     by Catholic Relief Services  
Farmer groups with basic market and enterprise skills have the ability to carry out an appraisal to identify and then prioritize promising market opportunities or customers, to engage in collaborative post-harvest management of product volume and quality, and to sell collectively.

Learner Objectives

  • Following the course, the field agent will be able to:
  • Explain the most important terms, concepts and principals associated with marketing agricultural products
  • Plan and deliver a training program that builds farmer capacity to select products, analyze markets, prepare a business and implementation plan, and evaluate business performance
  • Facilitate farmer-buyer and farmer-service provider relationships

Sections and Lessons

Section 1 Marketing basics

Lesson 1. Entrepreneurial spirit. Examines how to recognize people who are likely to make good market facilitators and entrepreneurs.
Lesson 2. What is agricultural marketing? Introduces the idea of agricultural marketing and explains why you should learn about it.
Lesson 3. Supply and demand. Explains two of the most important ideas in marketing, and how they affect prices.
Lesson 4. Costs, income, prices and profit. How to work out how much it costs to produce a product, how much income a farmer earns, and how to work out the profit.
Lesson 5. Types of markets. Describes six types of markets and how to compare them.
Lesson 6. The value chain. Introduces the idea of the value chain: the chain of people who buy and sell a product, from the farmer to the consumer. Also describes the business services that support the chain, and the institutions and rules that govern it.
Lesson 7. Adding value after harvest. Looks at how farmers can add value to their product to get a higher price when they sell it.
Lesson 8. Changes in markets. Discuses fifteen trends that are changing markets for agricultural products.
Lesson 9. Developing marketing strategies. Presents four alternative strategies that farmers can choose from to develop markets for their products.
Lesson 10. The four Ps of marketing. Explains an easy way to organize a marketing plan: product, price, place and promotion.

Sections 2 to 8 cover the seven steps of farmer market linkage. The lesson plan for each Section is under construction.

Section 2. Organizing project staff and farmers

The Section assists a field agent who is starting to working with a new community in agroenterprise development or is working to shift a community from a strategy that solely supports production to one that supports production and links farmers to markets. It shows how to build on the assets, skills and options within the project zone. Emphasis is on a) assessing the agroenterprise skills of the support agency’s agriculture team, b) the levels of investment the project has available, specific technology packages that the project aims to supply, timeframe, skills of partner organizations, capacity and maturity of the local private sector, and c) the resources, assets, skills and ambitions of the farmers and d) setting clear rules of engagement and targets for the project.

Section 3. Identifying product options.

The Section explains at how a field agent can support farmers to learn how to identify market opportunities and select one or more products on with which to build an enterprise. Farmers will have diverse views on the best products to select. Richer farmers may want to invest in livestock that other farmers cannot afford. Or farmers with irrigation may want to grow vegetables all year round, whereas most farmers do not have access to water resources. Women may want to focus on egg production which they can do from their houses, whereas men may want to produce upland rice which is grown at some distance from the house and sold at the district capital. The field agent needs to work with farmers to find common goals and select enterprises that will support the majority of farmers.

Section 4. Collecting information for the business plan.

This Section describes how field agents and farmers can gather information about the product options that they have selected in the previous step. The information collected will be used to prepare a farmer group agroenterprise business plan that is explained in the following step. The information to be gathered focuses on finding out about: a) the market demand for the product, b) the production potential in terms of area available and yields, c) the cost to supply the market, d) how much farmers will earn if they sell the product with other farmers, e) the essential business services required for producing and selling and f) the targets that will form the objectives and goal of the business plan.

Section 5. Building a business plan.

This Section goes through the process of developing a business plan for the enterprise or enterprises selected by the farmer group using the information gathered in the previous step. The purpose of building a business plan is to ensure that all members of a farmer group have a clear and common understanding of what needs to be done to successfully market their product. The business plan will also be required should the group need to loan money to finance their activities. The business plan arranges the information into a format that helps to define the new agroenterprise, outlines the marketing plan by describing what product will be produced, at what price it will be sold, where it will be sold and how the product will be promoted among potential buyers. It identifies targets for production and marketing, and details how the enterprise will be financed and run.

This is Module 4 of the course suite on

"Preparing Farmer Groups
to Engage Successfully with Markets"

This module is intended for face-to-face delivery
  • The course material, additional resources, and assessment tool will be attached below.
  • The video lecture will be made available at
    Simply set up a free account, place the course in your cart and get started! The courses are offered free of charge.

Expected Completion Date

End of September 2011


These courses are developed for field agents that facilitate community agricultural development processes and impart knowledge and skills to smallholder farmers and other rural actors on how to produce profitably and sustainably.

Learning Objectives of the Course Suite

After receiving this set of courses, the field agent will be able to plan and implement a series of inter-related trainings to build farmer and other rural actors’ skills in 5 critical areas for successful engagement with markets.

Key References for This Module

  • Kotler, P. 1999. Kotler on marketing. How to create, win, and dominate markets. Simon and Schuster, USA.
  • Ferris, S., E. Kaganzi, R. Best, C. Ostertag, M. Lundy, and T. Wandschneider. 2006. A market facilitators’ guide to participatory agroenterprise development. Enabling rural innovation in Africa. Guide 2. Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT). Cali, Colombia. 130p. ISBN 958-694-083-7.
  • Robbins, P., F. Bikande, S. Ferris, U. Kleih, G. Okoboi, and T. Wandschneider. 2006. Collective marketing for smallholder farmers. Catholic Relief Services. Baltimore, USA. 104 p.

Section 6. Marketing as a group.

During the previous step on business planning, the farmers with the field agent will have determined whether or not they can gain better prices for their product by working together at the time of sales. This Section goes over the challenges that face farmer groups when they decide to market their produce collectively. It examines models of group organization, how sales should be managed and prices negotiated. It places emphasis on the importance of effective means of communication for exchanging market information and organizing sales.

Section 7. Working out enterprise profitability.

This Section deals with how the farmers can evaluate the performance of their enterprise after the production cycle. It focuses on profitability analysis and assessing whether the goal in the business plan has been achieved. It also considers ideas related to next steps: what went well in the plan, what did not go so well and how would the farmer group improve upon their agroenterprise in the next and subsequent years. This reflection and analysis provides the basis for developing the subsequent year’s business plan, as part of the discipline of reworking and updating the business plan every year.

Section 8. Planning for the next production cycle, and scaling up successful agro-enterprises.

The Section provides the field agent with ideas on how he or she can organize their support to farmers so as to reach progressively a larger number of clients. Among the options covered are the creation of second order organizations, partnership with other local service providers, and the use of information and communication technologies.

Time Required to Teach This Module

Section 1: Marketing Basics. One two-day workshop of 16 hours.

Section 2-8: Sequenced workshops before and after the production cycle. The time required for each section ranges from 8 to 24 hours depending on the complexity of the material to be covered.