Linking Farmers to Markets

Integrating very poor producers into value chains

“The Integrating Very Poor Producers into Value Chains Field Guide provides the field-level practitioner with tools and applications to reach very poor households. The intended outcome of the Field Guide is to have greater market engagement for very poor households through enterprise development activities. The Field Guide focuses on allowing practitioners to more effectively reach the very poor, defined as those persons in the bottom half of the population below the nationally defined poverty line or those living on less than the purchasing power parity equivalent of $1 per day.”

(by World Vision and FHI360, with funding from USAID)

Getting to Market

From Agriculture to Agroenterprise

Case studies describing how CRS and its partners worked with farmers and other stakeholders in Africa, India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia over the last five years to develop agricultural business enterprises. Each case focuses on a specific stage in the agroenterprise development process, and together they build a comprehensive outline of how to go about helping farmers enter and compete in agricultural markets. Introductory and concluding essays describe the "learning alliance" process that provided the foundation for these programs, synthesize the lessons learned, and map out a strategy for future work.

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Top Five Skill Sets for Smallholder Farmers


This narrated presentation describes the five skills sets that enable smallholder farmer groups to engage successfully with markets: group management, financial management, marketing and enterprise development, natural resource management for sustainable production and innovation.

Follow this link to access the training manuals.

Identifying Market Opportunities for Rural Smallholder Producers

Provides a simple and systematic participatory method for gathering market information to identify products and services for agroenterprise development.

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Preparing Farmer Groups to Engage Successfully with Markets

A Field Guide to Five Key Skill Sets

This field guide provides pointers for program managers and field staff on how to foster several crucial skill sets for preparing groups of poor farmers who are at a very early stage of engaging with markets and who aspire to successful agroenterprise development.

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Linking Poor Farmers to Supermarkets in Vietnam

Changing consumer patterns have caused the supermarket industry in Vietnam to grow over the past few years. This poster looks at how CRS is helping farmers utilize this new opportunity access a more stable and high value market. This poster was presented at CRS’ Holistic Innovations in Agriculture Programming Symposium, held in Washington D.C. on April 20, 2009.

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Building competitiveness in Africa's agriculture: a guide to value chain concepts and applications

Front Cover
"Value chain based approaches offer tremendous scope for market-based improvements in production, productivity, rural economy diversification, and household incomes, but are often covered by literature that is too conceptual or heavily focused on analysis. This has created a gap in the information available to planners, practitioners, and value chain participants. Furthermore, few references are available on how these approaches can be applied specifically to developing agriculture in Africa.

'Building Competitiveness in Africa's Agriculture: A Guide to Value Chain Concepts and Applications' describes practical implementation approaches and illustrates them with scores of real African agribusiness case studies. Using these examples, the 'Guide' presents a range of concepts, analytical tools, and methodologies centered on the value chain that can be used to design, implement, and evaluate agricultural and agribusiness development initiatives. It stresses principles of market focus, collaboration, information sharing, and innovation.

The 'Guide' begins by examining core concepts and issues related to value chains. A brief literature review then focuses on five topics of particular relevance to African agricultural value chains. These topics address challenges faced by value chain participants and practitioners that resonate through the many cases described in the book.The core of the book presents methodological tools and approaches that blend important value chain concepts with the topics and with sound business principles. The tools and case studies have been selected for their usefulness in supporting market-driven, private-sector initiatives to improve value chains. 

The 'Guide' offers 13 implementation approaches, presented within the implementation cycle of a value chain program, followed by descriptions of actual cases. Roughly 60 percent of the examples are from Africa, while the rest come from Europe, Latin America, and Asia.The 'Guide' offers useful guidance to business people, policy makers, representatives of farmer or trade organizations, and others who are engaged in agro-enterprise and agribusiness development. These readers will learn how to use value chain approaches in ways that can contribute to sound operational decisions, improved market linkage, and better results for enterprise and industry development."

ACDI/VOCA - Applying the Value Chain Approach to Economic Growth with Poverty Reduction

"ACDI/VOCA uses a value chain approach to increase incomes by improving the productivity and competitiveness of industries and ensuring that firms of all sizes benefit from participation. Identifying growth opportunities and alleviating critical growth constraints along value chains helps to increase the incomes of enterprises and farmers, develop relationships between firms, and promote more efficient business practices and higher profits for industries.

ACDI/VOCA has developed a set of tools for applying the value chain approach to economic growth with poverty reduction. ACDI/VOCA offers a broad range of services at all stages of the project cycle, including strategic planning, value chain analysis, project design, implementation and impact assessment. We offer participatory training courses on value chain analysis to donors, project implementers and private sector business owners.

Learn more about the value chain approach,

Access to Inputs

Key messages are

  • The private sector is the most efficient agent to deliver inputs.
  • When government subsidizes inputs this should be done via vouchers in order for the private sector to further develop
  • When government subsidizes and distribute (subsidized) inputs, these inputs (e.g. seeds, fertilizers) tend to be of unreliable quality. Actual deliveries to farmers are unpredictable and often (too) late.
  • Similarly NGOs should not subsidize inputs as it stifles the development of a private sector input supply system.

Potential for collaboration between public extension and private input firms:

  • There are examples of private companies co- financing demonstration plots and farmers field days
  • There are examples of NGOs and public extension services collaborating (e.g. NGOs providing transport funds to public extension agents) for similar purposes
  • There are examples of projects that train local (private sector) input agents in order for these agents to provide technical advice to their farmer clients
  • There are examples of private sector companies recruiting and training locally selected village staff to serve both as extension agent and as selling agent/buying agent, e.g. “para-vets”. This is generally limited to high value commodities.
  • For technically more demanding inputs (e.g. inputs other than improved seeds and fertilizers such as mechanized equipment and irrigation equipment) the key issue in the input supply chain is the training of (private sector) agents who can repair and maintain the equipment.
Henk Knipscheer, Winrock International, April 2012

FAO on Smallholder Market Participation

Recent Publications

Barrett, C. B., M. E. Bachke, et al. (2010). Smallholder Participation in Agricultural Value Chains: Comparative Evidence from Three Continents. MPRA Paper. Munich, University Library of Munich, Germany.

Mendoza, R. U. and N. Thelen (2008). Innovations to Make Markets More Inclusive for the Poor. Development Policy Review 26(4): 427-458.

Market failures, government failures and some of the characteristics of both the poor and business actors as well as their environment can act as barriers preventing the poor from participating more actively in markets, both as consumers and as producers. Private actors - including for-profit and not-for-profit entities, often in partnership with the public sector - have been able to mitigate some of these constraints through innovations that have helped to make markets more inclusive for the poor, enabling them not just to gain access, but also to participate in ways that enhance their economic empowerment and human development. This article identifies the strategies and innovations used and devises a possible typology for them.

"Market information services – Theory and Practice". Andrew W. Shepherd, FAO, Rome, 1997

"Linking Farmers to Markets" Andrew W. Shepherd, FAO, Rome, 2007

"The Impact of Cell Phones on Grain Markets in Niger" Jenny Aker, University of California, Berkley, Feb 2008

"Information, Direct Access to Farmers, and Rural Market Performance in Central India" Aparajita Goyal, Nov 2007

“Supply Chain Re-engineering in Agri-Business A Case study of ITCs e-Choupal,” Anupindi, R. and SivaKumar, S. (2006)

The Digital Provide: Information, Market Performance, and Welfare in the South Indian Fisheries Sector Robert Jensen, August 2007


Unleashing Potential: Agribusiness and the Smallholder Farmer. Columbia Business School webcast from September 2011:

Conference Proceedings

Online Courses

FAO/EU Courses on Food Security (
  • Markets Assessment and Analysis

Increasing Market Access for Smallholders through Friendly Traders and Farmer Clusters

CRS is helping farmers in the Phillipines organize into product clusters to supply quality produce at the right price and time. Download this poster to learn more about this approach.

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A Market Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Agroenterprise Development

Practical advice on empowering farmer group to make informed decisions for their economic development, based on an analysis of their surroundings, assets, and skills.

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Participatory Market Chain Analysis for Smallholder Producers

Another in a series of good practice guides describing the components of the participatory and area-based approach to rural agroenterprise development. Participatory Market Chain Analysis is based on the principles of developing market-led interventions that go beyond single intervention projects. The aim of this guide is to enable service providers to work with a range of actors in selected market chains and design interventions that initiate systemic changes in the marketplace. It leads practitioners to select market chains, conduct rapid market surveys, create business plans, conduct participatory market chain analyses, and negotiate strategies to increase competitiveness. This is a reprint of a document previously published by CIAT.

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Advice Manual for the Organisation of Collective Marketing Activities by Small-Scale Farmers

A step-by-step manual designed to help development agency staff lead smallholder farmers to use group marketing strategies that can increase the value of the goods they sell.

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Helping Ethiopian farmers profit from the sale of white beans

To help farmers maximize the sale of their white bean crop, CRS designed a project called “New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships” to enable smallholders to participate in sustainable trading relationships with multinational businesses.

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Developing Agriculture Loan Products for Poor Rural Communities

Examines key lessons learned by Metemamen MF, a microfinance partner of CRS Ethiopia, during the pilot testing of a new loan product designed for rural poor farmers. The paper shares the experience of the microfinance institution as it worked with CRS’ agroenterprise initiative to design financial services for farmers engaged in white pea bean production.

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Increasing Smallholder Access to Finance 

This poster looks at how increasing smallholder access to finance through saving and lending can lead to increased investment in agriculture. This poster was presented at CRS’ Holistic Innovations in Agriculture Programming Symposium, held in Washington D.C. on April 20, 2009.

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USAID and Walmart Join Forces to Help Small Farmers and Enhance Food Security in Central America

USAID and Walmart signed an agreement in March 2011 to support small rural farmers in Central America and to connect them to the retailer's regional and international supply chains. The new partnership links Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative, with Walmart's Global Sustainable Agriculture Goals. Small rural farmers in Central America will earn more from their fresh fruit and vegetable production, which will help them climb out of poverty. ....

Andrea Bohn,
Sep 14, 2011, 10:35 PM