Last week the Humidtropics, Dryland Systems and Aquatic Agricultural Systems CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) met in Ibadan, Nigeria for the International Conference on Integrated Systems Research. The purpose of these three â€˜systemsâ€™ CRPs is to identify and make the most of the complex intertwined nature of the agricultural production, marketing, and natural resources management systems to contribute to reducing poverty, improving incomes, nutrition and the status of women and other marginalized groups in humid tropical, drylands and aquatic ecosystems.
The preliminary results from my own systems research in the humid tropics of Uganda came out too late to be submitted to the conference but they also demonstrate the integrated nature of the agrifood system. Together with my agricultural economist colleague Emily Ouma from the Uganda office of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and local partners from Shoreline Services Limited, we have been undertaking research into the factors influencing the successful inclusion of small farmers in modern value chains around the Lake Victoria Basin area in Uganda. This research is being funded by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) as part of a research grant on inclusive value chains.
Taking a marketing perspective to the problem, we surveyed a total of 300 farmers in the Lake Victoria Basin of Uganda producing either cooking banana (the staple food for that part of the country), pigs (Ugandans are the biggest consumers of pork meat in all Sub-saharan Africa as measured by quantity eaten per person per year) or aquaculture fish (a growing enterprise for smallholder farmers with appropriate land and water resources). The farmersâ€™ sample was divided equally into farmers who are producing for an identified customer on the one hand and farmers who try to sell their produce whenever they need to and to whomever they find willing to purchase it on the other hand. Our preliminary findings identify the factors that have an impact on whether farmers are linked to an identified value chain or not.
Further action still needed to foster equitable gender roles
We found that gender explained many other indicators we were looking at: women respondents were less educated than male respondents; women also seemed to find it more difficult to find a market for their produce than men. Whereas women were strongly involved in pig production and marketing, banana and fish farms held by men were more likely to be part of an organized value chain than similar farms tended by women.
Environment, infrastructure, agricultural production, membership in groups all impact on smallholdersâ€™ inclusion in value chains
Our data analysis found that the amount of produce harvested, the higher share of the enterprise in farm income generation, soil fertility and the presence of a mobile phone network all increased the chances of the farmer being part of an organized value chain. These findings confirm the role of telecommunications in fostering market access. They also link directly the soil fertility of banana farms to the chances of participating in an organized value chain. In the case of pigs and fish, the more quantities produced on the farm, the likelier the farmer was to be involved in an organized value chain to sell his or her production. Furthermore, fish farmers who gained the majority of their farm income from their fish enterprise were more likely to be part of an organized value chain and this likelihood decreased with the share of fish in the farm income.
On the other hand, our results show that being a member of a credit or a good agricultural practices (GAP) group makes it less likely to be involved in an organized pig value chain. This surprising finding is explained by the multiple products produced on the same farm. By probing pig farmers further on this issue, it turned out that the credit and GAP groups had been created for their crop enterprise rather than the pig enterprise.
The last two findings hint to the complicated trade-offs that farmers have to make when deciding to invest into improving one of their several farm enterprises: will it also have a negative impact on market access for their other productions? Our current report is under review by CTA; further analysis of the data could provide valuable insights into simple decision-making tools for farmers as they are faced with development options for their farm enterprises.
Blog by Jo Cadilhon, Senior Agricultural Economist, Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Photo by ILRI/Elisabeth Kilian.