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June 27, 2011

African smallscale farmers trained in business skills

Over 400 farmers in DR Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda are poised to benefit from enhanced business and marketing skills thanks to a capacity-building project that aims at increasing their income in a bid to fight rural poverty.

Business plan training is being co-organized by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT) and the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU) in Burundi.

Most small scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, who make up a majority of the population and of the poor, lack proper business and marketing skills. Therefore, they are not able to maximize the benefits of their investments and remain poor despite all their hard work.

To address this, the Consortium for Improved Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) has been training smallholder farmers to enhance their business and marketing skills to enable them to better manage their farm enterprises and engage with markets to improve their livelihoods.

The training covers a broad spectrum of activities, from basic farm management principles such as farm record keeping and analyzing the profitability of the farm enterprise to identifying good markets and laying out a business plan.

According to one of the lead trainers, Emily Ouma, an agricultural economist with IITA, “With the training, these farmers will be able to determine for themselves if they are making profit or not. If they are not, then they will be able to shift strategies. If they are, then they would be able to plan better to increase their profits even more, for example, through value addition such as sorting, grading, processing, and storing their produce, and selling when supply is low and demand is high.” 

Another facilitator, Eliud Birachi, an agribusiness specialist with of TSBF-CIAT, adds that most smallholder farmers neither keep records nor plan their production, harvesting and sales according to market demand. “Usually they first grow the crops then look for markets,” he says, “It should be the other way around. This often leads to a glut in the market and the farmers are forced to sell their produce at markedly lower prices than their production costs. Obviously this results in huge losses for them,” he said.

The CIALCA project brings together various partners and donors to improve farm level productivity through Integrated Soil Fertility Management and Integrated Pest and Disease Management. Sustainable farm level productivity requires improved commercialization which can be achieved by enhancing farmers’ access to input and profitable output markets. One way to realize this is by building farmers’ entrepreneurial skills.

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