Voices from the field

Voices from the field 1

Senegal: Short supply chain marketing experiences

Since October 2013, farmers’ organizations have been involved in an agricultural cooperative experiment called Sell Sellal, which facilitates the distribution of healthy fruits and vegetables in Dakar. These are sold in weekly niche markets developed and managed by the cooperative with the support of Enda Pronat (www.endapronat.org).

“This initiative represents a significant opportunity for producers since the cooperative buys the products at a much higher price than the conventional market (50 to 100 FCFA more per kilogram purchased).”
Ndeye Binta Dione, head of markets Sell Sellal.

The main results of Sell Sellal:
1. Between 2013 and 2016, sales volumes were multiplied by 10 (with 1 250 t / week);
2. In 2015, turnover reached 41.946 million FCFA and benefited 102 family farms, including between 5 and 7 employees;
3. The cooperative now has an official structure and is moving towards autonomy.

“The Dakar consum’actors can now eat vegetables free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in the 4 distribution points installed in Daka.”
Maty Seck, ASD vegetable seller.

In parallel the peasant organization Woobin, member of Sell Sellal and supported by Enda Pronat, established a new system of wholesaling in 2015. The wholesale market is based on a circular economic logic, is guaranteed by a monitoring and quality control system, and increases producer awareness about healthy and sustainable agriculture. This allowed for the purchase of 24, 630 tonnes of onions in 2016 at 50 CFA/kg more than the conventional price – contributing to the access of healthy vegetables to the populations in rural and urban areas and the empowerment of women.

Voices from the field 2

Launch of a new vegetable box system

Gian Paolo Berta, Les Jardins de Nyon, Switzerland

My name is Gian Paolo Berta and I am the coordinator of the LCA (Local Contract Agriculture or Community Supported Agriculture) “Les Jardins de Nyon” – a new local agriculture project, wanted by the city. First we had to find a place for deliveries and drop-off. We contacted various existing associations but it didn’t work. It seems the perception of organisations supporting contractual farming is not very positive here. Finally the town council found us a warehouse. When we visited for the first time, it seemed cold and wet, not really a ballroom! But we have renovated it a bit and now we are satisfied with the result. We are pleased to have been able to start deliveries. It was important for us to get into the thick of it, but we did not manage to get the number of contracts we hoped. We lack a bit of visibility, but I think above all it is important to convey the values of contract farming in the community. To convince people to join, you must speak of food and agricultural issues and introduce contract farming as one of the solutions – have a positive message. Joining contract farming structures is a simple act – they are accessible to everyone – provided that the reasons are known. We are just a drop participating in a bigger change. It is important to present it like that.

Voices from the field 3

Local markets: Healthy and accessible produce

Lola Esquivel, ATC – Asociación de Trabajadores del Campo (Farmworkers Association), Nicaragua

I am a producer affiliated to the ATC. Since 2001 I started going to local markets, which represented an alternative to generate income and improve my quality of life and that of my family.
Its important for me as a producer to be able to show people directly what you produce, otherwise the role of women is invisible. It also makes it possible to bring fresh, healthy and accessible produce to the consumer.
The most rewarding aspect is the direct transfer of produce from the producer to the consumer, because normally the intermediaries take advantage of small scale producers and consumers.
The initiative of developing local markets also contributes to a better diet because the tomato, squash or other fruit and vegetables you eat are natural products and have been organically grown.


Box 1

Fisheries and Agroecology

“We are saying that our way of fishing is actually agroecology in action…being very selective in the fish that we catch and being attentive to the environment […] Our interconnectedness with the ocean has always existed, but now we have a term to describe our connectedness with the ocean. And agroecology helps us describe the practice of fishing we’ve been doing for the past 5000 years.”
-Christian Adams, Coastal Links South Africa and member of WFFP

In the fisheries sector we find many of the same structural dynamics as in agriculture or ranching, and in many places fishers are also peasants. On one hand small-scale fisheries must confront the industrial fishing model in the same way that peasant farmers and ranchers must confront industrial agriculture. On the other hand agroecological principles are followed in artisanal fishing and small-scale forms of aquaculture including: the use of species specific fishing equipment and techniques; respect for the season and lifecycle of each species; limited catches according to agreed upon stipulations; and cultivating and protecting mangrove areas in order to assure sustainability and biodiversity in production and diet.

Small-scale fisheries also face similar difficulties to peasant farmers when it comes to commercialization and distribution. As with agriculture, concentration of power among distributors can create a bottleneck that decreases benefits for the small producers. Alternative labeling, including place of origin, method of production and ecological certification schemes have been used extensively in the agrarian world and we have learned that they may be necessary, but are often insufficient. To fill this gap, direct sales, local markets, as well as new and traditional forms of distribution that create stronger links between producers and consumers are some of the strategies that are being explored in both land and sea based food systems. This is fertile ground for exchanging ideas and lessons learned.

These efforts reflect an understanding that we mustn’t only fish and farm according to agroecological principles, we must also sell and distribute agroecologically, in order to move beyond ecological certification schemes that can be coopted by large corporate producers and distributors who profit by turning ecological food into exclusive elite food, without creating benefits the food producers.

In order to strengthen this work, collaboration is needed: 1.) among small-scale fisherpeople – including the growing participation of youth and women – to defend access and control of fishing grounds and access to markets, and promote and value existing agroecological practices; 2.) between fishers and consumers to strengthen distribution channels based on trust and quality, local, seasonal and agroecological products; and 3.) between fisherpeople and peasant movements to create a dialogue of knowledge. Indeed fisheries’ movements are already taking these steps towards collaboration, asserting their collective voice and articulating real alternatives.

Box 2

Turning the tide of the supermarket tsunami

It is easy to see the corporate takeover of our food system from the perspective of agriculture: it is visible in the expansion of large-scale monocultures, in land and water grabbing, and in the displacement of peasants and indigenous communities. But the expansion of corporate control stretches throughout global food supply chains, from large farms to supermarket shelves. Indeed, the rapid shift from fresh markets to supermarkets in the context of food distribution has equally disturbing implications as the shift from peasant to industrial farming.

In many developing countries in the Asia Pacific region for instance, fresh markets provide livelihoods to millions of people—from small farmers who bring their harvests to small stall owners, food artisans, street vendors and a vast range of other informal workers earning a meager income from this sector, such as porters and loaders in the markets. In India, almost 40 million people rely on the informal trade sector and fresh markets; and in Indonesia more than 12 million people depend on fresh markets. Thousands of street vendors—working every day to provide food for urban communities—are at the heart of cities like Bangkok and Hanoi. A survey on the status of street vendors by the Hanoi Department of Trade shows there are about 5,000 vegetable sellers and 9,000 fruit sellers in the city’s inner districts, where women account for 93 per cent of the vendors, 70 – 80 per cent of whom come in from surrounding provinces. A 2010 Bangkok Metropolitan Administration survey showed a staggering 40,000 street vendors operating in the city daily.

The rapid supermarketisation of the world’s food markets, facilitated by the growing number of free trade and investment agreements, is slowly but surely marginalizing, and taking over the spaces of, millions of people whose livelihoods rely on this sector. At the same time, it is reducing access to adequate and nutritious food by manipulating food and agriculture prices. Supermarkets make basic food products expensive while also creating an explosion of junk food—flooding cheap, processed food into local markets and adversely affecting public health.

This shift towards supermarkets is not a solution for feeding growing populations. Rather, it will only transfer control over and access to food to a handful of global retailers closely linked to agroindustry. Across the Asia Pacific region there is growing awareness and resistance to global retailers and supermarket chains from peasant communities, hawkers’ unions and consumers. It is important to continue building strategic alliances and alternatives that challenge the supermarketisation trend.

Box 3

Successful cooperative in Nicaragua

Federación de Cooperativas para el Desarrollo (Federation of Cooperatives for Development) – FECODESA –works to improve conditions for smallholder farmers, reduce risk and increase market opportunities. FECODESA is a national federation of small-and medium scale farmers’ cooperatives in Nicaragua that unifies 6,000 families engaged in small-scale agriculture. Families produce their own food, and they sell surplus production to local, national and international markets through their cooperatives and FECODESA.

FECODESA has adopted cooperative principles for their work, putting emphasis on democratic processes and full inclusion of their members in economic operations and decision-making.
FECODESA was established in 2006 and has become a successful smallholder cooperative inserted formally in the cooperative sector of Nicaragua. FECODESA provides capital, market opportunities and capacity building to their members, in doing so contributing to increased productivity in the fields, increased quality of production and added value to primary goods. Furthermore, FECODESA participates actively in governmental initiatives and round tables where agricultural policies, technical and financial mechanisms are decided. Formal integration in such arenas – where smallholder farmers are usually under represented-, allows FECODESA to have a vote and a voice representing the interests of smallholders farmers.

Market mechanisms
Organizing smallholders in cooperatives helps them to become central drivers in economic and political spaces linked to the agricultural sector in Nicaragua. This is done through firstly organizing farmers in cooperatives, then organizing them as a network of cooperatives with similar interests, and finally entering into formal decision-making instances for broad representation of smallholders’ interests.

Key elements of success:
1. Legitimacy. FECODESA has been established, is owned and is managed by small-scale farmers. The operation is motivated by the shared interests of members; improving living conditions and taking into account environmental considerations.
2. Strong organization. All cooperatives in FECODESA work in building up financial and internal governance structures in their own organization.
3. Transparent and high performance financial and governance systems. FECODESA’s operations are built on systems that allow capital, knowledge and technical solutions to come quickly to their members.
4. Strong advocacy work toward defending the interests of smallholder farmers, both at local and national level. FECODESA realized that smallholder farmers’ influence in decision making processes is absolutely vital to alter the power balance within the agriculture sector. Since 2013 FECODESA, has participated actively in national committees and political processes on food security, organic agriculture and research networks dealing with agriculture and climate issues.

Box 4

Organic farming and the community market experience of OFBMI

Organic Farmer of Barangay Macabud (OFBMI) is a farmer’s cooperative made up of almost a hundred agrarian reform beneficiaries in the province of Rizal, Philippines. Formed after a two-decade land struggle, OFBMI seeks to revitalize agricultural production in the area through communal farming and agro-ecology.

Since its establishment in 2014, OFBMI rigorously engaged the government in order to access support services needed to enhance the capacities and incomes of farmers. This is in the context of widespread poverty in the area caused by a protracted legal battle for land ownership, with most families living under $2.00 a day and subsistence crops. Within a year, OFBMI received seeds and planting materials as well as farm equipment such as shredders and hand tractors.

By being part of PARAGOS-PILIPINAS, a national farmer’s organization and a member of La Via Campesina, some members of the OFBMI were able to attend training in agroecology. This, coupled with the prospect of engaging the niche market for organic products greatly influenced OFBMI’s decision to shift to 100% organic. Within a short period, most farmer members have been able to produce enough organic inputs including wormcast for their own needs and communal farms.

But most organic markets are now dominated by larger cooperatives/farms with higher production capacities and 3rd Party Organic Product Certifications. OFBMI realized that although prices are more competitive, they simply cannot keep up with the growing demand for organic products. The group decided to go back to its grassroots. “Why should we sell our vegetables to the middle and upper class when most families in our village are still hungry?!” a farmer exclaimed.

Today, OFBMI has established a “community market”, selling organic products at farm-gate prices in an effort to not only build awareness of agroecology but to also provide safe and healthy food to even the poorest in the community. Other producers and sellers from local wet markets were even convinced to attend organic training exercises that OFBMI organizes on a regular basis. Profits are rarely high in the community market, but more than enough to sustain and broaden the initiative for food availability and security.

In the spotlight

In the spotlight 1

Recognize, support and protect territorial markets*

(…)The bulk of the food consumed in the world (70%) is produced by smallholder producers and workers. Most of this food is channeled through what we propose to call “territorial markets”, as explained below. Only 10-12% percent of agricultural products is traded on the international market, particularly 9% of milk production, 9,8% of meat production, 8,9% of rice, and 12,5% of cereals [FAO (2015) 2015-2016 – The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets; FAO (2015) Food Outlook – Biannual Report on Global Food Markets.]. The idea of “connecting smallholders to markets” is misleading: globally more than 80% of smallholders operate in the territorial markets that are the most important for food security and nutrition [T.Reardon and J. Berdequé (forthcoming), “Agrifood markets and value chains” in IFAD, Rural Development Report; E. Del Pozo-Vergnes (2013) From survival to competition: informality in agrifood markets in countries under transition. The case of Peru, IIED]. We want these markets to be recognized, supported and defended by appropriate public policies.

We propose to call these markets “territorial” because they are all situated in and identified with specific areas. The scale of these areas can range from the village up to district, national or even regional, so they cannot be defined as “local”. Their organization and management may incorporate a weaker or a stronger dimension of formality but there is always some connection with the competent authorities, so they cannot be defined as purely “informal”. They meet food demand in different kinds of areas: rural, peri-urban and urban. They involve other small-scale actors in the territory: traders, transporters, processors, traders. Sometimes these other functions are performed by smallholders or their associations. Women are the key actors here, and so these markets provide them with an important source of authority and of revenue whose benefits are passed on to their families.

These markets are extremely diverse but they are all distinguished by certain characteristics, as compared with global food supply systems, including the following:
– They are directly linked to local, national and/or regional food systems: the food concerned is produced, processed, traded and consumed within a given “territory”, the gap between producers and end users is narrowed, and the length of the circuit is shortened.
– They perform multiple economic, social and cultural functions within their given territories – starting with but not limited to food provision.
– They are the most remunerative for smallholders since they provide them with more control over conditions of access and prices than mainstream value chains.
– They contribute to the territorial economy since they enable a greater share of value addition to be retained and returned to farm level and local economies. They thus constitute an important contribution to fighting rural poverty and creating employment.

Markets linked to territories exist throughout the world. They are overwhelmingly the most important spaces of food provision in regions like Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East. They are gaining importance In Europe and North America. (…)Yet they have been ignored in research, data collection, and public policy decision-making and investment, so their functioning is insufficiently understood, supported and protected. This explains why there is not yet a single agreed term to describe them.

The territorial approach – of which markets are an important component – is widely and increasingly used in the context of natural resource management, development planning, managing evolving relations between rural and urban spaces, and promoting decentralized sub-national government. (…)

* This article has been excerpted from the document “Connecting Smallholders to Markets. What the CSM is advocating.” Full document here.

In the spotlight 2

La Via Campesina declaration on Trade, Markets and Development in the context of UNCTAD 2016

In the context of the Fourteenth Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) scheduled for 17–22 July 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya, we of La Vía Campesina reiterate our commitment to Food Sovereignty and the Right to Food as well as our resolve to put an end to neoliberalism’s so-called “free trade paradigm” and “market-driven development” schemes that serve only to consolidate corporate control over our food systems. As a UN body, we expect UNCTAD and its member states to prioritize democratic and participatory processes aimed at policies that successfully promote food sovereignty. UNCTAD should not be used to promote the very same Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including the European Union’s Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) in Africa, that one after another have resulted in more hunger, poverty, and exclusion for people around the world.


We of La Via Campesina very much welcomed the 2015 publication of the UNCTAD Report titled “Smallholder Farmers and Sustainable Commodity Development” and its recognition of our vital role in food production and markets, as well as the need for governments and multilateral institutions to work directly with us in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, we strongly oppose the report’s numerous recommendations, most of which support the commodification of our agricultural production. We firmly reject the report’s underlying premise that only as successful profit seekers, or “business enterprises”, are we a viable long-term source of food and nutrition for our people. We also denounce ongoing attempts to commodify food and nutrition, and remind all those gathered at UNCTAD 14 that food is a Human Right.

The UNCTAD we are seeing in motion presents a free market driven neoliberal trade paradigm which stands in stark contrast to the food sovereignty paradigm where smallholder farmers are social, cultural, and historical actors that make decisions based on a diversity of personal, ethical, and cultural factors and not just based on profit, business and markets. Instead of corporate-backed trade promotion schemes, we want an UNCTAD that protects us from the destructive and secretive FTAs promoted by the undemocratic World Trade Organization (WTO) such as the TTIP, TPP, CETA, TiSA, EPAs, and their so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
We, the peasants of the world, currently feed the global majority, and we do so in spite of the numerous Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) aimed at displacing peasant production and trade worldwide.

Peasant-Based Production and Local Markets

Globally, more than 80% of smallholders operate in local and domestic food markets, with the majority trading through informal means. These highly diverse markets are the ones through which most of the food consumed in the world transits. They operate within territorial spaces that can range from local to transboundary to regional and may be located in rural, peri-urban or urban contexts.

These markets are directly linked to local, national and/or regional food systems: the food concerned is produced, processed, traded and consumed within a given space and the value added is retained and shared there, helping to create employment. They can take place in structured arrangements or in more ad hoc or informal ways which provide greater flexibility for smallholders and fewer barriers to entry and more control over prices and market conditions. They perform multiple functions beyond commodity exchange, acting as space for social interaction and exchange of knowledge. These are the most important markets, especially for rural women, when it comes to inclusion and access, contributing significantly to our fulfillment of our right to food and nutrition.

Despite their importance, informal markets are often overlooked in data collection systems which impacts negatively on the evidence base for informing public policies. As women smallholders mostly operate in informal markets, their essential contribution to food systems, including food distribution, and economic growth remains largely invisible in trade and development policy-making processes and, they face particular socio-economic barriers in accessing resources and marketing opportunities resulting in further marginalization and violation of their rights. Given their importance for food security and smallholder livelihoods, public policies and investments should be oriented towards strengthening, expanding and protecting local and domestic peasant-fed markets.

We call on the UNCTAD and its member states to support the collection of comprehensive data on local, domestic and informal–both rural and urban–markets linked to territories to improve the evidence base for policies, including sex-disaggregated data, and incorporating this as a regular aspect of national and international data collection systems.

We recommend transparent and fair pricing of all agricultural products that provides full remuneration for smallholders’ work and their own investments, including rural women. Pricing policies should give smallholders access to timely and affordable market information to enable them to make informed decisions on what, when and where to sell, guarding against the abuse of buyer power, particularly in concentrated markets.

We demand public and institutional procurement programs that allow smallholders to rely on regular and stable demand for agricultural products at fair prices and for consumers to access healthy, nutritious, diverse, fresh and locally produced food, including during crises and conflicts. We want these procurement programs to service public institutions such as schools, hospitals, prisons, homes for the elderly and public servants’ canteens, by providing food produced by smallholders through participatory mechanisms involving them in the process. We reiterate our calls for a permanent solution to the public stockholding issue – considering the imbalances in the domestic support allowances accorded to developed countries – and our commitment to building these robust public and institutional procurement programs.

For these to succeed, we remind national governments that they must guarantee fair and equitable access to land, water, territory, and biodiversity, referring them to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security.

Food is a human right and must not be treated like a simple commodity. We call on the 2016 UNCTAD Conference to rethink how it addresses the issue of food and its relationship to trade and development. Peasants are at the heart of food production and what we urgently need is Food Sovereignty – requiring the protection and renationalization of national food markets, the promotion of local circuits of production and consumption, the struggle for land, the defense of the territories of indigenous peoples, and comprehensive agrarian reform — not the false promises of Green Revolution driven input- and capital-intensive and dependent production systems that operate under the false premise of competitiveness that only works when it undermines the livelihoods of farmers elsewhere.

We remind governments that they have obligations to meet when it comes to providing quality public services required for a dignified life in the countryside (health, education, etc.), and that these obligations cannot be met without fair prices that protect local farmers from profit-hungry transnational corporations (TNCs) and an international trade system that currently only serves the interests of agribusiness and other corporate elites. As a UN body, UNCTAD should strive to be coherent with its other ongoing efforts, including but not limited to the effective realization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Together with allies in Nairobi, and throughout the world, we invite all to join us in the struggle for Food Sovereignty and an end to corporate-led “free trade” promoted through undemocratic institutions such as the WTO.

Newsletter no 27 – Editorial

Smallholders’ markets

Illustration : Rigel Stuhmiller – www.rigelstuhmiller.com

In practically every Indian town, vendors pushing handcarts move from one neighborhood to another, supplying customers with seasonal and perennial fruits and vegetables. By the coasts, fresh catch from small fishing boats are laid out for sale every morning and evening. Itinerant traders purchase fish from these markets and transport them to different villages. Daily fish and seafood markets are commonplace in every coastal area in the Asia-Pacific region. In Thailand, the best places to source traditional foods, herbs and spices are local fresh markets. In rural Cambodia, it is common to see small stands along the roads selling newly harvested corn, gourds, vegetables, seasonal fruits, palm sugar, and dried meats and fish. Similar scenes can be seen in many parts of the world, in varying climatic and geographic areas.

All this food, raw, cooked and preserved, is produced and sold by local small-scale farmers, fishers, pastoralists, livestock and poultry raisers, food processors and entrepreneurs–majority of them women–through different types of markets: temporary, permanent, travelling, direct deliveries, cooperatives, etc. Bulk of the food consumed in the world is produced by smallholders and workers, and channeled through “territorial markets,” which reflect the huge diversity of contexts that characterise small-scale food production and distribution. Territorial markets are an important source of employment and critical in battling hunger and poverty.

These markets increasingly face threats from corporate led super/hyper-markets, procurement, storage, certification and food safety systems. Corporations use neoliberal trade and investment agreements, and sophisticated marketing systems to control how food is produced, priced, distributed and consumed. Protecting and strengthening the markets of smallholders are crucial aspects of food sovereignty and restoring societal control over the economy.

Shalmali Guttal, Focus on the Global South