Over the years, small-scale farmers growing white pea beans in Ethiopia have sold their produce through the informal market, relying largely on middlemen who dictate prices and walk away with huge profits, often leaving the farmers in poverty.
“When smallholders sell their produce individually, they are easily shortchanged by middlemen who give them very little money for their products, and they can hardly provide for their families despite their hard work on the farms,” Legesse Dadi, agricultural project manager for Catholic Relief Services in Ethiopia, told IRIN.
Some traders on the informal market are also more likely to tamper with weighing scales, which means farmers get even less money for their produce.
“In a disorganized marketing system, farmers rarely get value for their farm produce,” Dadi added.
But between 2008 and 2011, a project called New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships helped link multinational food companies to smallholders in Africa. It enabled some 15,000 white-pea-bean farmers – there are about 450,000 bean farmers in Ethiopia – to access formal export markets by producing better crops and organizing themselves into small cooperatives through which to sell their products and bargain for better prices.
Many of the smallholders own half-hectare plots that can, during a good season, produce 500kg to 800kg of white pea beans.
But while smallholders often have the soils and skills to supply high-quality products to the food industry, according to a recent report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), “their entry into these markets is constrained by increasingly stringent standards, volatile prices and lack of credit”.
The farmers’ problems had been exacerbated by the absence of a ready market for white pea beans, which are not locally consumed, experts say.
“Traditionally, white pea beans have very few consumers within Ethiopia, and this means the farmers have to rely on [the] export market… which they have very little access to,” Dadi said.
The project, facilitated by Catholic Relief Services, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Rainforest Alliance and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture helped address these issues. Farmers received assistance organizing cooperatives, which enabled them to sell in bulk and improve their bargaining power. They were also given access to storage facilities.
Read more of the story here at the IRIN news service:
Linking Ethiopia’s bean farmers to formal markets