Women smallholder farmers play significant roles in ensuring food security at the household and community level, however are faced with numerous constraints that affect their role in fulfilling their potential as farmers, food producers and entrepreneurs. The Pathways project’s baseline survey conducted in 2012, revealed that 44% of women farmers in the project area had no access to market information which constrains their participation in higher order markets. Addressing this, Pathways introduced the concept of forming Market Research Committees within the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). The goal of a Market and Research Committees (MRCs) is to search for markets and facilitate the linkage process for smallholder farmers.
Pathways worked with the MRCs to build their knowledge base and skills to identify buyers, negotiate for good prices for their produce and to support VSLAs in aggregation of their produce for collective marketing or selling in bulk. For the MRCs to be effective, the communities were grouped into zones in Garu-Tempane district,each comprised of an average of four communities. At the zonal level, executives are elected to manage the day-to-day running of the committee. A number of the executives at the zonal level formed the district level market research committees to oversee all marketing and linkage issues at district level.
Over the past three years, these committees have been working to ensure good market practices and better prices in favor of smallholder farmers especially, women farmers. The MRCs’ capacity has been built on exploring markets, price negotiations and aggregation skills. This has resulted in bulk sales of soybean to major companies. The MRCs were able to mobilize over 2000 mini bags (100 tons) of soybeans to the Savannah Marketing Company (SMC) Ltd in 2016. For the 2017 cropping season, MRCs both at the district and zonal levels identified buyers, negotiated prices and mobilized the produce with minimal support from the project staff. The MRCs signed a contract to supply 650 mini bags (32.5 tons) of soybeans to Yahaya Iddrisu Enterprise, a buying company in December 2017. As a result of the trust that has been built with the MRCs, the buying companies agreed to pay cash advance to the MRCs to mobilize and supply the produce.
CARE Pathways’ participants across the district have benefited through the market research committee initiative. The existence of the MRCs in the district ensures opportunities to sell to a profitable market and this has served to incentivized farmers to increase their production.
The MRCs show a lot of promise for sustainability; the committee currently has a bank account through which all financial transactions aremade. The commission fee that buyers pay per bag is used to support their operations. The committee is also effectively managing two multi crop threshers which were procured by the project effectively.
During a recent monitoring visit to the district, a participant of the project in Bulpielisi community mentioned; “I used to sell my soybeans in small quantities at the Zaari market, this made it difficult for me to save or use the money for substantial purchases, but now I sell my soybeans in bulk, get good profit of my crop and I am able to use the money productively.”