Partnerships to upgrade market systems
MADE does not work with farmers directly; it carries out interventions with agribusiness partners, such as input suppliers and aggregators, developing and improving their business models. It is these business models that create sustainable working relationships with smallholder farmers and transform market systems.
Introducing the Advanced Business Model
MADE partners deliver packages of inputs such as certified seeds, fertilisers and agrochemicals, as well as key services like mechanisation, water management and farm advisory services, at scale and on credit terms. These integrated packages, offered to smallholder farmers operating within a range of value chains, are known as the Advanced Business Model. The model allows a single firm to ensure all critical inputs and services are provided to farmers. The firm will not have to provide all services itself, but will often work with other service companies, thus deepening the system in the region. Aggregator firms especially benefit from a higher level of engagement with their out-growers, with improved reliability and quality of supply and a lowered risk of commodity retention and side-selling.
The elements of transformative agribusiness
The MADE approach to market systems places agribusinesses at the centre of regional efforts to raise the potential of smallholder farming. Through its years of facilitating these efforts, MADE has identified four critical elements that every agribusiness must appreciate if it is to succeed, compete and transform smallholder livelihoods: farm advisory services, commercial partnerships, gender inclusivity and climate-smart practices. MADE has constructed a sound business case for each of these elements and selected partners that are able to build all four into their business strategies, ensuring that market success is aligned with direct improvements in income for farmers.
Farm advisory services
Farmers need to be sure they are using inputs and services in the right way, and this takes good advisory support, monitoring and supervision of their activities. To this end, a key element of every business model is the employment of Farm Enterprise Advisors (FEAs) to work with farmers. Through these field operatives, partner enterprises improve relationships, raise farming standards and yields, and help deliver faster growth in the market system.
A Ghana-wide network of partnerships has been achieved through a growing awareness, on the part of agribusinesses, that it is sometimes better to build capacity and market access through acquisition and networking than organically, and that by working with specialist service suppliers, business growth can be accelerated while risks are shared. To support these developments on a higher level, MADE has worked with larger anchor firms, trade associations and commodity exchanges, improving linkages across the value chain and enabling access to wider national and international markets.
Across Northern Ghana, as elsewhere, women encounter greater difficulties than men when they seek to engage in income-generating opportunities. They are often burdened with unpaid activities, have precarious access to land, if any, and have a harder time acquiring agricultural inputs. Yet despite constraints like these, women play a major role in the farming sector. MADE’s experience working with women strengthens the view that women are interested and successful in engaging in market development activities; more likely to be early adopters and follow through on training and advice; and better able to pay back loans facilitated by an aggregator.
A changing climate in the North means that any sustainable business model must have a foundation in climate-smart agricultural practices. MADE has encouraged this thinking among agribusinesses and farmers alike. In particular, it has co-invested with partner firms to establish model climate-smart farms around the region, where smallholders can learn from practices that reduce costs while enhancing soil quality and water retention. Thousands of farmers have observed these practices in action during field days, and technical monitoring has revealed that the model farms have been largely unaffected by the failure of seasonal rains, promising a more dependable future for production in the region.