Village markets - diversification for income and crops
Jul 08, 2019
While global market development for cash crops like cacao, and the growth of professional farmer organisations which organise farmers into grouped selling, have helped small farmholders access larger markets; the village market, is sometimes left aside.
In my experience as a social entrepreneur in the last decade growing cacao and building nurseries I have noticed that many farmers who work with us on our nursery, or those who we train to build out their own 2ha plot, engage the local village market mostly as a consumer and not in a two-way manner. Additionally, I have noticed, with qualitative experience (only) a decrease in the volume and abundance of village markets around remote cacao growing areas where we have worked in Philippines for example (Kidapawan region).
In context of my research, the role of village market brings up questions for farmer support and what this implies on how we include forming a role / reason for village market engagement in our training programs. Here in this note I reflect on the role of diversification, crop and economic.
The village market is where food crops are bought and sold (mostly for household consumption), and these small amounts of expenses can significantly impact a cacao farming family’s cash flow and ability to purchase larger ticket items such as inputs or materials for farming. In cacao farmer training, I look at what enablement can be offered for farmers to even out their cash flow highs and lows between seasons, and also contribute to soil improvement, and family health.
Diversification often comes up in literature and in praxis.
Diversification in context of, leveraging top and understory of cacao, as well as separating a portion of land for specific food crop development. This short note will not focus on the validation for diversification, however on the role of village markets in enabling a location of trade.
In a research on 444 banana farmers in Kenya regarding role of cooperating in sales, Fischer and Qaim (2012) found that as many small-scale farmers are focused on building up their production capacity, the ability to sell their produce is key. Fischer reflected on national development schemes which state that enabling access to markets is key in promoting rural development and poverty reduction. The research from Fischer showed how state that there is evidence from farmers living in remote areas with poor infrastructure have high transaction costs, limited access to effective extension and rural credit which can reduce their incentive to participate in market trading. Thus, participating in markets generally is difficult to get to them, to bring all the goods, and be ready to trade.
Additionally, Barrett (2008) has asserted from an economic research of Eastern and Southern African countries that with the rise of contract farming and cash crops, there is a smaller share of rural households (or crop producers) who sell staple foods (such as grains) and there are strong associations between market access and participation patterns. Barrett’s research asserts that households with greater income tend to sell more than other households, while the transaction costs associated with those with less income make it difficult to access markets and sell. Thus confirming the nature that the poorer households have less of a chance to get to a simple market and sell their goods.
In my research, I have reviewed data around (cacao) farmer health and make the link to plant productivity and crop yields (in context of reviewing what the most effective training is in support of this). What comes up is the need to both provide better nutrition for farmers (so they can physically do the work on the farm), and cash flow inputs, and biodiverse planting for better soil and farm performance. Planting food crops, besides cacao farming continually comes up as an ideal contributor to these issues.
Barrett (2008) states after an economic review of small householders in Eastern and Southern Africa, that liquidity enables farmers to invest in higher yielding crop options and improved technologies (which bring an initial cost). He states that there are complementaries between cash crop and food crop production, such as better use of purchased (or home made) fertilisers and pest control inputs, which on the side produces food crop, although the input was originally purchased for the main crop.
Reflecting on Adam Smith’s (1759) notion of ‘the invisible hand’ in context of unintended social benefits from self interested actions, Smith questions how food comes to London markets in the mid 1700s and the assumption that the population has access to what they need. Although Smith suggested predictability of people at the time, I question this in light of impulse and ability for smallfarmholders to bring their food crops to market while cash crops gather ‘interest’ as bulk sale to a trader or company. Although Smith in his work pursues the direction of productivity defined by what one can do (efficiently), his fundamental ideas about production and division of labour quite pays into the argumentation of diversification of crop on land, especially in light of intensified / efficient farming on cash crop, while soil enriching biodiverse vegetable and fruit planting for nutrition and local village market sales for household nutrition and contribution to farmer’s wealth is relevant. The local village market becomes a pivot point in this concept and something I am thinking about in my research.
What are your experiences or research regarding village markets and role in selling food crops grown alongside cash crops, like cacao? Also regarding farmer skill-set, interest or incentive to participate? Love to hear them.
Barrett, C. B. (2008). "Smallholder market participation: Concepts and evidence from eastern and southern Africa." Food Policy 33(4): 299-317.
Fischer, E. and M. Qaim (2012). "Linking Smallholders to Markets: Determinants and Impacts of Farmer Collective Action in Kenya." World Development 40(6): 1255-1268.
Smith, Adam. The Theory of Moral Sentiments. By Adam Smith, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow. London: printed for A. Millar, in the Strand; and A. Kincaid and J. Bell, in Edinburgh, 1759. Print.