On December 15th 2012, EAFF signed a grant agreement with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation(SDC) to implement a project titled ” Developing Strategies & Mechanisms for integrating small holder farmers into EAC regional markets “. The main objective of the project is to enhance the integration of small scale agriculture producers as active players in the value chain and regional cross border markets. The project run from December 2012 to March 2015. It targets EAC region where EAFF has 12 member farmer organizations who are direct partners of the project.
The core problem facing agribusiness development in East Africa is the lack of effective value chain linkages among input providers, farmers, traders, processors, and service providers. Unless smallholder farmers and small enterprises are able to establish effective linkages among themselves and with other actors in the commodity specific value chains they will continue to face enormous difficulties in overcoming the constraints arising from low economies of scale and limited access to agricultural technologies, markets and investment capital. The increase in demand for value added products globally and within Africa and the strengthening of value chain linkages are two closely interlinked dimensions of value chain upgrading.
Various factors explain the lack of effective linkages including policy, institutions, human resources, gender issues and infrastructure. The lack of effective linkages among stakeholders in a value chain has several consequences. Perhaps the most obvious consequence is the presence of supply chain bottlenecks. Bottlenecks results in produce from farmers not flowing seamlessly to the market in the amount and quality necessary to ensure high and stable returns.
Most importantly, the role of women in participating in agriculture trade at national and regional level is extremely low and needs to be contextualized. Women are mainly involved in primary production while the marketing aspects are left to the men. It is important that women and men farmers are enlightened about value chains and the need for them to participate at higher levels of the value chains.