Institutions and Infrastructure for Market Development

Working together for Market Access

Strengthening Rural Producer Organizations

Smallholder agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa is largely exposed to pervasive market failures, translating into missed opportunities and sub-optimal economic behavior. These failures are often rooted in the importance of economies of scale in procuring inputs and marketing produce. By engaging in such markets collectively, smallholders can obtain better access and benefit from it.

Over the past decade, many governments and donor agencies have shown renewed interests in Rural Producers Organizations (RPOs) as a means to overcome these market failures for Sub-Saharan African farmers. Evidence shows, however, that many RPOs have so far had limited success. The objective of this project is to identify specific interventions that can improve RPOs’ capacities. Opportunity costs of time, gender, and the capacity to mobilize labor play a significant role in determining these. While recognizing other determinants of success our innovation will be to examine ways to affect RPOs’ performance on input and output markets, through enhanced commitment of members. Broadly speaking, this is research on implementation of development actions, a much neglected area of research.

The research project will be interdisciplinary and combine quantitative and qualitative research approaches. It will follow a two-step approach. In the first step, we will use a combination of baseline surveys of RPOs, case studies, focus groups and field experiments to build a systematic knowledge base on the internal mechanisms that drive (un)effective RPOs. In the second step, this knowledge base will be used to design, test and evaluate experimental interventions to support RPOs in providing market access to their members. Finally, we assess the impacts of these interventions, design a scaling up strategy based on the baseline country-RPO representative surveys and diffuse the results. A close interaction with stakeholders through workshops will guide the entire research process.