Dutch Associate Expert (AE): Enterprise and value chain strengthening to improve the livelihoods of small-scale banana farmers in eastern and central Africa

Published on 4 October 2010

Research Areas

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Start Date: 1 May 2010 | End Date: 1 April 2013


Funded by the Dutch government, the aim of the AE Programme is to assist in the economic and social development of developing countries and contribute to the achievement of the goals, objectives and implementation of the international cooperation activities of the host organisation (Bioversity in this case). The AE has the opportunity to gain relevant experience in international cooperation activities through hands-on learning and contributes to the overall goals of the AE Programme- the economic and social development of developing countries. The Programme considers technical assistance, policy advice and capacity building as the main tools for achieving these goals. Bioversity has just been granted funds for a socio economist and applications will be reviewed by 30th June 2010.

By their perishable nature, bananas must be sold as quickly as they are mature. This, coupled with the lack of a reliable source of market information and with limited value-addition capacity, forces individual small scale farmers to sell their banana at any price offered by vendors. This has resulted into constant loss of income and has significantly contributed to the decline in living conditions and increased poverty in small-scale farming-systems-dependent communities in the great lakes region of east Africa. A frequently proposed alternative is for farmer organizations to consolidate greater volumes of production, to strengthen local negotiating power and to improve understanding of markets and prices. The implementation of such strategies is incipient and has often been based specialty crops such as cocoa, essential oils and natural medicinal products. The opportunities for refocusing value-chains for food crops towards greater farmer participation and greater value are abundant, but have not been the focus of most research projects. In 2009-2010, Bioversity International is undertaking three new research grants with components focused on the marketing of banana biodiversity for increased added value to small-scale farmers and their rural community enterprises. In these new grants the proposed associate expert will work to integrate production technology testing and promoting value-addition and marketing initiatives in banana producing communities in six countries in the region. The associate expert will have the opportunity to collaborate with Bioversity staff, external consultants and national counterparts in the development of strategies to improve the contribution of banana production and marketing to rural development and to the reduction of rural poverty. The associate expert will:

  • Review relevant methods and experiences on value chain analysis and governance, farmer organization strengthening and market identification and development in east Africa and collaborate with researchers in other regions of the continent;
  • Conduct applied research directly and in collaboration with students and collaborators to understand livelihood strategies of banana producing households, to describe current market channels, to identify alternative differentiated and niche markets for banana and banana products, to develop strategies for improving value chain governance mechanisms to the benefit of rural communities and to develop strategies for establishing and strengthening farmer organizations to the benefit of poor households;
  • Prepare and carry out training activities based on methods adapted from other projects and incorporating research results in the project directed towards farm households and incipient farmer organizations, actors in value chains and service providers linked to improving chain governance;
  • Link project staff and counterparts from national partners to the growing body of experience on value chains, marketing strategies, farmer organizations, entrepreneurship and rural development;
  • Participate in other activities contributing to the success of the projects.

The work plan will address important global questions (food security, income, nutrition), while at the same time contributing to the specific needs of banana farmers in the on-going projects.


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