Iris van der Velden, Director of Learning and Innovation reflects on Farmfit’s development in 2018

What are a few of the moments in 2018 that gave you confidence Farmfit was on to something? 

“2018 was a really successful year for Farmfit, and I have a number of reflections on its success.” Reflected Iris van der Velden, IDH Director of Learning and Innovation.

Local value chains and food crops

“One of the first moments this year that really gave me confidence, was when the UK Department for International Development (DFID) said they were interested to team up in our approach to develop smallholder value chains. At the time, we were mostly working with large multinationals, companies sourcing cash crops, like cocoa and coffee. Partnering with DFID was an opportunity to move beyond our immediate network and apply the Farmfit methodology to food crops for local value chains. And with this growth, of course, the potential to create larger impact for smallholder livelihoods. A good example of this, is the work we did with Dangote, the largest manufacturing conglomerate in West Africa. We helped them think about how to extend their rice sourcing operation to include smallholder farmers- in a way that is both profitable for their company and the smallholder farmers.”

Corporates overhauling their smallholder sourcing strategy

“Another great example, is that we see multinational corporations totally rethinking their smallholder sourcing strategy after using the Farmfit methodology. For example, the Neumann Kaffee Gruppe is extending their sustainable sourcing strategy beyond the initial pilot country of Uganda, to as many as 10 other coffee producing countries. The insights they gathered from our initial pilot have enabled them to understand how to profitably provide short, medium and long-term financing to smallholders. This enables smallholders to purchase inputs, seedlings and equipment, as well as give them access to cash in times of need, reducing farmers’ dependence on money-lenders.”

Smallholder Farmers as Clients

“We also see that one of our core mantras is being owned by our partners. ‘Treat smallholder farmers as client.’ In our 2017 insight report, we found that businesses engaging with smallholder farmers as clients were more profitable and had more profitable farmers. What this means practically, is that companies that include the unmet needs of farmers into their core business are often more successful businesses. An exciting example of this, is a project underway with Sucafina. Using the IDH Farmfit methodology they were able to get a better understanding of the risks and opportunities of deepening their engagement with smallholders in Uganda. With that insight they are looking at their overall smallholder engagement strategy and how they can innovate using a.o digital. Stay tuned in 2019 to hear more about this exciting project.”

Impact of integrating ag-tech and fin-tech

“And lastly, in 2018, we got a better understanding of the role and possibilities for technology in providing efficient and effective services to smallholders. In 2019, we plan to offer more tailored support to our partners interested in tailoring agtech and fintech into their value chains. We also recruited Jayadeep Akkireddy to lead this work. Jay brings to IDH extensive experience in smallholder value chain development. He previous worked for the World Food Program in Zambia where they set up platform for farmers to share goods. He also has experience with vanilla processing and export and food processing in Haiti. Get in touch with Jay if you’re interested in integrating tech solutions into your smallholder engagement operations.”

And if we sit here next year and reflect on the progress that Farmfit will have made?

Tools, insights and scale!

“I’m really excited for 2019. We have plans to set up an open source benchmarking database and portal for businesses that engage with smallholder farmers. These tools will enable anyone to gain access to insights on the factors that make smallholder business models more effective, efficient and sustainable. The portal will contain data on the over 50 models of inclusive smallholder engagements that we have already analyzed and will continue to grow with new geographies and food crops. This should make the data we offer truly relevant to anyone wanting to work sustainably with smallholder farmers. Also, keep on the lookout for our second insights report, which we will combine with a learning event in the second half of next year. All combined, 2019 should be another exciting year for IDH Farmfit, and businesses that are keen to invest in smallholder inclusive agribusiness.”

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