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Linking Small-Scale Farmers to Input-Output Markets Essay

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Updated: Oct 25th, 2021

Introduction

Linking small scale farmers towards output and input markets is a very special undertaking since it is an activity that is geared towards global anthropocentricity. This is because linking small scale farmers is very important in eliminating food dearth the fact that it ensures a steady food supply. In Africa, the situation is much needed since the mainstay of the African economy is agriculture, with most farmers being small scale farmers. However, this should not be misconstrued as to mean that the linking of small scale farmers to input and output markets is solely an African problem. On the contrary, it is factual that Africa and most of the Least Developed Countries (LDCS), given the fact that these have not undergone industrialization, mainly produce agricultural and farming products not only for consumption but also for exporting into the developing countries. These developing countries on the other end, having undergone industrialization, are able to process these raw materials into finished consumable products. In a nutshell, this means that linking farmers to input and output markets is a matter of global concern since it ensures both a steady source of food in the LDCs and raw materials in the developed countries (Kataki, 2003 pp. 75).

Output markets refer to the markets that are used by the farmers or businessmen to market their products while the input market is used by the same group to access products that are to be used for the production of farming or agricultural products.

The importance of linking the small scale farmers

After the liberalisation reforms which took place in Africa in the late 1980s, and in the early 1990s need to be revisited due to the fact that the reforms shortchanged Africa and its small scale farmers. For instance, African countries were told to liberalise their markets so that there could be the creation of a free market, commonly known as the global market. Given the fact that most African countries have not undergone industrialization, the commodities being produced were mainly raw materials that proceeded to Europe for manufacturing. After the manufacturing process, according to the 1991 Brandt Report (Kayizzi- Mugerwa, 1999 pp. 78), these LDCs were then subjected to exploitation by the developed countries who could now set up higher prices for the already manufactured goods.

Again, according to the same research report, the small scale farmers in Africa ought to be helped stay in the output market by being given the chance to protect their products. This is to take the shape of the African governments being allowed to exact tariffs in world trade. Although it is a World Trade Organisation policy that the imposition of tariffs was to be abandoned to support free trade, yet this methodology does not auger well with the African economies that earn from the exaction of tariffs. In addition to this, even developed countries like America announced at the turn of the 21st century, that she was would revert to imposing 30% of tariffs in the foreign trade of her goods to protect her industrial sector and small scale agriculturalists (Hout, 2007 pp. 133). This only breeds unequal ground in the international trading competition of agricultural products and sectors.

The issue is made more complex by the fact that governments in Africa were expected in the WTO TRIPS meetings and DOHA ministers to drop the art of issuing subsidies and local assistance to the small scale farmers. Although this is one of the underpinnings of international trade, yet small scale farmers in Africa are so poor that they cannot on their own manage to access fertilizers, hybrid seeds and pesticides (Djik, 1995 pp. 130). On the other hand, the farmers they are competing with within the foreign market sector who hail from the developed economies have huge capital and vast technical knowledge in the field of agriculture, biotechnology and research. On top of these, some of the farmers in the developed world are offered state support.

These forms of imbalances obfuscate the path of industrialization for the African countries due to the fact that the same prospects ensure unequal aspects in the quality of goods produced, in that the developed countries produce goods that are of superior quality, compared to the ones produced in the LDCs. This imbalance translates deeply into inequality in the international market due to the fact that the developed countries agricultural products’ sell easily and much faster, compared to the African and the LDCS. The same has led to the plummeting of the agricultural growth in Africa (Hase and Vink, 2003 pp. 66). Therefore, the actualisation of the linking of small scale farmers to the input and output market has almost a one to one correlation with the prospects and the speed of industrialization.

Again, the concept of linking the small scale farmer to the input and output market ensures that the protracted chain of distribution that exists between the small scale farmer as the producer, and the consumer is cut short. This is because the direct accessibility of the market by the farmer allows one interaction between the farmer and the consumer in the market, and hence cutting off the role of the middle men. This usher in more affordability of the products to the consumer (Mitchel, 1995 pp. 79).

Still, on the local level, accessibility to the market by the small scale farmer translates to the provision of more fresh products and commodities, especially when the governments repair the infrastructure and thereby, allowing free and faster transportation. This still trickles down to lower prices and low wastage, to which farm produce are always susceptible.

The linkage services are aimed at equipping the small scale farmers mainly entail the dissemination of the marketing information to the farmers. This is a step that is normally taken by the African governments that first take the pain to solicit the information about the world, regional and local market, before repackaging it and then disseminating it to the small scaler farmer.

Apart from these types of information on marketing, these governments seek to link the indigenous small scale farmers by initiating linkage systems for the farmers, of which an example is the Marketing Information and Linkages System, MILS (Molden, 3007 pp. 192). In the same spectrum, these institutions seek to through these services, encourage the small scale farmers to come up with better products, and also to access better markets.

In Africa, this feat is achieved through the setting up of stratified channels of the organisation. The first stratum is the Rural Based Marketing Information Points, MIPS. This group seeks to work through the local administrative officers such as the chiefs, and the assistant chiefs, the counsellors and the headmen. This is because most rural areas in Africa have no access to information services such as adequate telephones network coverage, and strong television network services (Diao,2007 pp. 90). Days are always distinguished for public gatherings to facilitate the dissemination of the information.

At the district level, most African countries have the Marketing Institution Centres, the MICS. These MICS are often open market centres and exhibition halls that are always made for the beneficence of the farmers, in that farmers are allowed to not only sell their farm produce here but are also provided with information on effective farming methods and international marketing trends. In most cases, there are also days designated for particular districts to partake of these agricultural shows. At the heart of the capitals and other cities, this farming and marketing information is disseminated in myriad ways. Some of these ways include the use of the mobile phone Short Messaging Services, the Interactive Voice Response, the IVR Response, which are always designed in a way that ensures an instantaneous and simple way of interacting with the telephone operator. The developing countries also use the IBDBS, the Internet-Based Data Based Systems which avails information to the small scale farmer at the click of the mouse. In addition to this, the most commonly adopted method by the African governments in the urban areas is the mass media (Besley and Cord, 2006 pp. 78). Often, there are always television and radio programmes that are aimed at inculcating farming techniques and matters that touch on making choices that touch on the marketability of the farming products into the small scale farmers.

Apart from the above techniques, governments in Africa ensure the accessibility of the small scale farmers to the market by repairing and maintaining the infrastructure, so as to facilitate the rapid exchange of farming products. The African governments may also take to reorganizing the markets that are poorly structured and inefficient. To this end, virtually all governments have clear market policies that define the authority in charge of the markets and how the markets should be run ( this is as far as the local markets are concerned). Marketing boards and packaging boards are also hugely controlled by the governments in Africa for close monitoring. For instance, most African economies have never privatised the coffee boards and the tea boards even when given the fact that most of these coffee producers are small scale farmers. Instead, most African governments facilitate and regulate packaging, loading and processing through government parastatals, the coffee boards. According to research (Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, 2001, pp. 210), 98% of coffee and tea farming are still in the hands of the governments which have still never imagined or debated the prospects of privatising this sector.

The African governments also ensure the accessibility to the market by the small scale farmers by educating and advising the farmers on the type of commodities that the farmers should seek to produce in order to fine-tune their production with the market trends. In addition to the above techniques, the governments in Africa have mostly taken to not only advising the small scale farmers on the type of technology to apply but through the ministry of agriculture, in liaison with the ministry of science and technology, most farmers are also being equipped by the same, with information touching on how to choose the most appropriate technology. To bring in more effectiveness, the ministries in charge of agriculture under the aegis of the government also issue advisory services to the small scale farmers on the type of crops or agricultural products to produce, when to venture into the undertaking and the standard that should be set in pricing.

Ideologies and theories that seek to explain competitiveness

There are diverse and sundry ideologies that seek to explain and set normalcy to the competition in the agricultural sector. One of the theories is the agricultural Regional Restructuring Theory. This theory posits that the best way to get out of the inconsistencies between the cores and the periphery is to restructure the rural and the urban development so that both of these are at par. This theory continues that once the nations and the territorial divisions of a nation are at par, then there will have been the eradication of the inequality in agricultural and trade exchange and competition, both at the local and the international level.

However, other groups in the West, for instance, use the Adam Smith Report Institution Report (1990), to maintain that fair trade is the only panacea to both agricultural and financial woes that bedevil both national and international economies (World Bank, 2005 pp. 99). This theory maintains that the abolition of tariffs and the extirpation of local state support and subsidies are bound to usher in the equal exchange of capital in a transborder manner.

Closely related to this is the Trickle Down Theory which maintains that free trade or fair trade is also the best way out of the agricultural competition and the inequality quagmire. However, unlike the Adam Smith Report Institution’s recommendations, this theory tries to be sincere by divulging further that accruals are bound to be experienced by the developed countries first due to their technological advancement, and then that these gains will further trickle down to Africa and the rest of the LDCs (Molina and Fuwa, 2007 pp. 32).

Conversely, the Oxfam (2004) and the Union of Christan Churches see the concept and the actualisation of free trade or the international trade as an artifice that is meant to disable the small scale farmers and all the farmers in Africa and in the LDCS (Ozirio de Almeida, 2001 pp. 109). This group maintains that the poor are going to be faced out of the competition as cheap and highly subsidised US produce inundates their markets.

The last theory is the Green Revolution which sees attempts to stamp out desertification and the actualisation of the re-afforestation movements as the panacea to the shortage of agricultural and farm products, due to the fact that the earth is covered with deserts and semi-arid areas which take up the areas that could have been used to make food (Palo and Mary, 2001 pp. 102).

Recommendations

The recommendation that should be followed is that, if the concept of world trade or fair trade is to be still carried on, then the international trade deals should be refined to incorporate the labour standards of the UN’s International Labour Organisation so that cases of discriminatory employment practices and child labour are totally proscribed.

In addition to this, Africa and the LDCs are still economically weak and therefore. should be left to rely on tariffs. The same governments should still be left to offer incentives and subsidies to the local farmers so as to ward off cases of food insecurity ( World Bank, 2007 pp. 155). In almost the same wavelength, the Patent Rules should be left to enable African farmers and the rest of the LDCS to carry out their biotechnological improvements without having to seek permission from the multinational agricultural and biotechnological corporations.

References

Besley, T. and L., Cord, Promises: Pro poor growth, 2nd Ed., World Bank Publications, 2006.

Diao, X et al, Agriculture and development: Implications in sub Saharan Africa, 3rd Ed., IFDRI, China, 2007.

D’Haese, M and N.,Vink, Domestic institutional innovation and poor agricultural growth, 1st Ed., Garrant, Bahamas, 2003.

Dijk, G., Impacts of endogenous rural development, 2nd Ed., Uit Van Gorum Press, 1995.

Hout, W, Poverty reduction and the EU Development policy, 6th Ed., Ashgate Publishing Ltd., California, 2007.

Kayizzi- Mugerwa, S., Policy, institution and future of the African economy, 2nd Ed., Routledge, New York, 1999.

Kataki, P., Agriculture and food systems, 4th Ed., Haworth Press, Michigan, 2003.

Mitchell, M,et al, Agricultural policies for developing countries, 4th Ed., Ithaza Press, Colorado,1995.

Molden, D, Water for agriculture and life,5th Ed., Earthscan, New York, 2007

Molina, A. and Fuwa, N, The reasserting of the rural development agenda, 1st Ed., Institute of South East Asia, 2007.

Organisation of Economic Co operation and Development, A review of agricultural policies, 3rd Ed., Organisation of Economic Co operation Development, Massachusetts, 2001.

Ozirio de Almeida, L, The colonisation of farming, 3rd Ed., University of Texas Press, Texas, 2005.

Palo, M. and G., Mary, Policies of world forests, 2nd Ed., Springer, New York, 2001.

World Bank, Investment source book of agriculture: agriculture and rural development, 3rd Ed., World Bank Publications, 2005.

World Bank, World Bank Development Report on agriculture, 4th Ed., World Bank Publications, 2007.

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