Not by technology and money alone: The importance of functional capacity strengthening in agribusiness partnerships
This collection of case studies (PDF) by ICRA and gives insight into the 2SCALE project, through 15 stories in four countries (Benin, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria). The main themes that emerge are: how building relationships and strengthening functional capacities (or soft skills) are necessary pre-requisites to technical improvements; the importance of organisations becoming more empowered; how to sustain support services beyond the project life; and a focus on gender and youth issues. One case focuses on Nigerian cereal farmers’ organisations. Getting better organized and linking up with aggregators from Nestlé, the farmers now get a better deal in supplying sorghum for the company’s products. Soft skills coaching also helped women farmers to add their voice to ongoing negotiations. Another story relates how strengthening business linkages at the cluster level constitutes an alternative to “hard” guarantees for young female vegetable growers to get credit. Strengthening organisational skills and business relationships led to farmers being able to repay their loans on time. This in turn built the confidence of the credit service to further expand their credit scheme, giving farmers more options. From these stories, it can be concluded that in addition to access to better technologies and money smallholder farmers and related business actors need a deeper understanding of how value chains and markets work, as well as strong networks and business relationships. For this, they need to develop functional capacities that give them the needed skills, confidence, mind-set and attitude to achieve lasting improvements.