What holds vegetables farmers back? Conflict, governance and markets assessment making vegetable markets work for smallholders program
This report (PDF) by Mercy Corps used a political economy analysis to provide a nuanced, contextual understanding of the vegetable market system in Myanmar. Overall, the research finds that vegetable farmers are highly vulnerable to a range of factors that limit their willingness to take on risks. This reduces the scope to innovate and to buy good quality inputs. Unless this vulnerability is tackled, it is unlikely that smaller farmers in particular will be able to respond optimally to new market opportunities. Technical advice on better farming methods may not be heeded for rational reasons of risk avoidance. Volatile market prices make farmers reluctant to invest in case they end up in debt. Major agricultural input suppliers have more scope to influence market conditions and increase profit margins. Farmers are typically knowledgeable and make rational choices but have limited access to impartial information on new methods or the effectiveness of different inputs. Limited access to affordable credit is a further major constraint for farmers and for farm-related businesses. The article comes with a number of innovations and options or future engagement. First of all, the risks that farmers face should be reduced, for example by recognizing the constaints that farmers operate under, and condering how to promote sustainable and just contract farming. Second, coalitions should be build and advocacy opportnities found. Herefore, conflicts of interest should be recognized, especially between input companies and farmers. Besides, there should be advocated for measures that might smooth price volatility, for better mangement of imports and facilitation of specific exports, ad for reduce input consts and better regulation of legal and illegal inputs. Third, conflict shoud be better managed. It has to be recognized that conflict and ethnic tensions are a core aspect of politics and governance and local resource conflict management has to be integrated into approaches.