Brokering food security: Connecting smallholder farmers to markets

The two Partnership Brokers Choongo Chibawe (Zambia) and Rafal Serafin (Poland) write in the newest issue of The Journal of Partnership Brokering about their insights and experiences with partnership brokering to engage smallholders in reconfiguring local food systems.

As a result of increased concern of consumers regarding food quality and wanting to buy food which they know where and how it is produced, food production by agricultural smallholders is increasingly seen as an opportunity rather than problem.

The barriers to overcome in connecting smallholders to markets are many; social, technological, economic, legal, institutional, logistical, cultural and other. The challenge, you can say, is enormous and the authors of the article describe that the partnership brokering challenge for food security therefore lies in working out new ways of enabling smallholder farmers to overcome these barriers to gain market access. If successful it can mean helping millions of dispersed smallholders reach consumers by improving productivity, assuring food quality, increasing food processing, responding to consumer preferences, and cutting out intermediaries.

A promising response in both Poland and Zambia, mentioned in the article, has been to build food systems that bring together producers and consumers as directly as possible in a limited geographic area that treat the nearest urban centres as key markets. The task for the partnership broker is not just to mobilise resources for building partnering capability among those involved, but also to put into place partnership arrangements that can sustain and strengthen a self-organising local food system. With the help of partnership brokering the position the position of the smallholder farmers has been strengthened. Tthey are now something more than passive beneficiaries -they have a voice and a stake in new forms of local food systems and the producers gain access to markets on their own terms, retaining some measure of control. Not to forget is that at the systemic level, partnership brokers will also need to be sensitive to shifts in attitudes of consumers, business trends, political and economic climates that affect and change the context for partnerships and partnering.

Here you can read the whole article.