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Power in numbers

Forming groups can improve farmers' access to markets


Farming can be a lonely business. By their very nature, farms are isolated and often far from urban centers. Eighty percent of rural households around the world are engaged in agriculture. Due to their distance from markets, they struggle with simply transporting the crops to buyers. And because so many of these farmers are tending an acre of land or less, working alone means that a single farmer doesn’t have enough produce to be attractive to buyers, especially large buyers such as supermarkets, hotels, and retail distributors.

Consequently, a farmer acting alone will often have to settle for less money in the small window of opportunity she has for selling. But what if this farmer can join with her neighbors, pooling their crops together to share storage and transportation costs, and provide a more attractive package for large buyers?

Collective Action

Til Sari Thapa (on the left) is the chairperson of her collection center in the hilly Khailali district in Nepal. Her collection center works with 225 farmers to find the best price for their produce. Til Sari believes that women can play a leading role in collection centers—nearly half of the farms in her collection center are represented by women.

iDE PC Access To Markets Extended Caption

(Photo by Bimala Colavito/iDE)

Connecting communities

In the remote, rugged terrain of isolated villages in Nepal, iDE is connecting farmers who are growing and selling high-value crops to a steady pool of suppliers and buyers. iDE’s “Commercial Pocket” approach enables farmers of small plots to take advantage of market opportunities by forming production groups and collectives. These groups are then able to generate sufficient volume for commercial activity, reducing transaction costs (e.g., storage and transportation) and allowing for the scale necessary to advocate for policies favorable to small-scale agriculture. They can also form “Collection Centers,” which can be both physical places where harvests can be gathered as well as social and business networks that enable peers to share market information, as well as agricultural methods and techniques.

Making a big difference

iDE has been creating Commercial Pockets in Nepal since 2003, facilitating the establishment of over 250 Collection Centers and reaching over 150,000 small-scale farming households. The result: increased commercialization of farming activities, increased incomes, and economic and social benefits for 750,000 people. Farmers have reported a 158-percent increase in income due to improved production methods, new technologies, access to services and markets, and access to relevant market information.

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Farm Business Advisors

The cost-efficient, sustainable way to market to farmers in remote locations.

iDE is facilitating change by supporting a network of Farm Business Advisors (FBAs), community agents who support small-scale farmers, who are often located in remote areas far away from commercial centers.


Read more: Farm Business Advisors: A Global Approach