Food Security

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 261–273 | Cite as

Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets: strengthening the advocacy capacities of national farmer organisations through collaborative research

  • Giel TonEmail author
  • Karin de Grip
  • Frédéric Lançon
  • Gideon E. Onumah
  • Felicity J. Proctor
Original Paper


The Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets programme (ESFIM) supported the advocacy capacities of national farmer organisations (NFOs) for improving smallholder market access. The programme gave NFOs in 11 countries the opportunity to contract local experts to strengthen the evidence-base of their advocacy proposals. By means of a participative process, each NFO analysed the key advocacy issues for which research support was most needed. This resulted in a diversity of themes and advocacy processes. These ranged from research and advocacy on the role of cooperatives in Uruguayan innovation policies to a simulation game on market dynamics in a commodity exchange in the Philippines, and from the review of various seed multiplication programmes in Malawi to the legal and administrative hurdles preventing smallholders from selling to government procurement programmes in Peru and Bolivia. We describe the dynamics surrounding research partnerships in each of the 11 countries and reflect on results of this research-for-advocacy. We also assess the impact of the ESFIM programme on the advocacy capacity of the NFOs. We used a self-evaluation technique, in which board members considered a list of statements covering five capacities that are deemed necessary for effective advocacy. We compared their scores with the observations of external stakeholders who were active in the agricultural sector and knowledgeable about the NFOs’ activities. We conclude that ESFIM has helped to increase coherence in advocacy priorities and has influenced decision making on key policy issues, with encouraging results. In most organisations, ESFIM contributed to the advocacy process, together with many other actors and factors defining advocacy. Based on these experiences, we suggest earmarking funds for NFO-led research support, in order to facilitate the participation of smallholders in the design and monitoring of development policies.


Participative research Evidence-based policy Knowledge systems Food policy Farmer organisations Organisational capacity Impact evaluation 



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of Jack Wilkinson, Fabienne Derrien and Christian Hoste, who co-designed the ESFIM programme in 2007–2008, and IFAD, CTA, AGRITERRA and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation for providing funding to put it into practice. The AGRINATURA members CIRAD, NRI and Wageningen UR were the three institutes that worked together on the ESFIM programme. Bader Mahaman Dioula, Christian Gouët, Gabriela Quiroga and Betty del Rosario coordinated contacts between researchers and farmer organisations during the inception of the programme. Most important was the support and inputs of all the board members and staff involved in the national farmers organisations, who are too many to mention here.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giel Ton
    • 1
    Email author
  • Karin de Grip
    • 1
  • Frédéric Lançon
    • 2
  • Gideon E. Onumah
    • 3
  • Felicity J. Proctor
    • 4
  1. 1.LEI Wageningen University and Research CentreWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD)MontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Natural Resources Institute (NRI) – University of GreenwichChathamUK
  4. 4.Felicity Proctor Consulting LtdLondonUK

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