This report shows how pioneer companies and organizations have sustainably increased the income and livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers around the world, by sourcing produce from them or selling products to them.

The study, prepared with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Danone Ecosystem Fund, responsAbility Investments AG and C&A Foundation, emphasizes smallholder farmers’ role as active partners rather than aid recipients.

By rigorously comparing the performance of 15 successful organizations worldwide, the study pins down some 13 deep, if not counter-intuitive insights on creating more wealth along the value chain, running cost-efficient operations and sharing value back with farmers sustainability.

Key Insights

  1. The provision of technologies, such as a micro-irrigation system or a hybrid cow, has the potential to increase productivity and to maximize the creation of value, as opposed to strategies that redistribute value that already exists 

  2. The proportion of farmers willing to change their methods is not linked to the promise of significant returns or to the level of investments required; but rather to the reversibility of their decision in case they are not satisfied with the results

  3. Organizations that work with smallholder farmers need to find ways to protect the most vulnerable ones from failure 

  4. These organizations should also focus on the entire adoption life-cycle and not just on one-shot product sales or harvest purchases, in order to create new value in the most cost-efficient way

  5. The value created along the value chain could be captured and shared through balanced arrangements and long-term relationships between farmers and organizations working with them, particularly by understanding the motivations behind farmer loyalty in order to land on strategies to increase it.