Making Rural Markets in Drylands Work for the Poor

Making Rural Markets in Drylands Work for the Poor
Photo: UNDP

Markets are important for agricultural growth and sustainable development. Limited market access for various commodities produced by pastoralists and agro-pastoralists is a major constraint to sustainable livelihoods in many dryland countries. The infrastructural conditions in many of these areas limit access to markets even when high value goods and services can be produced. Private sector investments in these areas are minimal because they are perceived to have low returns on investments.

Past efforts at stimulating markets have often not worked because of a failure to deal in an integrated fashion with all of the elements that must come together: government investment in infrastructure; incentives for the private sector; capacity strengthening for the dryland commodity producers and the users of markets. UNDP-DDC is engaged in the issues of marketing in both Africa and Arab States regions, building on UNDP's strengths in encouraging partnerships between the local private sector and local government, and in strengthening the capacities of market users' associations and farmers groups.

Market Access Projects at a Glance

In the Africa region, Improving Market Access for Drylands Commodities Project, known in its short name as the Market Access Project (MAP) has been in implementation in four cross-border sites in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda since 2004 with financial support of the European Union and co-financing from UNDP. MAP emphasizes the role of the markets, improving the competitiveness of small-scale enterprises, pastoralist and agro-pastoralist products, as well as promoting partnership and linkages with private sector. This is in  the firm conviction that improved access to markets for dryland commodities will improve livelihood and contribute to reducing poverty in arid and semi-arid lands.

Phase I of MAP that run from 2004 -2008. The project built capacities of local communities in the production and marketing of drylands products including livestock and livestock products, honey, drylands crops (e.g. aloe), ecotourism and handicrafts. Inter alia, the project carried out the training on the product value addition and business management, introduced the appropriate technology/equipment, and developed and piloted the pro-poor financial mechanism. It also strengthened the market information linkages through the market research and exposure visits and addressed policy issues that hinder market access. The MAP Phase II was launched in 2009 with continued focus in existing target sites in Kajiado and Turkana in Kenya and Monduli and Longido (formally part of Monduli) in Tanzania as well as the extended support to Iramba and Manyoni in Tanzania.

Furthermore, the best practices from the MAP Phase I in East Africa are being replicated in Gao and Timbuktu in Mali as well as West Mamprusi, Lawra, Bawku West, Savelugu/Nanton, Garu-Tempane and Talensi-Nabdam in Ghana. In these target sites, the baseline surveys are underway to map out the socio-economic and environmental conditions and identify gaps - policy, institutional capacity, etc. - that hinder the competitiveness of dryland commodities in the market. The baseline report will inform the development of selected product value chains. More...

In the Arab States region, Enhancing Market Access for Small Producers Project is implemented in Morocco and Lebanon with financial support of the Government of Finland to identify approaches to better link small-scale producers to modern markets and to help actors from along the supply chain work together to realize common interests and secure domestic, regional and international markets inclusive of small-scale producers. It seeks to engage all stakeholders including governments, private sector, small producers and development partners in order to address land degradation and poverty reduction concerns in the drylands as well as enhance community adaptation to climate change in these fragile ecosystems. More...

In Morocco, the UNDP support has been channeled since 2007 within the framework of "Programme Oasis Sud" with the objective of promoting ecotourism in the oases of Southern Morocco in support of livelihood diversification and the sustainable management of natural resources. The main outputs of the initiative to date include: 1) the elaboration of a strategy and an action plan to promote sustainable tourism in the oases of southern Morocco; 2) the establishment of working groups at the regional and national levels to support this initiative; 3) the development of a “Bed & Breakfast” product (20 facilities are now operational in 6 communities); 4) the launch of 10 sightseeing itineraries in 3 oases; 5) Training of local stakeholders on the design and management of touristic activities; 6) Preparation for the establishment of a tourist information center in Tata; 7) Production of promotion material; and 8) Elaboration of two landscape rehabilitation plans and the start-up of their implementation.


In Lebanon, the support is channeled through the project entitled "Rural Dryland Development through Innovative Market Approaches, Financing Strategies and Local Initiatives for UNCCD Implementation". The objective of the project is to support the mobilization and linkages of small-scale dryland producers (especially women) with national and international markets. It focuses in particular on 1) Building the capacity of small/women cooperatives to better respond to market demand (quality standard, value-adding, packaging); 2) Establishing links with markets at the national, regional and international levels; and 3) Promoting ecotourism in selected dryland communities. Through the project, a "Drylands" logo was also developed and registered by for the Ministry of Agriculture as a trademark to support the marketing of dryland products. Efforts are underway to explore the certification of drylands products.