Improving Market Access for Drylands Commodities in Africa

Improving Market Access for Drylands Commodities in Africa
Photo: UNDP

The drylands of Africa are largely inhabited by pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities that depend on the natural resources around them to meet a wide range of communal and individual needs. These communities have developed adaptable skills and knowledge on how to manage and live sustainably in the harsh ecological surroundings. They are characterized by a high cultural diversity, heritage values and indigenous knowledge systems on cultivation practices, livestock management, climate forecasting and various coping mechanisms.

The drylands communities in Africa produce high value goods and services. However the infrastructural conditions in many of these areas limit access to markets even when high value goods and services can be produced. Government and private sector investments in these areas are minimal due to a perception that there are low returns on investment.

In this context, the Making Markets Work for the Poor Project, known in its short name as the Market Access Project (MAP), has been implemented in four cross-border sites in Kajiado and Turkana Districts (Kenya), Monduli District (Tanzania) and Karamoja District (Uganda) in East Africa since 2004 with financial support of the European Union and co-financing from UNDP. The overall objectives of the MAP are to: 1) contribute to the reduction of poverty in the drylands; 2) ensure that dryland populations benefit from systems of good governance for natural resource management; and 3) improve management and utilization of drylands natural resources. For more information on the project sites and their product  groups, check on groups brief that gives an overview of groups  location, structure  and activities carried out  by the groups.

First Phase of the MAP (2004-2008)

The project implementation began with baseline surveys and assessments to identify existing gaps in the capacity of communities and local institutions in the production, processing and marketing of drylands products in the target sites. A comprehensive assessment was carried out in the areas of natural resources management, institutional capacity, gender, technology capacity, market linkages, micro-credit financing and micro enterprises opportunities, conflict and policy environment.

Based on the baseline information gathered and the capacity gaps identified, a total of 455 community members have participated in the training of the trainer sessions. These sessions focused on the different thematic issues associated with dryland commodity development/marketing, such as group dynamics and management, product development, marketing and information linkages, value addition including branding, packaging and labelling, business management, conflict resolution, natural resources management, establishment of micro-financial systems and development of strategies for influencing policies that impact on markets.

View MAP Training Modules

With the leadership of the trained community members, several product groups were formed or strengthened in each site with special focus on different drylands products, including livestock and livestock products, honey, drylands crops (e.g. aloe), ecotourism and handicrafts. Key results of the initiative include an increase in the economic opportunities available to communities (diversification of livelihoods from predominantly livestock rearing for cultural purposes to market oriented livestock management and diversification to other economic opportunities such as beekeeping and aloe products).

For example in Kajiado, Kenya, there has been an significant improvement in the economic status. Based on the capacity building initiatives, average sales of handicrafts group members (women’s group) increased from less than 500 to 3,000 Kenya Shilling per month. Some of the product groups started their own revolving funds that will enable them to sustain their activities. Other groups also successfully partnered with formal microfinance institutions and local commercial banks to finance larger business transactions. Increasingly, a culture of keeping savings to develop business potential and credit worthiness is also gradually taking root.

Second Phase of the MAP (2009-2012)

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 extended support to Iramba and Manyoni in Tanzania, Ghana and Mali. The key activities in MAP phase II are to:

  1. Develop market access programmes for Ghana and Mali – includes undertaking baseline and survey and assessments on institutional capacity needs, policies that impact on production and marketing of commodities, market linkages, existing technologies capacity, existing pro-poor financing systems and micro enterprises;
  2. Undertake needs assessment and build capacity of already established product and marketing groups in use of appropriate technologies for value addition in Kajiado, Iramba, Longido, Manyoni, Monduli, and Turkana Districts;
  3. Undertake assessment on market opportunities for drylands products (handicrafts, ecotourism, honey, aloe products, livestock and products) and link established producer marketing groups with the private sector and other partners in Kajiado, Iramba, Longido, Manyoni, Monduli, and Turkana Districts;
  4. Pilot and strengthen market access financing among established product groups for handicrafts, ecotourism, honey, aloe products, livestock and products and link ready to market product groups to formal financial institutions in selected districts in Kenya and Tanzania;
  5. Produce policy briefs and promotional materials for various products - handicrafts, ecotourism, honey, aloe products, livestock and products - and facilitate exchange visits within and between target sites and countries; and
  6. Organize a donor and stakeholder roundtable to present lesson learnt and best practices and end products from the implementation of MAP.

More information on 2010 MAP Roundtable