Market is a key factor after production of farm produce. For smallholder farmers (SHFs), produce tends to be targeted to open markets and they produce to meet the market requirements. More often than not, prices are determined by the market forces, which are not favourable to an average SHF in Africa. Many of them think of a better market where they can get better prices for their efforts, however, it is difficult to access such markets, largely due to the lack of knowledge.

Working with SHFs in Nigeria has made me realise that accessing a better market only comes with embracing good agricultural practises and having the appropriate knowledge. These good agricultural practises have been developed into various certifications such as Organic (EU, NOP), GlobalG.A.P, Rainforest Alliance/UTZ, Halal, Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) amongst others. Achieving any of these certifications is not rocket science.

Certified products are becoming a marketing tool for export. More often than not, prices are determined by the market forces, which are not favourable to an average SHF in Africa
In recent times, there have been an increasing number of off takers who are interested in certified produce in Nigeria ranging from vegetables and spices to tree crops of various varieties. These certified products are marketed at a higher price with more quantity sold (increased volume) than the local price.

Interestingly, certified products are becoming a marketing tool for export, which makes African products meet specific market requirements in the international market. This is a great start and we need to build on it, extending to processed products (rather than only raw materials).

Moreover, there are still some challenges arising from this move, such as the cost of certification, cost of infrastructure to meet certification requirements, technical capacity (this is a key strength for us at FutuX), and local laws amongst others. Irrespective of these, there is a market opportunity for us and we need to seize it. Aggregating SHFs to achieve this is a key success factor that we need to explore.

In conclusion, market expansion through certifications will help to create more opportunities for SHFs. It will help with job creation, social amenities, increased productivity, improved livelihood, and more sustainable production. This is a journey, let's plan to begin our own now.



In his weekly column Letter to my Farmers, Babatunde Olarewaju writes about personal experiences and insights on farming, curated through working with smallholder farmers in Africa. Last week's letter is available here.