In order to increase productivity and incomes, poor farmers must be able to access production inputs such as fertilizer, irrigation water and high-yielding, locally adapted varieties of seed. They must also have access to research and extension services that enable them to use these technologies in the most efficient way to respond to evolving demand and product standards. Lastly, they need access to remunerative markets and the ability to negotiate with market intermediaries, so they can engage in markets on less unequal and more profitable terms.
This paper summarizes the findings of a study supported by IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division. The study reviewed the changing roles and responsibilities of the diverse players in the provision of rural services for sustainable agricultural growth, and offered recommendations for IFAD’s future institutional development support to countries in the region. The study included desk reviews of completed and ongoing agricultural/rural development projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Viet Nam, which were supplemented by a field visit to Cambodia and Viet Nam. The study assessed the successes and shortcomings of IFAD-supported projects in providing rural services to smallholders in these countries and recommended measures for future interventions.
An important conclusion of the study was that the building of lasting grassroots institutions would require enhanced support to strengthen the managerial, organizational and financial skills of the informal groups formed under various projects. Only in this way will it be possible to develop democratic and independent, demand-led rural producer organizations. The study calls for a continuing and important role for donor-funded projects in supporting reform of the institutions involved in development and dissemination of agricultural technologies. In this context, such projects should also support collaboration among key stakeholders, including community organizations, public institutions, non-governmental organizations, agribusiness and information and communications technology enterprises.
In the area of seed production, the study highlighted the need for a relaxation of policies on the pricing of varietal seed, to enhance supply from private sources and community-based seed production initiatives. For marketing, it recommended further support to strengthening producer groups, providing information services, and developing equitable contract arrangements and guidelines for their enforcement. The study also identified the need to support analysis of the social and sustainability dimensions of contract farming – for example the implications on land-use changes, local employment, food security, poverty reduction and the environment – which so far have not received much attention.
Although the study was based on a review of selected IFAD-supported projects in three Asian countries, we believe that its findings and recommendations will be of interest to a wider audience of policymakers, development practitioners, donors, academics and civil society in developing countries.
APR Occasional Papers