The Barefoot Education for Afrika Trust  (BEAT) Directors were instrumental in setting up, mentoring and running a regional Initiative, The Initiative for Development and Equity in African Agriculture (IDEAA). Some of the work carried out by the IDEAA programme have allowed BEAT to further develop models on farmer organisation and value chain development. Details of the programme are as follows:


The Initiative for Development and Equity in African Agriculture (IDEAA) initiative began in 1997 with an overall objective of improving productivity and income streams of smallholder farmers in six countries namely Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe. During the first three years, the IDEAA strategy was to use community experiences to improve service delivery by agricultural institutions. The program was aware that these institutions were not designed to provide services to smallholder communities and needed to be transformed by change agents working from within.

The program was redesigned in 2001 after recognition that the processes of  transforming institutions through change agents was slow and did not empower communities for self determination. During the redesign phase, Mozambique was added into the program. The phase of IDEAA (2001-2007) aimed at commercialising smallholder agriculture in Southern Africa through the promotion of high value commodities and organization of producers of the respective commodities into business oriented commodity associations for collective action. The IDEAA program ensured that these commodity associations would amplify the voices of smallholder farmers, reduce costs of marketing of inputs and outputs, provide a forum for producers to share information, coordinate activities and make collective decisions. The commodity associations provided opportunities for producers to get more involved in value addition activities, link producers to markets by addressing supply side problems such as logistical constraints and lack of market information.

Mr David Ngwenya and Mrs Ngwenya of Matebeleland South province, Bulilima-Mangwe district in Natural Region IV admire their very first mature soybean crop. They accessed inputs through a Kellogg Funded programme implemented by the Initiative for Development and Equity in African Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Council of Zimbabwe. The Ngwenya family have since been growing soybean for three years. They have moved into household and commercial value addition with products such as soya coffee, soya soup and soya fortified peanut butter.



The concept of promoting high value commodities was developed by the IDEAA program after recognition that the majority of smallholder farmers were growing subsistence crops. Some of these farmers also produced commodities without establishing markets and volumes needed. High value commodities were therefore described as those commodities that recognised high market prices (as compared to traditional commodities). The premise was that given the small land holdings of smallholders, the high value commodities would relatively yield higher incomes. During the phase under review, IDEAA has now recognised that production of these high value commodities in small volumes per household will not necessarily lead to high enough incomes to allow farmers to wholly depend on their cultivation. The program is therefore focusing on promoting on-farm processing to allow the individual farmers to benefit from their raw commodities. The premise of the IDEAA program is that service delivery institutions within the commodity chain namely, Research and Technology Development; Public Extension Services; Input and Credit Suppliers; Processors; Marketing and Policy Institutions have failed to provide appropriate services to smallholder producers of high value commodities.

The commodity chain goes beyond national boundaries and can cover regional and international territories. The IDEAA program built capacity among producers of high value commodities to enhance their ability to advocate/ demand for services from the institutions in the commodity chain and also efficiently utilize services supplied by the respective institutions (refer to Figure 1). IDEAA also facilitated the establishment of innovative linkages among institutions in the commodity chain so that they were able to provide technical backstopping services to smallholder farmers on a ‘win-win basis’ . The IDEAA model applied to smallholder farmers that are organized into a commodity association to master a critical mass for collective action and to exploit economies of scale. The model recognized that not all smallholder farmers could be commercial producers of the high value commodity. Therefore, smallholder farmers with demonstrated vision and passion for the identified high value commodity, including a business orientation in their farming systems, were the focus for transformation. The nucleus of progressive farmers constituted the Farmer Business Leadership Program. The fellowship program capacitated the fellows in both business and leadership skills, providing them with the required ammunition for driving the process of establishing or strengthening the commodity association.

Input suppliers and marketing organizations can create packages that will enhance production of the high value commodity by smallholder farmers and recover their costs after the sale of produce. Research organizations can establish linkages with extension providers to address on-farm constraints.

Identification and selection of high value commodities

During its inception, the IDEAA program commissioned studies to identify high value commodities that the program would work on in each country (or province in the case of South Africa). The criteria for selecting the high value commodities were mostly (i) Their comparative advantages [using Domestic Resource Cost (DR) Ratio, the Multiple Objective Analysis Matrix (MOP) etc].
(ii) their ability to be grown by smallholder farmers, (iii) their potential for expansion, value addition and market availability, and (iv) the potential for employment creation.

The individual country programs selected and promoted the following commodities:

Botswana                  - horticulture (tomatoes, potatoes, cabbages, garlic)
Lesotho                     - horticulture (vegetables, beans and potatoes)
KwaZulu-Natal          - spices and herbs (chillies and paprika)
Limpopo                   - horticulture (tomatoes, cabbages, spices)
Mozambique            - Oilseeds (sunflower and sesame)
Swaziland                  - Legumes (Ground nuts, beans and snow peas)
Zimbabwe                 - Soyabeans
Malawi                      - Cassava
Eastern Cape            - Red meat (beef, mutton and goats)



The Regional Commodity Associations run as IDEAA (Initiative for Development and Equity in African Agriculture) program sought to transform service delivery institutions (public, private and civic) to craft innovative ways of supporting rural communities in economic development programs. The program’s rationale was that the supply of efficient and demand-driven services would result in improved productivity of the smallholder sector in Africa leading to an increase in household incomes.

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