Photos taken by: Ariel Brown

Case Study: AMEA's Journey in Cameroon

For decades, market actors and capacity building organizations have supported smallholder farmers and cooperatives in several ways to improve performance and provide them training and education. However, the past years of capacity building experience have not yet led to a systematic approach. That is the objective behind AMEA’s conception to build a standardized approach, create a common language and address continuous improvement of capacity building programs. The base of AMEA‘s system is the global standard definition for professional farmer organizations that is generic and can be made applicable to any crop, region and type of organization. The standardized approach includes best-in class assessment methods, curricula and trainers aimed to build professional farmer organizations as per the global standard definition.

 

In this case study, AMEA tests out the Agribusiness Leadership Program (ALP), a capacity building program developed by International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is tested as part of the AMEA Standardized Approach. The program equips farmers with the leadership and management capabilities needed to thrive in modern agricultural supply chains.

 

Located in the vibrant coastal city of Douala, Telcar, a local cocoa trading company in Cameroon, which represents one of the largest employers in the country, is using the  ALP  to lift the levels of professionalism of the farmer organizations’ leaders.

Cameroon is the fifth largest exporter of cocoa in the world, and cocoa is the country’s

second largest export.

                                                                                                                                                      

Telcar is the main trading company for Cargill, an American producer and distributor of agricultural products with a revenue of $109.7 billion and presence in 70 countries, Telcar accounted for over 29% of cocoa exported from Cameroon in 2016. To acquire enough high-quality cocoa beans to satisfy Cargill’s global market, sourcing directly from individual smallholder farmers is simply not an option. Telcar has chosen instead to work with cooperatives, though working with cooperatives in Cameroon has come with its own set of challenges.

 

THE JOURNEY TOWARD PROFESSIONALISM AND PROFITABILITY

Even though the Cameroonian government has disengaged from cooperatives, many cooperatives there still carry some of their legacies from the time when they were state-led enterprises. While some time has passed since , many cooperative leaders still lack the business management skills they need to run their organizations in an efficient, member-centered, and profitable manner. And because they are struggling to find the minimum level of professionalism demanded by market actors, many cooperatives in Cameroon are looking for support to improve their profile as reliable supply chain partners. “There are various advantages of farmers coming together. Working together in a group, offers them the benefits to bargain for better prices for their produce, attract financing, access markets and you can expect an increase in the quantity of products they produce. Thus, giving them access to bigger markets,” said Roland Besong, the sustainability Manager at Telcar.

 

Telcar’s strategy to source through cooperatives to work, it needs to help them raise their level of their professionalism. “Cooperatives in Cameroon are still at their nascent stage,” says Besong. For this, Telcar looked at the Agribusiness Leadership Program (ALP), designed to measurably improve the capacity of farmer organizations, including cooperatives. By integrating standardized assessments with customized training and coaching delivered by best-in class training providers, the AMEA standardized approach and ALP offers farmer organizations a path towards greater professionalism as a supply chain partner.

 

To kick off the implementation of the program with Telcar, over 220 cooperatives were selected to participate. Work is already underway. To date, 145 SCOPEinsight assessments, which measure the performance of farmer organizations based on eight key dimensions of business management, have already been completed, and the ALP training curriculum has been customized  to address the performance gaps identified during assessment has been put to use. To ensure program sustainability, the program has also trained 24 local service providers on facilitation skills as well as technical details of cooperative management that will allow them to deliver engaging and informative training to leaders of participating cooperatives.

 

“Our biggest challenge was that the service providers who trained cooperative leaders weren’t of best quality, however, it is good to see that work is on the way towards the new AMEA standardized capacity building approach. With this we can finally see light at the end of the tunnel and the impact the standardized approach will have on farmers in developing countries,” said Besong.

 

The results so far have been encouraging. The program has already trained over 400 cooperative leaders, and is on track to train over 900 cooperative leaders when the project ends. Crucially, 50,000 smallholder farmers have gained access to the kinds of better services, including access to farm inputs, safe crop storage and financing, that only well-managed and credit-worthy cooperatives can provide.

 

Telcar is already seeing improvements in cooperatives it works with whose leaders have undergone training. Not only are they more organized, their improved professionalism is inspiring new confidence from farmers who used to distrust cooperatives. “Today, we see that farmers are selling more to cooperatives and less to buyers,” says Besong. Besong also notes that as these cooperatives become more profitable, they will now be able to provide better services to their member farmers.  In addition, as more cocoa farmers are bringing in their crops, these cooperatives will only become better and more reliable supply chain partners for Telcar.

 

SCALING UP: FROM LOCAL TO GLOBAL

Telcar’s success with working with cooperatives offers a good example of how farmer organizations, agribusinesses, and smallholder farmers could benefit from a structured and integrated capacity building program such as ALP. But to truly fulfill the potential of farmer organizations to improve agribusiness supply chains around the world, the global agribusiness ecosystem needs to standardize the development of farmer organizations. This means establishing a global standard to assess, train, and coach farmer organizations during their journey towards greater professionalism and integration into global supply chains.

Case Study  is written by Meei Shi, Communication Consultant. 

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