Event report / ILRI / Livestock / Markets / PIM / Research / Value Chains

CTA ‘Making the Connection Conference’: Lessons for livestock value chains in developing countries

Livestock market in Mali

The Niamana Livestock Market in Bamako, the largest in Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

This post is written by Jo Cadilhon, an agro-economist in ILRI’s Changing Demand and Market Institutions team.

It’s been three weeks now since I attended the conference on Making the connection: Value chains for transforming smallholder agriculture organized by CTA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I’ve now had some time to ponder the main lessons I have learned from this event.

As a knowledge sharing event, I thought the conference was a success because it gathered up to 500 participants representing all the stakeholders involved in value chain development for all types of agri-food products in developing countries: farmers, traders, processors, civil society, non-governmental organizations, government, research and development organizations. I found it was very useful for networking and identifying partners for my future work on livestock value chain development. The conference website provides a good summary of the discussions during the plenary and parallel sessions.

So what are the main lessons from this conference for future research on livestock value chains and implications for our work at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with our development partners? I’d like to propose three.

More work is needed in documenting the modernization of livestock marketing chains.
Livestock stakeholders were only a minority of the participants at the conference. I see this as an indicator that most of the work in value chain development in developing countries has been happening up to now on horticultural crops and on high-value exportable crops like coffee, tea, cocoa and virgin coconut oil, among others. However, the parallel session organized by ILRI on smallholder participation in livestock value chains showed the industry’s enthusiasm for the development and modernization potential of these chains. Therefore, I plan to spend part of my work time on documenting the rise of supermarkets and modern agro-processing chains and its impact on small livestock producers and traditional traders of livestock products. This will help the livestock sector share its own development success stories and benchmark its best practices with that of other agri-food chains.

Start developing robust quantitative methods for livestock value chain analyses.
Overall, the conference demonstrated very few quantitative methods for value chains analysis in developing-country settings. As the compendium of case studies and lessons learned from value-chain-development experiences grows, there is probably enough material to derive hypotheses that can be tested through various methods of quantitative analysis. As part of the Changing Demand and Market Institutions Team at ILRI, I hope to contribute to developing such quantitative tools that are robust to model livestock product value chains and analyze their impact on the livelihoods of chain stakeholders.

Partnerships and information sharing are the keys to achieving sustainable livestock value chains.
Throughout the conference all the chain stakeholders, including the representatives of smallholder farmers, agreed on the importance of facilitating forums, associations, platforms or organizations that will allow all the stakeholders involved in a value chain to discuss common problems so as to identify and implement appropriate solutions together: so called ‘innovation systems’. Thus, collaboration with buyers and sellers was clearly seen as the solution to integrating smallholder farmers and small and medium enterprises into increasingly modernizing and globalizing agri-food chains. So as to contribute to this effort, I hope to develop tools that will allow projects and the innovation systems they support to monitor and evaluate the impact of the platform structure and its functioning on the outcomes expected in terms of capacity building, changes in production and marketing practices, quality improvement in the value chain and sharing of the value added by the different chain partners.

Watch this space for future news on these planned activities and their impact on achieving better lives through livestock.

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