|Bringing Producers to the Market: The Market Access Program in Africa|
|01 November 2012|
In November 2009, the regional office of the WFTO received support from German organization Misereor to help African producers increase their access to international markets. Under a pilot program, 24 producers from East Africa were selected to join the Market Access Program (MAP) that will be executed by Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA, now WFTO Africa). A full-time staff was designated to oversee the implementation of the project.
The main goal of MAP is to generate more incomes for producer organizations. To do this, the project helps each participant organization to improve their product design and quality to meet the standard and expectation of the national, regional and international markets.
The choice of area for the pilot was East Africa. A total of 24 groups were selected from COFTA’s membership, specifically from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda. Due to limited resources, the participants had to be based around the cities with easy access to the airport.
These organizations have undergone value chain analyses, several training or coaching, and group meetings. The highlight of the project is group’s attendance at local, regional and international trade shows.
The first trade show that was attended was at ETFAM Fair in the Netherlands in September 2010. The learning experience was immense. Sales were little and orders were near to nothing. The MAP team decided that the next international trade show should be more professional. Ambiente was the next target. Four East African representatives brought products from eight Fair Trade organizations to Frankfurt in February 2011.
A trip to Misereor, one of the main donors, was realized. It was a good meeting. The participating producers were able to share their experience to the donor. Another important trip was to GEPA where the four representatives got their first impression about the scope of the project.
The next international event identified was the Messe Stuttgart. An annual event that attracts ethical and Fair Trade producers to the South of Germany. In April 2012, a total of 17 MAP representative went to Germany as one team. The preparations were better than the previous. A spirit of ownership was felt throughout the preparation and journey. The journey was also very special due to the low budget that was available for 17 people for their transport, accommodation and booths at the trade show. It was a real test, which is good for teambuilding. This event was much more successful. Sales were plenty, contacts made was relative good, and lessons learned were immense. The individual participant stayed in a German family for one night in the small town of Bad Oeynhausen. El Puente and GEPA were visited as potential buyers. Misereor staff members were met and a small market place in the lobby of their building allowed extra sales.
The success in Stuttgart encouraged MAP participants to try another trade fair in September 2012 in Dortmund, the FA!R2012. The success facilitated the decision to open up the project to additional members of WFTO Africa. The Dortmund fair was an opportunity to promote African Fair Trade with 32 participants from 23 member organizations from 12 African countries. The journey was planned similar to the Stuttgart trip, but this time it was sponsored by the German government. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) was the organizer of the project.
The participation in the Dortmund fair was a success through and through. Lessons from the past attendance at trade shows were learned and passed on to other organizations. The network is growing and activities such as representation at an international trade event will be possible if attended as a team. The evaluation report of the Stuttgart and Dortmund trips are available at WFTO-Africa.
Through the kind support of Misereor that agreed to a second project, “Small Scale Fair Trade Producer Promotion Project for the East African Region (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda).” GEPA, El Puente, Brot für die Welt, BTC and private donations also contributed immensely to the implementation of the Pilot Project. Each event was subsidized by the members. The contributions depended on the overall cost and the resources available. This is a very good method of ensuring sustainability and commitment.
How was the project implemented?
The implementation of the Small Scale Fair Trade Producer Promotion Project for the East Africa Region is aligned with the implementation of the “Accompanying costs for the advisory of the WFTO - Africa marketing programme” project, which is a participatory approach that allows the Fair Trade producer groups that are part of the MAP project to influence the project throughout its lifecycle. The producer groups were encouraged to actively modify strategies to suit their needs and requirements. Allowing a fluid environment is the essence of the project as the dynamics of the groups represented from four countries can change at any given time. A rigid methodology can only be applied, if all groups were at the same business level and bring the same experience into the pool. The planning was done at management level at WFTO - Africa, according to the relevant objectives to achieve and the activities stated in the proposal. The monitoring and evaluation has been a weak aspect of the project, as monitoring was planned and to be done by the participants. Therefore, WFTO - Africa evaluated events and tried to establish the impact of the project through discussions and questionnaire.
Businesses undergo changes, and this has also been the case with all MAP participants. Fair Trade ventures are also adjusting to market situation, to seasons and are trying to establish what is good for their business and what isn’t. All participants agreed that the network benefitted them and, therefore, participation has been a bonus to their businesses. Visits from potential buyers to members are one method learning from each other and building relationships.
A very strong platform has been created through this project. It is now up to the producers to keep the network alive. Regular exchange visits will still rely on future funding, as travelling in the region and within Africa is expensive. The participating groups are members of Fair Trade, this common interest will bring them together on a regular basis. There has been great gain through the idea of sharing and contributing. The idea has proven successful, and it is upon the groups to continue in the same spirit.
Country networks and their members have been strengthened, and the representatives are interacting cross-border, which never happened before. The responsibility of the project has been handed over to the participants from day one of the implementation. The activities were for the groups, and therefore, an immediate ownership was crucial for the sustainability of the project approach. The facilitation was done by WFTO - Africa and will remain with the membership secretariat. The participating groups have taken on more active roles in organizing and arranging events. They are promoting Fair Trade at all levels.
The producer groups have all benefitted in different ways from the project. The strongest point is that they all know where to find assistance, whom to ask for support and what to do when things go wrong. They can rely on each other and help grow other Fair Trade producers to reach a similar level. They will be more active in promoting Fair Trade and in growing the network on country and regional level.
The project has been a unique opportunity for many of the participating Fair Trade producers and has allowed them to gain knowledge, which will help their businesses to grow or at least to sustain them. The positive attitude among the participants enabled them to work hard and this will remain to benefit their businesses in the future.
The project is now well established and running. There are several FT organizations that are very active and that lead the way for the rest of the group, organizing and arranging meetings and events. The Market Access Programme is running according to the planned activities. Trainings that should have been conducted by local trainers are being provided by the MAP Manager. Trade Shows are attended as one group, with COFTA encouraging all members and promoting FT at all levels.
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