Access to markets for small actors in the roots and tubers sector: tailored financial services and climate risk management tools to link small farmers to markets.
The present study aims to provide a summary of the most important lessons learned on how to facilitate access to financial services and climate risk management tools, for small actors in the cassava and potato value chains in Africa. The findings of the study are the result of a series of analyses, diagnostics and evaluations conducted between 2017 and 2018 under the project "Strengthening linkages between small actors and buyers in the roots and tubers sector in Africa". This project - more commonly known as the African Roots and Tubers (ART) Project - is funded by the European Union through the African Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and was implemented by FAO between 2015 and 2019. The objective of the project was to improve the livelihoods of small value chain actors (mainly producers and processors) engaged in the roots and tubers (R&T) value chains in selected African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda and Uganda. This objective was meant to be achieved through increased commercialization of the potato, cassava and yam value chains, by establishing and strengthening linkages with domestic and regional buyers. The project was designed with a multi-disciplinary approach, to work simultaneously on different technical areas which affected the performance of the actors in these value chains. Two of the main areas of project support related to the facilitation of access to information services, finance and climatic risk management instruments, for small producers and processors in the cassava and potato value chains. The R&T industry in sub-Saharan Africa has been growing steadily in recent years, in terms of overall production and trade. Nevertheless, to date a series of challenges has prevented the majority of actors in these value chains from taking advantage of such growth. One of these challenges relates to the scarce provision of, and access to, investment and working capital for producers and processors. Strictly related to this challenge is the exposure of R&T crops to climate variability on both an inter-annual and intra-seasonal scale, which may reduce productivity and production. In order to properly assess these challenges, the ART project conducted a series of assessments and analyses which focused on: (i) the demand and supply of financial services within specific R&T value chains, in order to identify relevant gaps, constraints and opportunities; and (ii) climate impacts on R&T, to identify to what extent climate variables cause inter-annual production variability. Building on the findings of these studies, the project has been providing technical assistance to producers and processors on one side, and different services providers, including financial institutions - to reduce the existing information gaps, improve the value of the financial services and risk management tools provided, and increase the access to such services. This technical study presents the main lessons learned from the assessment and analyses, building on specific examples and cases related to both the cassava and potato industries, and provides recommendations for policy-makers.