Sunday, October 3, 2010

Focus Group session on Value Chains

Some participants in the Learning Alliance Workshop
held in Addis 15-17 February 2010

Two weeks before "AgKnowledge Africa", the Share Fair on Agricultural and Rural Development Knowledge in Africa in Addis Ababa, several sessions are starting to take shape.

In the next posts, we will introduce a number of sessions and focus groups. While the content is still being fine-tuned, we are all excited how it starts to take shape.

The first topic is a focus group on "Value Chains". Focus groups are self-organized spaces where participants get together to explore experiences in specific issues and topics. The "Value Chains" focus group is organised by Tarekegn Garomsa ("Facilitators for Change") and Eva Smulders (representing Agri-ProFocus in Ethiopia, and General Manager/lead advisor of F&S Business Development Service Plc in Addis).

Aims of the session are to share sharing the experience of the Ethiopia Learning Alliance on Farmer Chain Empowerment, a knowledge sharing technique developed by CIAT Rural Agro-Enterprise Project.

The learning Alliance consisted of 18 farmer organisations and service providers aimed to upgrade their business and market position in the value chain and to train service providers in supporting and facilitating processes of chain empowerment.

The Alliance was organised by Agri-ProFocus members SNV, ICCO, KIT, Cordaid, Agriterra and partners, IIRR and FFARM with a learning-by-doing process in value chain development.

Currently they are documenting their experience at different levels:
  • Farmer organization engaging in value chains.
  • NGO/Service Providers facilitating chain development
  • Dutch and Ethiopian development partners coordinating/coaching this network
In the session, they will make three short presentations:
  • Introduction on the Ethiopia Learning Alliances - the farmer perspective.
  • The new role of NGO's in chain facilitation.
  • The network approach of Agri-ProFocus
A farmer participant in the Learning Alliance will join the session, sharing his experiences.

After the presentations there will be ample time for discussion and feedback.

Some interesting background:
The Ethiopia Learning Alliance consisted of workshops, assignments and coaching visits by the coordination team. All 18 clusters successfully completed the assignments on Basic value chain analysis, Self-analysis for trade partnership, Financial analysis and coaching, and Cluster action planning. The final stage of the Learning Alliance is a business planning contest and documentation of lessons learned. The Learning Alliance has the support of 5 members of Agri-ProFocus: SNV, ICCO, KIT, Agriterra, Cordaid and from FFARM and IIRR in Ethiopia.

The learning process is organised between farmer organisations and service providers along existing working relations. Each of these clusters identified a product for learning purposes. The approach follows the 4 phases of value chain development: mapping and assessment of the value chain, building of engagements between the chain actors, upgrading of the chain, and monitoring and evaluation. The learning process is based on practice by integrating training -and working activities in a continuous loop of learning, applying, and reflecting. Coaching on assignments and the financial situation in between the workshops proves to be a powerful intervention to link up between learning in workshops and action.

During coaching changes in entrepreneurial attitude were observed: the confidence level of the farmer organisations is increasing and they continuously look for new opportunities. Business planning is improving, in particular where existing partnerships are already established. The jury who presides over the business contest is still to evaluate the quality of the business plans.

Learning-by-doing also applies to the organisers. Lessons learned are documented in a bulletin (End 2010). Follow-up and up-scaling of this approach to the many other farmer organisations is being discussed in the APF country focus process.

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