Smallholder farmers often struggle to achieve a sustainable livelihood. They face high costs and low prices, and it can be difficult to access the inputs and services that would improve their business.
Through a farmer group, smallholders can access inputs and services at a lower cost. Training in good agricultural practices, and access to inputs like seedlings, fertilizers and pesticides, can all lead to better productivity.
Farmer groups are recognized as a respected partner in the value chain, which makes it easier to negotiate for higher prices.
Strong farmer groups offer a better future for smallholder farmers, and a more sustainable future for the sector.
Better management, efficiency and transparency
Professionally run farmer groups offer the greatest benefits to their members.
The UTZ Code of Conduct supports farmer groups through an ‘Internal Management System’ (IMS). The IMS of a farmer group must:
- Carry out risk assessments
- Develop a management plan for continuous improvement of the operations of the group and their farmers
- Plan and conduct training for their farmers
- Carry out farm visits (internal inspections) to their farmers once a year
- Identify any risk of child labor and take action as appropriate;
- Offer transparent management of payments for the produce of their members and sustainability premiums.
The IMS helps groups to meet the needs of their members. For example, they can see which farmers have the highest yields, explore the reasons why, and ensure all farmers have the training or other support they need to increase productivity.
Women and young people
In the UTZ program, farmer groups must take action to include women and young people, both as members and as leaders of the group. This benefits groups, as they can draw on the experience and expertise of the whole community.
Better equipped to deal with challenges
Many of the issues faced by farmers, such as climate change or child labor, have causes beyond the farm gate, and they must be addressed in a systemic way. Strong farmer groups are better equipped to support their members in the face of these challenges.
Strong farmer groups give their members a voice
Strong farmer groups can ensure they are respected partners in the supply chain, so they can negotiate with traders for a better price for their crops. They can also lobby their government for better services and infrastructure such as roads or schools.