What We've Learned
Lessons from our Projects
TechnoServe’s projects yield a wealth of lessons that can help us – and others – improve our work. Through this interactive platform, we share succinct insights from our projects every year, in order to build on this knowledge for even greater impact in the future.
Select a technical field below to see the lessons we have learned from our work, and click the links to learn more.
Farmers need to see short-term payoffs, so it is important to balance the planting of crops that take years to bear fruit with more short-term wins, such as rejuvenating existing plants.
Providing business training to large, influential “anchor” firms that purchase large amounts of crops from smallholder farmers can help the businesses forge stronger market linkages and develop better financial management, ultimately benefiting smallholders.
When a project's strategy for reaching smallholders relies on working with agribusinesses that source their crops, it is helpful to identify a pipeline of other potential partner firms. Relying on just a handful of firms exposes the project to risk.
Many successful agribusiness innovations address bottlenecks across the value chain (e.g. from production to market) with very clear, meaningful returns to the farmer and the business. For example, when a firm invested in innovative new dryers that reduced post-harvest loss and allowed crops to be continuously harvested during the rainy season, both farmers and the business benefitted.
It takes time for small and growing businesses to become attractive investments for private equity and commercial funding. The agribusiness supported by this project in Zimbabwe took 24 to 36 months, on average, to commercialize their ideas and begin to demonstrate viable impact.
Improving farmers’ access to inputs requires a supply-and-demand approach that simultaneously:
- Develops better distribution channels
- Builds commercial demand for the products among farmers by clearly explaining their benefits.
Because processing is a high-volume, low-margin industry, firms are reluctant to make investments that increase costs or slows production. Therefore, if purchasers want to encourage certified, traceable production, they need to commit to paying premiums.
Participation in trade events can dramatically accelerate the sales growth of SMEs.
Planting new areas in recently eradicated coca-growing zones requires careful selection of beneficiaries and the provision of alternative incomes while crops are being established.
Engaging large buyers to provide low-cost credit to farmers and producer organizations in their supply chain can sustainably improve farmer productivity. Cash loans for farm maintenance, credit lines for working capital, and in-kind loans of inputs help farmers improve yields and ensure that buyers receive a stable supply of crops.
Community seed banks are more likely to succeed and continue operating when they are linked to a producer organization and have access to an irrigation system.
While farmers will eventually see that more carefully tending to their livestock results in the animals' improved health and greater profits, it is helpful for buyers in the value chain to initially provide a small incentive for clean milk, to convince farmers to adopt improved practices.
Dairy farmers are often motivated to improve productivity when they see local businesses investing in supply chain improvements, like cooling tanks; projects can therefore encourage this investment as a way of ultimately enhancing dairy farmer livelihoods.
Joining official business groups helps shop owners to improve coordination and collaboration among themselves and key market actors, while also increasing collective bargaining power with manufacturers and suppliers.
Since location/environment plays a major role in a shop's success, it is critical for the stores to conduct a location scan and simple needs assessment before selecting a product range.