Theme 4: Strengthening small and medium farmers’ business organizations for increased benefits from AgroForestry Systems (AFS)

The objective of this theme is to promote the strengthening of farmers’ business organizations (FBO) to handle the complex issues related to development and strategic positioning in value chains for eco-agricultural and forest products. Competent FBO's are essential to facilitate access of small and medium farmers to specialty markets (organic, fair trade, gourmet, certified timber, etc.) for the agricultural and forest products they produce in AFS. Among the services that FBO's provide to their members are: relationships with buyers and processors; technical, business development and financial services; input supplies; and information on markets and training opportunities. However, the majority of FBO face difficulties of different types. Internally, they may suffer from: weak participation by members; lack of effective leadership, technical and management skills; and insufficient financial capital. Externally, they face political-legal frameworks that are cumbersome and outdated, which often impose high business transaction costs.


  • Determine the compatibility of livelihood strategies with FBO and ways to minimize potential tradeoffs between business development and livelihood security.
  • Identify the critical success factors for the development of FBO in specialty markets for agricultural and forest products from AFS, the key elements of political-legal and regulatory frameworks for successful FBO development and the successful organizational forms and business models of FBO.
  • Strengthen the capacity of FBO to identify market opportunities and negotiate with stakeholders inside the supply chain to increase value adding by FBO.
  • Development of information-sharing platforms and mechanisms for improving coordination and cooperation along value chains that lead to: reduced costs and improved quality management of FBO; identification and definition of standards compatible with AFS and farmers constraints; design of common cost analyses.
  • Identify the FBO's demand for and supply of market intelligence on specialty products produced in AFS: e.g., compare levels and types of information currently provided; frequency of up-dates; communication media and channels (Internet, service providers, business leaders). This would include: reviewing past market studies; accessing and integrating diverse information sources; creating data bases; and developing models of price trends for different sectors of each market taking into account local and national limiting factors that determine farmer income.
  • Develop and test training/ technical assistance options to strengthen FBO: e.g. compare the costs and impacts on sales, quality, profitability, etc., for coffee and cacao Cooperatives and Associations, of different approaches to strengthening FBO such as remote (electronic) vs. traditional (face to face) training or workshops and short courses vs. on-the-job training.


Cecile CATHELIN, PhD student, PES and territorial dynamics [email]
Elena FLORIAN, climate change and capacity building, CATIE [email]
Myriam KESSARI, PhD student, Fair Trade and farmers' organisations [email]
Jean-François LE COQ, rural economist, CIRAD [email] [publications]
Raffaele VIGNOLA, climate scientist, CATIE [email]