Case Study: Dairy Market Mapping and Analysis in Nepal


In 2009, Practical Action Nepal used Participatory Market Mapping to design a DFID-funded project called Dairy Market Access for Smallholder Farmers (Dairy MASF). The aim was to improve the dairy markets in the districts of Chitwan, Tanahu, Dhading and Gorkha to enable at least 10,000 poor farmers to commercialize household milk production and pull themselves out of poverty. The team designed the project with the market actors using Participatory Market Mapping Workshops (PMMWs). After the project was designed, in October 2010 the team used four more PMMWs to build momentum for collaborative action.


Practical Action used Participatory Market Mapping Workshops (PMMWs) to help marginalized dairy farmers in Nepal gain access to more functional markets, increase their incomes and contribute to a more favourable business environment. Working with the system actors as a facilitator PA and the local facilitator built a shared understanding of the market and increased levels of trust and influence.

Using a visual representation of the market system – the Market Map – facilitators in the field used PMMWs to bring public and private market actors together to identify and discuss blockages and opportunities for increased coordination and collaboration. Practical Action's approach is based: systemic thinking, participation, and facilitation.

Practical Action 2009 - Three fundamental guiding principles of Participatory Market System Development

The Nepal team carried out this PSA process in three phases:

  1. preparation and analysis done by the team;
  2. facilitation of the PMMWs; and
  3. follow-up activities.

By mapping the market for dairy in four districts of Nepal – Chitwan, Gorkha, Tanaha and Dhading – Practical Action, together with farmers themselves, cooperatives, businesses and the government, identified basic health of cattle as one of the big problems in the sector. Nutritional deficiencies in cattle meant that poor farmers had not been able to produce high quality milk in large enough quantities to attract the interest of cooperatives and companies to buy their milk. This limited the growth of the industry nation-wide.


  • Team members attempting to implement PMMWs must be trained in systemic thinking, participatory methods and facilitation. They must also know the working area well and have good relationships with the local market actors. A basic level of trust between the facilitators and the market actors goes a long way to get the get the PMMWs off to a good start.
  • Making sure that marginalized or vulnerable actors are well prepared for participation in the PMMWs is important to minimize the risk of biased analysis and unsustainable/un-scalable action plans. This preparation is mainly about helping them to understand the importance of the workshops and the opportunity they present for them to voice their opinions and work with others on issues that matter to themselves; not about coaching them on what to say.
  • Be prepared for some participants to lose interest during the mapping exercise (plotting actors and relationships, etc.), even if you design the workshop to be highly interactive. This is normal. Be mindful of body language and try to re-engage actors by splitting the group into smaller mapping groups or asking them to team up with other -more engaged- actors to help them map the market.
  • Avoid trying to map in too much detail. Keep in mind that the main purpose of the participatory analysis is to build trust and collaboration around a few critical issues. As the market actors collaborate, they will add more information to the map and find new entry points.
  • The team realized that offering the market actors the opportunity to promote themselves at the workshops can be a powerful hook.
  • Pay attention to who invites and convenes the workshop. The Chitwan workshop -for example- was advertised to private sector companies by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry rather than the partner NGO, indicating a business-oriented event, as opposed to an NGO-driven one.
  • If the preliminary analysis is done properly, facilitators should enter the workshops with a good idea of the constraints that are likely to be identified by the market actors and possible solutions for at least some of them. However, facilitators must be careful about how they use this information to manage the workshops. The purpose of participatory workshops is to achieve genuine ownership of the process by the market actors themselves.
  • Market actors often need some cues to help them orient their thinking towards win–win solutions but they can disengage if the facilitator coaxes them too heavily towards a set of predetermined solutions.
  • It is important to manage expectations of market actors, the project team and partners. Trust builds over a period of time and however successful a PMMW may seem, one cannot expect fast progress towards optimal arrangements from the very beginning. Nonetheless, a focus on low–hanging fruit constraints can be a powerful catalyst. If market actors feel that something has been achieved early on, they will be more open to continuing the market system development process, and the project team and partners will be able to continue to nurture trust and develop relationships between them, leading to further transformations in the future.
  • PMMWs are an important first step in the process of local systems change but they must be followed by well-planned and adequately resourced implementation.
  • As market actors come to agreement on what to do to address constraints, the facilitator should help them put this down on paper. These joint action plans document how different market actors would each take individual but coordinated actions to achieve a common goal.
  • It is important for the facilitators to know when to take a back seat and let the market actors deliberate and come to their own arrangements. These arrangements may not be what the facilitators expect or deem optimal, but strong ownership of the solutions by the actors is almost always preferable and more sustainable. Different solutions may also emerge in different locations despite similar contexts. Specific arrangements will depend on the characteristics of local market actors and dynamics of their relationships. The role of the facilitator is to nurture interaction to build the trust of market actors.


In its mid-term evaluation, the Dairy MASF reported that 93% of responding households stated they had experienced an increase in annual income since commencement of the project. This increase was on average US$366, equivalent to a 38% increase in income. In Tanahu, where the poverty of the target populations was particularly acute, average annual income grew by more than 110%. The causes of these increases were consistently attributed by the respondents to the Dairy MASF project conceived through the PMMW process.

Practical Action facilitated market actors across the system to interact, find and test out possible collaborative solutions to make the market system more efficient and work better for smallholder farmers. As a result of strengthening relationships between market actors, a number of partnerships were formed to pilot innovations targeting the different bottlenecks across the system: cattle loans, dairy chapters in district chambers of commerce and industry, Nepal’s first low cost, high nutrient cattle feed, and a business plans for investment of large-scale processors in animal health camps.

Since 2010 efforts have also focused on facilitating media markets to communicate successful pilots to a wider audience, in order to turn isolated achievements into deep transformations across the system

Facilitating the dairy market system in Nepal: A participatory approach. Available from: