The Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness through Learning and Entrepreneurship (2SCALE) project is an inclusive agribusiness initiative funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and implemented by a consortium comprised of the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), the BoP Innovation Center (BoP Inc), and International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA).

With experiences in nine countries over more than five years, the 2SCALE project has plenty of knowledge to share.

On November 7, 2017, the Toward Sustainable Clusters in Agribusiness through Learning and Entrepreneurship (2SCALE) project organized an event to celebrate its accomplishments, discuss future challenges, and share lessons learned. More than 150 attendees descended on Utrecht, The Netherlands, to hear stories and interact with people who have participated in 2SCALE over the years — from project leaders and coordinators to beneficiary farmers and entrepreneurs from Africa.

The main topic of the event focused on 2SCALE’s main accomplishment: incubating inclusive agribusiness. Throughout the project’s lifetime, 52 public-private partnerships (PPPs) were developed across the nine countries of operation. These reached more than 500,000 smallholder farmers and increased capacities of more than 2,000 producer organizations and 1,500 small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Marina Diboma, Deputy Managing Director at Netherlands-African Business Council, begins the 2SCALE event with by discussing 2SCALE’s success and introducing the guests.

The event began with Marina Diboma, Deputy Managing Director at Netherlands-African Business Council, who also moderated the panel discussions. She introduced Ruth Kinoti, a longtime partner with 2SCALE, who is the managing director of Shalem Investments, a sorghum aggregator based in Kenya. With 2SCALE’s partnership, she greatly increased her sources of smallholder farmers, utilized business coaches as middlemen, and began her own processing activities, thereby transforming her company and creating new products for market.

During her speech, Ruth highlighted the importance of providing stability for the smallholder farmer.

Ruth Kinoti, managing director of Shalem Investments in Kenya, discusses her experience in utilizing coaches’ skills and turning them into business partners.

“Looking to the horizon, it is clear that we are working toward providing a sustainable market for smallholder famers,” she said. “The stronger the smallholder farmer is, the stronger we are.”

After Ruth’s rousing talk, a group of Francophone partners took the stage to share their stories. Justin Tiburce Cotchou, a farmer group representative from Grand-Popo, Benin; Nina Dessouassi, a business coach for pineapple farmers in Benin; and Fatou Diarassouba, a business coach for vegetable farmers in northern C, all spoke on their interactions and experiences with smallholder farmers in agribusiness PPPs.

Ruth Kinoti speaks to crowded room of attendees.

Justin is the chairperson of the Union of Market Cooperatives of Grand-Popo, a group that comprises 19 cooperatives and 2,869 commercial farmers, 45% of which are women.

“2SCALE was a game changer for us,” Justice said, through a translator. “We improved our lifestyle and our condition. We really have profited from it.”

He also said 2SCALE’s assistance helped them get better interest rates from microcredit institutes — institutes that often charged rates as high as 24%. In addition, now many farmers sell their crops before they are even produced due to improved value chain linkages.

Nina serves as the coordinator of the technical staff in the Pineapple Juice Innovation Platform in Benin. She ensures quality products are being delivered by smallholder farmers by working with the farmers and coaching them on best practices.

Fatou is a vegetable farming coach for the non-governmental organization (NGO) CHIGATA in Côte d’Ivoire. Fatou and Nina both spoke on their coaching roles and how building relationships and connections with local farmers is vital. By building trust, they can better coach the farmers to understand how to get a better price for their goods.

Goods produced by smallholder farmers and processors benefiting from 2SCALE are displayed alongside BoP Inc.’s virtual reality experience — a virtual trip to the markets and farms that 2SCALE works with in rural east and west Africa.

“Now [through 2SCALE and local coaches], farmers have a clear idea of how much it costs them to produce and for how much they can sell their produce when it reaches the market,” Fatou said.

From right to left: Marina Diboma, Justin Tiburce Cotchou of Benin, Nina Dessouassi of Benin, and Fatou Diarassouba of Cote d’Ivoire all discuss their successes through 2SCALE with the assistance of a translator.

After the business champions and innovators shared their experiences with 2SCALE, Rutger Groot, chairperson for the East-West Seed Knowledge Center, spoke on how East-West Seeds works with 2SCALE to empower smallholder farmers and improve their efficiency, sustainability, yield, and income.

Florence Kinoti took the stage after Rutger and spoke on the experience of women farmers in Kenya. Florence is the leader of Kirimara Potato Growers Association based in Meru County, Kenya. She spoke about the need for women empowerment, both in terms of access to finance and with small-scale mechanization.

“2SCALE has helped us to get the training to learn proper practices and get good yields,” Florence said. “When we started, we were planting 34 acres. With the help of 2SCALE, I’m happy to say we’re now planting 80 acres.”

She continued, “If women could be empowered through small-scale mechanization, it could relieve the mother so she can take care of other issues, like spending more time with her family, which is vital.”

Florence Kinoti speaks on the importance of empowering women to become farmers and business leaders.

Just as women empowerment and families are vital to the success of agribusiness clusters and small-scale farm production, trust and transparency are also absolutely necessary, Addis Teshome said. Addis is the national agribusiness cluster advisor in the 2SCALE project for IFDC, as well as IFDC’s country representative in Ethiopia. He spoke on identifying and building agricultural market opportunities by creating partnerships.

“Access to information and access to finance are critical to sustaining partnerships,” he said. “We need trust and transparency in our relationship. This is the most important part.”

Addis Teshome, IFDC’s Country Representative in Ethiopia and the national agribusiness cluster advisor for 2SCALE, speaks on the importance of transparency in partnerships and how to better identify market opportunities.

Following Addis’ presentation on trust and developing agribusiness clusters, Samuel Kwame Ntim Adu spoke on how to reach base-of-the-pyramid markets and the potential that lies there. Samuel is founder and CEO of Yedent Agro Group, an organization with the goal of improving the entire cereal and legume value chain with a special focus on enhancing nutrition to fight malnutrition. He spoke on his success in working with women farmers and how they are crucial to improving nutrition and supplying the value chain. He, along with Addis, promoted the idea of 2SCALE continuing on and practicing self-sustainability.

The rest of the day involved a lunch featuring products made or processed by 2SCALE partners and breakout sessions involving smallholder farmer innovations, partnership governance, women and youth, and marketing and distribution to the base of the pyramid.

Additional information on 2SCALE can be found at Recent 2SCALE publications include thematic papers on Gender Mainstreaming in Agribusiness Partnerships and “Strengthening Business Support Services”.