(Don´t miss the previous parts of this story; see the links at the end of this post.)

Through the project Rural Women on the Road to Prosperity, the LINK Methodology has begun to show impact in promoting more inclusive businesses. This has prompted Heifer International to adopt LINK as its official tool for such work and also stimulated interest on the part of the organization´s management in gaining more first-hand knowledge of the methodology, that is, from its authors themselves.

For this purpose, 24 Heifer staff members met on 2-3 June with two members of CIAT´s Linking Farmers to Market team, who shared experiential knowledge of LINK with them, based on real cases. The participants in this event included vice presidents, regional directors, managers, program officials, technical experts, and others from different areas of the organization, such as resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, resource development operations and foundation relations.

Some of the participants had already heard internally about the results from field application of LINK and had read the methodology guide published by CIAT. The event further enabled them to realize that LINK offers:

  • A methodology that can easily be understood and rapidly applied
  • A tool that links qualitative with quantitative variables and is quite compatible with Heifer´s monitoring and evaluation process
  • A means of defining clearly what actions are needed to improve business models and on this basis to determine whether Heifer is having an impact or not
  • A powerful support for resources mobilization

In addition, participants highlighted LINK´s distinctly participatory character, which makes it possible to put farmers and other value chain actors at center stage rather than the NGO that is facilitating the process.

With this workshop and another that was held shortly afterwards in Asia, said Jennifer Zapata, regional director for Mesoamerica, “100% of Heifer´s technical staff are now trained to use the LINK methodology, and this enables them to share the knowledge with others and in this way support the process with local partners.”

“The LINK Methodology takes something really complex and breaks it down into digestible bits so that you can see the full value chain and business model, and you can have it as a big picture or dive in on a micro level. I think it is great. As a global development organization, we should keep looking at the full value chains and not just increasing production, because that is how we are going to make our projects sustainable in the future.

In my world, foundations are interested in hearing about the problem, the action that you are going to take to lead to a solution, and then, the long-term impact. Proving that the project is sustainable and being able to show that the farmers learn that they can increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods (even after Heifer has left) is crucial.”

Jensyn Hallett

Foundation Relations Officer, Heifer International

* Photograph credits: Dee Davenport, Heifer International.

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The LINK Methodology was developed as part of the New Business Models for Sustainable Trading Relationships Project, managed by the Sustainable Food Lab in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) has supported further development of the toolkit with international NGOs in Latin America, including CRS, VECO and Heifer International.

The authors of this post:

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Erika Eliana Mosquera

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Matthias Jäger

Matthias Jäger

Senior Expert Markets and Value Chains, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Jhon Jairo Hurtado

Researcher, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Natalia Gutiérrez

Natalia Gutiérrez

Communications Analyst, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

Mark Lundy

Mark Lundy

Theme Leader of Linking Farmers to Markets, Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area

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