By Christine Chege and Kevin Omondi Onyango
Adopting a holistic approach would help achieve systemic change within a specific market system that would be more sustainable than only targeting one or a few actors.
Supporting 100 million people to attain a living income is not an easy job! One of Heifer International’s goals is to end poverty by empowering farmers to earn a living income. However, is it just about the farmers or multiple actors in the system? Adopting a holistic approach would help achieve systemic change within a specific market system that would be more sustainable than only targeting one or a few actors.
The Alliance of Bioversity International and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has been supporting Heifer International in their drive to adopt the Market System Development (MSD) approach as an intervention model within the organization, so far conducting four introductory training sessions. These trainings were conducted with key Heifer staff in Antigua, Guatemala (September 2018), Phnom Penh, Cambodia (May 2019), Nairobi, Kenya (June 2019), Arusha, Tanzania (August 2019), and with project implementers in Kampala, Uganda (February 2020).
Participants undertaking group exercises and one of the facilitators (Kevin Onyango-standing) supporting the group
Heifer’s management in Uganda, along with other technical experts responsible for design and implementation of Heifer programs and projects as well as project monitoring, learning and evaluation attended the latest training in Uganda. Diverse project teams were brought together: members from the Accelerate Dairy Production and Productivity Project (ADAP), East African Youth Inclusion Program (EAYIP), Learn for Agribusiness project (L4AB), and Jinnai Dairy Development Project (JDDP). The training took place at Esella Country Hotel in Kampala between 24-27 February, 2020. The goal of the training was to enable Heifer build a vibrant, business-focused, market-oriented and skilled team to spear head and pursue market development opportunities for smallholder farmers in Uganda.
During the four days, participants were taken through different theoretical and practical aspects of MSD. These included a comprehensive introduction to the MSD approach and the differences between MSD and traditional development models as well as the compelling concepts of facilitative intervention, sustainability and systemic change. Participants discussed the “doughnut” (Figure 1), which shows the multi-functionality and multi-player arrangement of a market system comprising of the core function of exchange of goods and services, and supporting functions and rules.
Additionally, participants learnt about the strategy for a program focused on systemic change. Other topics covered included: understanding the dynamics of the market system, the diagnosis process and system mapping; sustainability analysis framework and the will-skill framework; facilitating systemic change and the systemic change framework including the results chain and measurements; and, managing of MSD programing and implementation. Every session comprised of practical exercises where participants organized themselves into groups, collectively brainstormed, and discussed relevant aspects of their current projects, how these compared to MSD approaches and how MSD could be integrated into different components of current projects for greater impact and sustainability. The group sessions were very useful as they helped participants ground their practical skills in MSD with guidance from workshop facilitators Christine Chege and Kevin Onyango.
The workshop was positively received by the participants, who gave feedback such as, “I liked the MSD training. It was practical, precise and easy to understand,” and, “The content was enriching and informative, mostly to the implementers of the projects.
“The trainers are good and they are glowing of positivity. Very knowledgeable on the subject matter.”
“I liked the Indicators and measuring of successes because from the perspective of an implementer it helps me to stay focused towards achieving the overall goal”
At the end of the workshop, the participants convened in groups to discuss immediate steps on how they will apply the MSD approach in their ongoing projects. Each project team drafted concrete steps on how they would adopt market system concepts to enable achievement of desired impacts, in a more sustainable way. Examples of activities the ongoing projects plan to undertake in line with MSD include: mapping of the market system actors to identify important actors whom they may have left out so that they can approach them for collaboration; scaling up MSD trainings to the hubs and partner staff to build their MSD skills and support implementation; and reviewing the project results framework and developing a results chain with indicators, which will assist them to track and measure systemic change. Each participating project generated a list of activities highlighting clear timelines, person/team responsible and kind of support needed (if any) to actualize their plans.
Agri-Nutrition & Food Systems Specialist
Director of Food Environment & Consumer Behavior, Alliance Bioversity International and CIAT
Climate Strategy Specialist
Some training materials:
This short, jargon-free video explains what the market systems approach is all about: how it differs from conventional aid, and how it can be used to help create widespread and lasting improvements in incomes, access to jobs, products and services for millions of people living in poverty. The video uses a practical example to illustrate the concepts, and is designed to be used as a training tool.