Power in Markets in GEM




For over twenty years, Oxfam has been developing approaches to address power imbalances between smallholders and other agricultural market actors. Working collectively increases the power of smallholders and so we support the organisational development of business enterprises, co-operatives and unions. We also facilitate multi-stakeholder platforms to influence local and national government, private sector companies, and other market actors, by showing both the specific and wider business and development benefits of investment in smallholder agriculture.


Programme example

Over the past decade, we’ve developed a cotton textile supply-chain project in southern India. This combines activities such as training in sustainable organic farming practices, forming an 8,000-member community enterprise, and facilitating buying relationships with an international retail company and India’s largest cotton processor. In the project’s first seven years, the producers’ net profits from cotton sales grew by 112%.


More about Power in Markets

Oxfam’s livelihoods programmes are always designed to work with the least powerful market actors, smallholder farmers, to increase their power in agricultural markets. Of these, women smallholder farmers are normally the least powerful.


Oxfam employs five strategies in its programmes to increase women and men smallholders farmers' power in agricultural markets. This is our 5-point ‘theory of change’:


  1. Facilitating enterprise development. Smallholder farmers are the least powerful actors operating in agricultural markets, and of this group, female smallholder farmers tend to be the least powerful of all. By promoting their organisation into collective units, Oxfam can greatly increase farmers’ bargaining power, potential influence over market regulation, and access to market intelligence and agronomic services.
  2. Supporting innovation in services. Poorer smallholder farmers tend to receive the least investment when it comes to the services needed to compete in markets. These may be basic, such as access to quality seed or agronomic extension services, or technology-based, such as access to information communication technologies (ICTs) that give farmers access to market-price and weather information, or financial services. Oxfam programmes support initiatives to get these services to farmers from those that should be providing them. 
  3. Developing links to commercial buyers and markets. Oxfam works with lead firms to encourage their adoption of new business models which source more from smallholder farmers, thereby opening up market access channels to smallholders.
  4. Promoting effective and transparent governance. The rules governing trading tend to favour the most powerful, whether through contracting between different actors in the value chain or at the macro-regulatory level. Oxfam’s governance work includes brokering fairer contracts between smallholder farmers and wholesalers, or supporting smallholder farmers’ voice to change policies that disadvantage the poorest traders.
  5. Promoting public and private investment in pre-commercial (not yet market-ready) infrastructure and women farmers’ assets. Smallholder farmers are often poorly served by basic infrastructure. Oxfam programmes work to get investment to those who most need it, either from public sources for infrastructure such as water and roads, or private sources for services such as access to micro-finance.


Enterprise Development Programme (EDP)

The Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) is the main vehicle by which we bring our first theory of change to life. By supporting the growth of small enterprises and linking them to producer organisations, we aim to create economic opportunities for remote rural communities and increase poor farmers’ power to enter markets. Through a collective voice, farmers are more able to negotiate terms within markets, capture decent benefits from markets and influence the rules that govern them.


The vision of Oxfam's EDP is to develop a model for supporting and investing in small and medium rural enterprises in places financial institutions do not reach.


Read more about Oxfam’s Enterprise Development Programme




Find out more about Power in Markets on Oxfam’s Policy & Practice website.


Read more about the GEM Programme


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