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A participatory and Area-Based Approach to Agricultural Development


This guide from CIAT is the first of a four-part series on good practices for value chain development. It emphasizes a participatory approach to build the marketing capibilities of small farmers. 

This strategy paper provides an overview of CIAT’s approach to rural agroenterprise development. The participatory and area based or “territorial” approach is made up from a number of methods and tools that have been developed by the Rural Agroenterprise Development Project team and its partners through project work in Latin America, Africa and Asia over the past 10 years.

The aim of this set of methods and tools is to meet the entrepreneurial development needs of service providers, i.e., those institutions and agencies that support the development of rural communities. The methods can be used for capturing and systematizing market information leading to the development of new agroenterprises and effective local business development services.

The goal of this work is to enable service providers to empower rural communities to engage more effectively in the marketplace so as to increase their income, their capacity to innovate and ultimately improve their livelihood options. To date, the titles in the CIAT agroenterprise “good practice guide” series include:

  • Strategy Paper: A Participatory and Area-based Approach to Rural Agroenterprise Development.
  • A Guide to Developing Partnerships, Area-based Resource Assessment and Planning Together. Preface
  • A Guide to Identifying Market Opportunities for Smallholder Producers.
  • Strategies to Improve the Competitiveness of Market Chains for Smallholder Producers.
  • Evaluating and Strengthening Rural Business Development Services.
  • A Market Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Agroenterprise Development.
  • Collective Marketing for Smallholder Producers.
  • A Guide to Rapid Market Appraisals to Support Smallholder Agroenterprise Development.
  • A Guide to Policy Analysis for Smallholder Agroenterprise Development and Advocacy.

Service providers should read the guides in their entirety, to absorb the ideas and concepts prior to going to the field. Our experience has shown that best results are attained when these processes are not implemented in a mechanical manner; rather that the principles are interpreted and adapted to local conditions based on the marketing environment, available resources, social dynamics and anticipated scale of implementation.

We believe that integrating marketing and business concepts into rural development processes is a vital element in a sustainable, growth-based, research and development process. We hope that the methods outlined in this guide are useful and provide service provides and local community actors with the skills that will assist them to meet the challenges of today’s dynamic and liberalized world.


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