Low productivity is a key explanation for the poor performance of African agriculture. A review of performance of agriculture over the last 50 years shows that Africa has clearly lagged far behind other regions of the world. For instance, whereas the other regions were able to increase yields by more than 150%, Africa only managed 72% from the 1960s. In per capita terms, food production in China has risen by a factor of nearly 3.5, whereas it has fallen in Africa and only recently recovered to match that of the 1961 levels (Godfray et al. 2010).
Part of the reasons for low African yields is lack of coordination and inability of smallholder farmers to extract the maximum from the markets (IFAD, 2010). In spite of this recognized need, progress in improving Africa's smallholder farmers has been elusive over the last decade.
Since 2010, Farm Concern International (FCI) has been implementing a 5-year Domestic Markets Regional Programme working towards improving smallholder farmers by organizing them into groups (Commercial Villages), training them, and ensuring their inclusion in Commercial Village activities.
By its fourth year, the programme had successfully clustered 115,491 smallholder farmers into 496 Commercial Villages (CVs) and extensively engaged 549 Commercial Village Facilitators (CVFs/CoTeFs) 1 in farmer training at the village level. Additionally, 254 CV leadership and functional committees went through capacity building geared towards enhancing governance and participation at both CV and Commercial Producer Group (CPG) level.
The programme further dedicated the fourth year of its 5 year period to strengthening the already established CVs leading to enhanced cross cutting performance as well as women and youth involvement in farming and other interventions at CV level. Notably, the programme had ensured 49% and 35.6% women and youth participation respectively in all CV activities.
Representatively, women participation in the four countries were as follows; 55% Kenya, 53% Tanzania, 40% Rwanda and 48% Malawi. Youth participation representation was 27% Kenya, 30% Tanzania, 35.4% Rwanda and 49.97% Malawi. Youth participation level implies that more young people are turning to agriculture as a socio economic activity. The initiative presents opportunities for strengthening smallholder farming and increasing productivity of Africa.
FCI VISION : To have commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond