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out of the market, partly due to prejudices
built up during the apartheid era. However, a
dearth of information on the beef quality of the
indigenous breeds managed by smallholders---
and the lack of experience of this group of
farmers in marketing their cattle---were the
greater barriers in post-apartheid South Africa.
ACIAR's research, in conjunction with
Australia's Beef Cooperative Research Centre
and South Africa's Agricultural Research Council,
shattered the notion that indigenous cattle
provided inferior-quality beef. Controlled
feeding experiments under feedlot conditions
revealed that indigenous varieties and
commercial varieties of cattle produced beef of
equal commercial quality.
The remaining challenge has been
applying these findings to change perceptions
among commercial feedlotters, beef buyers
and consumers, all of who are realising that
indigenous beef is as good as beef from
commercial breeds. A key aspect of this work
looks at customising supply chains to improve
the commercial viability of the smallholder
sector. This involves another change in thinking,
with smallholders becoming agribusiness
THE BUSINESS OF FARMING
Agribusiness is a term often associated with
larger commercial entities that own the supply
chain, from farm gate to supermarket. In order
to gain entry to those chains, smallholders
need to understand what those businesses
want from suppliers. So it is no coincidence
that a business approach is an important part
of smallholders ensuring their farm gates are
among those visited by agribusinesses.
Ida Rosida, from West Java in Indonesia, is
among those who has made the transition
from smallholder to business, selling potato
chips. She was aided by involvement in an
ACIAR--International Potato Center project that
focused on market chains, using participatory
approaches to sell innovations.
Ida has created a niche, demonstrating
that smallholders can transition to agricultural
business operators in their own right. These
transitions are likely to help expand and
develop a new Silk Road in the near future.
TRADE-OFFS TO TRADE UP
The Southern Silk Road is used to describe
the growing pattern of trade to and from Asia.
Unlike the old Silk Road that linked Europe to
China, the Southern Silk Road links China with
Africa and South America.
South--South economic growth is gaining
momentum, redrawing the trade routes of
old. A new report, The Southern Silk Road:
Turbocharging 'South-South' economic growth,
by the HSBC Group, describes how the patterns
that fuelled the growth in developed-world
trade in the 1950s and 1960s are now within
reach of developing nations.
The report cites the key trend away from
developing, or 'South', countries relying solely
on exports to the developed countries. Instead
it states that: "the western nations, however, are
simply not growing fast enough to enable this
model to be sustained. If the emerging nations
are going to experience living standards
approaching those now taken for granted in
the developed world, they will increasingly
have to trade with each other."
The realities of global trade in the 21st
century create both opportunities and
disadvantages for smallholder farmers.
Integration into globalised trade may seem
distant, but it begins with smallholder farmers
having the skills to enter local trade networks.
These inevitably have their own set of rules,
as do regional networks within countries.
Quality characteristics are an example of rules,
set by participants in value chains; fail to meet
these criteria and entry to the chain is denied.
Where once these were set and enforced by
middlemen with little explanation of why prices
varied, it is increasingly a mix of larger players
and governments that are defining how trade
operates. The World Trade Organization (WTO)
too has its own set of rules and regulations
for inter-country trade. WTO accession sees
governments bound to those regulations.
Understanding these rules, operating within
them and, where needed, changing those rules
that unfairly exclude otherwise eligible players,
is important for smallholders and businesses
alike. A rules-based trade order is important to
Australia's interests, particularly in agriculture,
where Australian exports feed an estimated 40
million people beyond our borders. Trade is in
the interests of these people and in offering
smallholders avenues to sell their surpluses.
It is also in the interests of all those countries
engaging in trade. As China and other
countries on the Silk Road established order
through a string of guardhouses, today many
governments are looking to trade rules to
create similar security in trade.
A suite of ACIAR projects has examined the
relationships between trade, WTO accession
and policy settings to ensure smallholder
farmers are not left behind.
This research works in part to help mirror
trade rules at the smallholder level, by linking
farmers to markets, helping achieve quality
standards and influencing policymakers to create
a supportive environment. Doing so creates the
means to link these smallholder traders into the
prosperity of larger trading networks, whether at
the village, regional or global level.
A new Southern Silk Road is likely to emerge,
with or without smallholders. The linkages of
trade are multifaceted and can result in market
opportunities at the micro level, and encourage
the flow through to global trade as stronger
Felista, Ida and the indigenous cattle farmers
of South Africa are just a few of the emerging
traders who stand to benefit from the creation of
new trade routes, including a new Silk Road. n
Felista Mateo, from Kilima Tembo village, Tanzania, is participating in ACIAR's maize and legume (SIMLESA) project.
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