What makes a value chain work efficiently and effectively? Do you know the difference between a “value chain” and a “supply chain”? Have you ever thought about it? Take a minute to do so.
These were few of the questions posed by the presenters in the “Value Chain Development and Inclusive Agribusiness Workshop” at the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum in Barbados. What was different in this workshop was that the presenters were not your regular, run of the mill, stand and deliver presenters. What they did was guide the discussion, ensuring that these questions were answered and were in alignment with the overall objectives of the workshop. These objectives were to: Define and map value chains, Build a Business Model, Identify what makes a business model inclusive, Develop strategies to enhance or build inclusiveness and Apply to priority (Caribbean Value Chain Alliance) value chains.
Back to the questions at hand, because the answers to them are essential and applicable to the Caribbean context. Trust. The answer to the first question is trust. High levels of trust between every actor along the chain is key to maximising its potential. Along with trust, a value chain needs collaboration between actors, shared goals, long term relationships, shared risks and quality communication management.
The difference between a value chain and a supply chain is that in the latter the actors are independent and communication is weaker, while in the former, they are interdependent and communication is stronger. To get to these answers, participants were asked to decide on a local crop of their choice and map the respective value chains. Among those chosen were sweet potato, dasheen, etc. From these maps the participants were enabled to visualise the key actors directly involved in the chain, their roles and functions and how communication flows through the chain. It was during this activity that participants realised some of the faults within their value chain.
Bringing it Home
“In Agri-businesses, farmers believe there is no good satisfaction for the farmer within the chain. The fluctuation of prices affects the farmers the most”. These were the words of Evans Gooding, a participant who works with disabled farmers and young people. On the other hand, Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) is of the opinion that “Farmers need to own more of the Value Chain”.
These comments hit home a really necessary point: Farming is a business, and farmers need to recognise that they are business women and men. Farmers cannot allow other actors in the chain to devalue them and their contributions to same. They are a critical link and need to own that and act in accordance with that fact. The ripple effect of such a new thinking would lead to farmers and farming being seen as a lucrative venture, rather than the last resort as it is seen today.
“A chain is as weak as its weakest link”. Let’s review our chains and make it work for each actor especially the farmer and smallholder.
Photo credit: Dionne Cush
Blogpost by Nakasi Fortune and Dionne Cush, Social Reporters for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.