Innogen  ·  Publications  ·  Conference papers
Learning to export: building farmers’ capabilities through partnerships in Kenya’s flower industry

Bolo, M

Innovation and Sustainable Development in Agriculture and Food Symposium (ISDA) 2010

Montpellier, France

June 28 – July 1 2010

The participation of the smallholder farmers (growing summer flowers) has been minimal and on the decline and in sharp contrast to the overall upward growth in volume, value and acreage of cut flowers in Kenya – largely from large scale growers. In order to improve the participation of smallholder farmers, the government of Kenya is promoting ‘farmer – exporter’ partnerships to enable smallholder farmers access export markets as well as access inputs and knowledge for growing and exporting cut flowers.

This paper uses data from a recent case study conducted in 2008/2009 to explore the role of ‘farmer – exporter’ partnerships in building the capabilities of smallholder farmers. It argues that for sustainability, these partnerships should focus beyond the market access problem and embrace the broader goal of building the capabilities of smallholder farmers to innovate and respond to their ever changing contexts. The study is underpinned by the innovation systems literature but also draws from value chain analysis and supply chain management concepts and uses a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods in examining the role of partnerships in building capabilities. The study finds that whereas the partnerships have achieved the market access objective, smallholder farmers are “lockedin” in performing routine production functions but “locked-out” of value addition activities that are likely to undermine exporters’ interests. The terms of contracts further entrench this “lock in – lock out” relationship.