Purpose: The Rural Economy Strategy defines priority areas of what we will do in the programme countries over the coming years, how we will work, and how Advisory Services will support this work.Process: The strategy was elaborated in a participatory process involving our country programmes as well as internal and external experts. Drafts were presented during the Share Week 2012 and commented on Pamoja. The final version was presented in a Programme Commission in December 2012 and approved by the management board.Overview (figures for 2012): Currently, Rural Economy is the biggest working area of HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, in terms of projects and budget. The Global REC-Team of the organization involves 12 advisors based at Head Office, around 20 national and regional advisors based in the partner countries, and many more project managers and staff.
Approach: Our experience in the working area Rural Economy largely builds on Helvetas’ work in Natural Resource Management and Intercooperation’s work in Income and Food Security. Both organizations took a people-centred approach towards economic, social, ecological and institutional sustainability to achieve livelihood improvements for rural households.Project interventions: Focused on sustainable management of natural resources (including food security, adaptation to climate change, resource conservation), income generation through value chain facilitation (local market development and export-oriented organic & fair trade value chains), strengthening of financial and non-financial services (including Rural Advisory Services).REC-Advisory Service mandates: Two main services: 1) Internal support to Helvetas projects (missions, backstopping, capacity building) and 2) external mandates including knowledge sharing (e.g. on organic cotton), backstopping (e.g. for SDC Employment & Income network and Agriculture & Food Security network) and consultancies (advice, mid-term reviews, external evaluations, trainings, impact assessments). In specific topics and in countries where HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation is not active, AS-REC directly implements externally funded projects (e.g. post-harvest project for Sub-Saharan Africa under the SDC Global Program Food Security, or the Coop sustainable rice project).
Our main focus in the past has been on two aspects: the production side (red inner circle): sustainable production systems, the quantity and quality of the products (including internal control systems for certification), capacity building of producers and their organisations (business management etc.), and access to services; the functioning of the value chain (red arrow): e.g. Market linkagesbetween producers, processors, traders and buyers; facilitation of stakeholder platforms, and knowledge management. In some cases we also worked on influencing national and international policies (e.g. on organic agriculture) and on consumer awareness building.
Facilitation focus: We should inform, motivate, and link value chain actors, discuss with them, build their capacities, but without taking over core functions of the value chain. We should only start projects with a clear and viable exit strategy within a reasonable time horizon.From Innovation to up-scaling: Don’t get stuck with innovating and pilots, but develop scaling-up strategies. For mainstreaming promising innovation,strategic alliances are needed (e.g. with governments, private sector, other organisations).Policy dialogueand sector development: The broad knowledge in rural economy, based on diverse field experience, should be used in favour of influencing national and international policy dialogue and encouraging collaboration among stakeholders (e.g. sector platforms, national action plans). Social inclusiveness: We need to apply a more systematic approach to understanding, monitoring and analysing the impact of our projects on gender relations and social inclusiveness. More attention should be given to skills building in farm and non-farm work for young people.
Our intervention logic in Rural Economy projects is oriented to three objectives:1. To contribute to the transformation of production systems in a way that they become more sustainable, more resilient to climate change, enhance food security and generate more income at lower economic and ecological risk.2. To improve securedaccess to resources (particularly to land and water) and to markets (input / output), particularly for poor and disadvantaged men and women.3. To provide a more conducive environment for all market players, including farmers, service providers and SMEs, in particular with regard to economic and social aspects.
REC projects of HSI focus on two working fields:In Sustainable agriculture we promote diversified, productive and resilient agricultural systems that provide a basis for food security and income while safeguarding natural resources and mitigating climate change. In Market systems we facilitate the development of market systems and business opportunities that provide poor and disadvantaged people with access to quality services and markets. Rural services include advisory services, skills and education as well as financial services. Value chains are part of both working fields, and link them with each other We look at these working fields from two conceptual angles: The M4P-Approach and the Sustainable Livelihood Approach (explained in next slide).
The working area Rural Economy applies two main working approaches:The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework shows how, in different contexts, sustainable livelihoods are achieved on the basis of a range of livelihood resources (natural, physical, financial, human, social and political capital) which are combined in the pursuit of different livelihood strategies (e.g. agricultural diversification or migration). The people-centered approach takes a perspective of rural households that operate in a context of risks, institutions, opportunities and services. In addition, it helps better understand gender and power relations, and people’s aspirations in developing livelihood strategies.The M4P approach builds on the fact that livelihood strategies of poor people are linked with market systems. The M4P approach aims at systemic changes in markets that allow impact and scale for poor and disadvantaged people. Emphasis is placed on a thorough analysis of functions and actors, key constraints, as well as capacities and incentives leading to sustainability. The underlying M4P principles of a facilitative role, scale, sustainability and impact should guide all our rural economy interventions.
The REC strategybuilds on sevencoreelements in which the organisation has builtspecific expertise. It is not always about adressing all these issues, but finding the right combination:1. SustainablefarmingsystemsWe support communities in designing and implementing productive, sustainable and resilient farming systems. We work increasingly on land access issues by fostering land reforms through advocacy and promoting community-based management of common natural resources. 2.Food security, foodsovereignty and marketoriented agricultureWe seek to address food insecurity along all dimensions including food availability, quality, access, utilization, stability, and sovereignty. This can be achieved through increased productivity and diversification of food cropping systems, reduction of post-harvest losses, promotion of local food value chains, and the creation of alternative income opportunities including paid labour.The increasing demand for sustainably produced agricultural products (e.g. fair trade, organic, UTZ certified, Rainforest Alliance, Better Cotton Initiative, 4C) provides an opportunity for smallholders to get a better price and to participate in long-term market linkages. 3. Organized smallholdersWe accompany producers who wish to organize in business groups with facilitating the establishment of appropriate organisational and legal structures. Farmer groups or cooperatives are not a panacea, but in situations where there is potential and farmers take the initiative to cooperate, we provide the necessary support in terms of access to know-how and competent business development services (organisational development, business management, financial literacy etc.). 4. Opportunities in market systems The point of departure in our market-based projects is to develop a thorough understanding on which sectors are relevant to poor and disadvantaged women and men and to identify potentials and opportunities for them in the market. We provide support for the development of market linkages by facilitating access to know-how and services, by networking, by providing advice to clarify structures and roles of different market players, and developing management and marketing capacities. 5. Value chain facilitation and value chain governanceWe help linking larger market players (traders, processing companies, brands) and smallholder producers to reach more scale and impact. We assist stakeholders in jointly addressing obstacles in the regulatory and policy environment, and support advocacy and awareness creation activities. Value chain governance takes an important role in strengthening the position of smallholder producers in the market. 6. Rural advisory servicesImproving productivity, market linkages and income opportunities for poor people requires a set of pluralistic rural advisory services, where different service providers (public or private) offer a broad range of technical assistance services and advice to individual households and groups. We support the development and professionalization of such pluralistic rural advisory services systems working with a wide range of providers and considering different types of services.7. Access to financial servicesMany rural economy projects are concerned with the difficult access of the target groups to financial services. We need to analyze which services that are relevant for our target groups are lacking and need to be developed, and how financial literacy can be improved among our target groups.We fosters partnerships with existing rural finance and micro-insurance institutions in the project regions as well as abroad (e.g. for trade finance and equity).
The transversal themes of HSI are also applied in the working area of Rural Economy. Gender and social equity: When promoting changes in production systems and markets, the current position of women, men, youth, and disadvantaged persons should be analysed, as well as the potential impact of project activities on these different population groups (see HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation’s Gender and Social Equity Policy, 2013).Advocacy: We support farmer groups and communities in their empowerment process, strengthens the civil society and performs rights-based advocacy. At the level of policies, we strive to promote a conducive environment for sector development and equitable management of natural resources. We also advocate for more equitable rural development at the international level (e.g. rules of the game, standards), and sensitize consumers as well as trade partners on development issues.Knowledge and Learning: HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation stimulates innovation, knowledge sharing and learning. We promote the development of creative solutions and support capacity building of local actors.Capacity Development: The institution strives at constantly improving its own and its partners’ competencies in the different working areas. In rural economy, staff in the field, at head office and partner institutions are trained and advised in the main focus fields, wherever more competencies are needed.
In order to have a wider outreach and stimulate learning, we established strategic partnerships with organisations and networks that are active in Rural Economy at an international level. Strategic partnerships go beyond a funding or subcontracting relation. They involve preferential treatment for joint implementation, conceptual discussion of approaches and joint learning. In addition to the strategic partners, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation collaborates with a large range of local and regional partner organizations. Regional partners include ICSD India, AIM Madagascar and IC Latin America.
In ourworkwe putstrongemphasis on the development of the requiredcompetencesamongourproject teams and partners. Corefields of competencedevelopment are:The diversification of production systemsBusiness planning and management skillsThe MakingMarketsWork for the PoorApproachLivestock managementNon farm value chainsFinancial servicesResultsmeasurement, for examplebased on the standard of the DonorCommittee on Enterprise DevelopmentGender, in particularwomeneconomicempowerment, and social equity
Rural Economy Strategy 2013-2017
Rural Economy Working Area Strategy 2013-2017
What have we done so far?
• People-centred approach to achieve livelihood
improvements for rural households
• Project interventions:
• Sustainable management of natural
• Value chain facilitation
• Organic production, fair trade
• Access to financial and non-financial services
• Advisory services: mainly for our projects, but
also for external clients
Services (financial, certification, advice etc.)
Access to services
know-how and tools
Policy advice and
Our main focus and interventions so far
What have we learned?
1. Multifunctional production systems are needed that
cater to the requirements at household level, national
markets and/or export markets.
2. A rights based approach to productive assets (land
reforms, governance) and employment opportunities
needs to be applied.
3. We need to strive towards accountability and economic
as well as institutional sustainability of producer
4. Pluralistic rural advisory services are needed that
are based on a variety of service providers (public/
private) and their respective business models.
Orientations for the future
• Facilitation focus: Inform, motivate, and link value
chain actors, without taking over core functions; only
start projects with a clear and viable exit strategy.
• From Innovation to up-scaling: Develop scaling-up
strategies and strategic alliances for mainstreaming.
• Policy dialogue and sector development: Influence
sector policies and encourage collaboration among
• Social inclusiveness: Systematically approach gender
relations and skills building for young people.
Our intervention logic
Advice, training, facilitation, knowledge sharing, partnerships
Land rights and
risk / vulnerability
Our target groups
Primary target groups
of Rural Economy
Improve production and
Value chain facilitation
and market access
Improve skills and
Our working fields
Natural resources Business development
Rural advisory +
Markets for the Poor
Our working approaches
The Sustainable Livelihoods
The M4P Approach
The seven elements of our strategy
1. Sustainable farming systems
2. Food security, food sovereignty
and market oriented agriculture
3. Organized smallholders
4. Opportunities in market systems
5. Value chain facilitation and value
6. Rural advisory services
7. Access to financial services
Transversal themes in Rural Economy
1. Gender and social equity: in depth analysis of different
2. Advocacy: for more equitable rural development and
3. Knowledge and learning: Stimulation of innovation,
knowledge sharing and learning
4. Capacity development: constantly improving our own and
our partners’ competencies in rural economy.
Interfaces with other working areas
• Water for Food
• Disaster risk
• Access to land
• Green jobs
• Vocational skills
• Rural roads,
• Policy framework
• Land rights
• Value chain
Our partners (1)
Core Implementation partners
Fair & Sustainable Advisory Services (of ICCO) Regional partner organisations (IC offsprings)
FiBL – Research Institute for Organic Agriculture Swisscontact, HEKS
HAFL – School of Agricultural, Forest and Food
Agridea, Springfield Center
Core alliances and networks
FANRPAN – Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources
IFOAM International Federation of Organic Agriculture
GFRAS – Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services ILC -International Land Coalition
SFRAS – Swiss Forum for Rural Advisory Services ISEALAlliance (Sustainability Standards)
SFIAR - Swiss Forum for International Agricultural
Research M4P Hub
Textile Exchange DCED - Donor Committee of Enterprise Development
FLO (including Max Havelaar Switzerland) Social Performance Task Force
ICAC - International Cotton Advisory Council responsAbility Social Investment AG
CGAP - Consultative Group to Assist the Poor
Our partners (2)
Donors and associates
SDC – Swiss Agency for Development and
ICCO – Dutch Interchurch Organisation for
SECO – Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs Coop Fund for Sustainability
AFD – French Development Agency Rabobank Foundation
DFID – Britisch Development Agency SIPPO – Swiss Import Promotion Programme
SIDA – Swedish International Development
ITC (International Trade Centre, particularly Trade for
Sustainable Development, T4SD)
Hivos (NL) IDH – Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative
1. Diversification of production systems
2. Business planning and management
3. The Market Systems Develop-
4. Livestock management
5. Non farm value chains
6. Financial services
7. DCED standard for results
8. Gender, in particular women economic
empowerment, and social equity
The role of the Rural Economy team
• Support project planning and provide technical
advice during implementation.
• Provide field staff with approaches and tools,
• Identify and document best practice cases and
• Facilitate knowledge sharing and joint development of
approaches and tools.
• Develop joint initiatives with other working areas,
initiate joint learning events with other teams on
• Support design and implementation of effective results
measurement systems and impact assessment in the
field of rural economy.
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