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P4P News

News on Purchase for Progress, both from the projects around the world and from WFP headquarters.

P4P has worked to support agricultural cooperatives with capacity development in both agricultural best practices and organizational management and business skills. Throughout the pilot period (2008-2013), P4P has supported farmers’ organizations in 20 countries since the beginning of the pilot. The size and capacity of P4P-supported FOs varies widely from country to country and includes a variety of structures, from small grassroots organizations to large-scale farmers’ federations.

Examples of P4P efforts highlighted in local media on the International Day of Cooperatives:

In Rwanda, P4P has collaborated with FAO and IFAD to develop smallholder farmers’ cooperatives capacities in storage, marketing, financial management, and institutional strengthening. One smallholder benefitting from this work is a 46-year old mother of four named Murekatete Patricia. Patricia joined a cooperative in 2012, and after receiving training in post-harvest handling and storage, was able to market her maize collectively in order to make over US$ 1000. Read the article here

In Malawi, the home grown school feeding programme sources some of its food from smallholder farming cooperatives. This encourages student enrolment and ensures that schoolchildren have adequate nutrition. It also supports smallholder farmers by providing them with an assured market for their crops. One family benefits doubly from this programme. Through her farmers’ organization, Clara Bamusi markets her food to the school feeding programme, increasing her income, and providing part of the meals her daughter receives at school. “The greatest benefit has been the reliable market,” says Clara. “With my earnings I bought double the fertilizer and hybrid seed, and because of these inputs I was able to grow and harvest 65 more bags of maize this year compared to last.” Read the article here

For more details about how P4P has worked with farmers’ organizations during the pilot period, read the Final Consolidated Farmers’ Organizations and Capacity Development Report (January 2009 – December 2013)

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The 20th International Day of Cooperatives was celebrated on 5 July, 2014, emphasizing the important role which cooperatives play in sustainable development. Cooperatives are powerful tools which can be utilized by smallholder farmers to participate in formal markets. Because of their ability to organize farmers, P4P has used farmers’ organizations as an entry point, supporting smallholders to better access financial services, agricultural inputs, and equipment, and aggregate and market crops. According to FAO, one of the organizers behind the International Day of Co-operatives: “cooperatives and producer organizations can play a key role in rural development and building a food secure world for all.” 

P4P in El Salvador focuses on capacity-building and strengthening farmers’ organizations. Due to reduced food assistance requirements, WFP does not constitute a significant market for P4P-supported organizations. Therefore, P4P focuses on strengthening relationships with private sector buyers, including agroindustry and retail markets, and carries out negotiation rounds to teach farmers’ organizations how to meet buyers’ requirements and to negotiate input purchases. Farmers’ organizations have also strengthened relationships with both private sector input suppliers and financial institutions. The Government’s new “Plan de Agricultura Familiar” (PAF), the Family Agriculture Plan, which is inspired by the P4P concept, also presents market opportunities for P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

Click here to read the two-pager about P4P in El Salvador.


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P4P-supported smallholder farmers in El Salvador have sold an estimated US$ 2,750,000 (5,866 mt) worth of commodities to sustainable markets including the agroindustry and retail markets. Despite these successes, further efforts are needed to increase national purchases from smallholders, and to support farmers to aggregate and market crops through their organizations. Read the P4P in El Salvador fact sheet to learn more.

In June, PAA Africa hosted an  Institutional Markets Knowledge Sharing Seminar in Addis where P4P and other partners met to discuss smallholder procurement and share lessons learned.

The initiative, which was inspired by Brazil’s national Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (Food Purchase Programme), also aligns with WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding programme, in which commodities are often purchased from local smallholder farmers using P4P modalities. These efforts maximize programme benefits as they can not only improve small-scale family farmers’ access to institutional markets, but also encourage school attendance and improve pupils’ food security. PAA Africa has proven to be an excellent opportunity to strengthen collaboration with African governments and civil society, leading to greater sustainability of WFP’s smallholder procurement initiatives.

PAA Africa is being piloted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal since February 2012. Following an 18 month start-up phase, a further five year phase was launched in January 2014. WFP and FAO jointly support the implementation of PAA Africa with financial sponsorship from the Government of Brazil and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). In order to assist smallholder farmers to produce surplus of high quality crops and fresh food items, FAO facilitates access to inputs, and provides training in best agricultural practices and post-harvest handling. Building on lessons learned through P4P, demand for government and WFP’s school feeding programme provides the smallholders with an assured market, which can act as an incentive for them to invest in production.

Sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty

In order for local procurement initiatives to be sustainable, farmers must be able to access quality markets beyond WFP. In a video message to participants in June’s workshop, WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said “The role of PAA-Africa is vital, as it is showcasing sustainable and innovative models for smallholder procurement that we can and will expand.” The added value of PAA Africa lies in the creation of innovative models to build sustainable institutional markets. For example, in Ethiopia and Malawi, funds have been transferred to district departments of education or directly to schools to manage procurement activities, purchasing food directly from local farmers’ organizations. PAA Africa continues providing them with support that fosters government ownership and builds local capacity. Government ownership and enthusiasm has been further strengthened through visits to Brazil where African leaders have been invited to learn from the Brazilian PAA model.

Drawing from the expertise of Brazil’s widely acclaimed national local procurement programme, five African countries are piloting their own indigenous models. This small-scale pilot project known as PAA Africa, is implemented by FAO, WFP, local governments, and the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since its inception in 2012, PAA Africa has developed a complimentary approach to P4P, promoting the use of food items purchased from local smallholder farmers in WFP and government-run school feeding programmes.

Overview - P4P in Uganda

In Uganda, P4P focuses on strengthening the capacity of farmers’ organizations to aggregate and sell commodities to quality buyers, such as WFP, local millers, traders for export and others. Through partnerships with the government, indigenous and international NGOs, and other partners, P4P has provided smallholder farmers with the necessary training and equipment to increase their production, improve crop quality and strengthen the marketing capacity of farmers’ organizations. P4P is promoting Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) to facilitate credit access among P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

P4P also seeks to connect farmers’ organizations with institutional and private sector buyers that can provide an assured source of demand beyond WFP. This approach has built on WFP Uganda’s Agriculture and Market Support (AMS) project to enhance prospects for sustainability.

In Uganda, P4P has supported infrastructure improvements to facilitate smallholders’ aggregation of commodities and collective sales. Meanwhile, many challenges remain, especially related to crop quality and standards. Read the P4P in Uganda fact sheet to learn more.

A modified version of this blog post was published on the Guardian Global Development Profession Network 12 June 2014.

In developing countries, women are the backbone of the rural economy and are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production. They are also highly knowledgeable about crop varieties.

However, women face many challenges that can preclude them from independently owning or managing land and productive assets. In many households, men control the production and marketing of crops as well as household finances. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if women had the same access to these resources as men, they could increase agricultural yields by 20-30 percent, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger.

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) is a major buyer of staple food, procuring over US$ 1 billion for cash annually. In 2013, WFP bought nearly 80  percent of this food in developing countries. Purchase for Progress (P4P) is a WFP pilot initiative which, over the past five years, has experimented with smallholder-friendly procurement models targeting smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The rationale behind P4P is to provide smallholders with the opportunity to improve their agricultural production, and an incentive to do so, as they benefit from an assured market in which to sell their surplus crops, dependent upon quality and price.

The P4P pilot specifically targeted women farmers in order to address the particular difficulties they face, with an ambitious goal to have 50 percent women participants. While P4P succeeded in tripling women’s participation in P4P-supported farmers' organizations from 100,000 to 300,000 during the pilot period, the experience demonstrated that mere numerical participation in a project does not directly translate into a positive impact on the lives of women farmers, nor provide them with the same financial gains as their male counterparts.

These are some of the key lessons learned that will help empower women and reduce poverty and hunger:

Read more about the lessons learned in the new report: 

Context-specific action plans

In order to empower women economically, the underlying causes of income inequalities must be addressed. Due to the immense variation between culture, religion, and infrastructure which can exist even in areas only a few miles apart, strategies to empower women farmers cannot be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Implementation must be informed by country-level, context- and culturally-specific assessments to determine the needs of women farmers on a community, regional and country level in order to tailor approaches which will address underlying causes of inequality while ensuring women’s well-being. This should be informed by a broader gender strategy which establishes long-term goals and guides the intervention.

Targeting women farmers:

Targeting women farmers can be challenging, because they may not be active in farmers’ organizations, and often produce crops for household consumption rather than for sale. Additionally, women farmers take on different and often overlapping roles; contributing their labour as unpaid family workers, taking on farm work as casual agricultural labourers, and sometimes as the principal producers of crops.  Women in the different roles will have different needs and interests and it is important to target support accordingly.

Equipment and capacity development:

Labour and time saving technologies and practices that contribute to reducing women’s workload and save them time are an important aspect to address if market development programmes are to succeed in empowering women, both socially and economically. Women also need assistance to develop the capacity necessary in order to increase their incomes. For this, a vital first step is to provide them with training as well as agricultural inputs and credit so that they can produce more, aggregate their crops, and market them collectively. However, giving women farmers the tools to produce more and market their crops does not guarantee that they will be able to do so or benefit economically from their work.

Inclusion of men:

Effective gender sensitization efforts incorporate the needs of communities, responding to the opportunities, challenges, and recommendations identified by country- and region-specific assessments. One effective method has been to ensure the inclusion of both men and women during gender sensitization, in order to acquire the buy-in of the most influential members of communities, such as religious and customary leaders, who are generally male. Within P4P, this has often been achieved by stressing the economic gains for households and communities which embrace gender equality. In many contexts, these methods have assisted men to understand that women’s empowerment does not mean men’s disempowerment. In the same way, male authorities and community leaders have played vital roles in supporting the increased agricultural production and economic gains of women farmers under the P4P pilot.

Be aware of the risks:

By overlooking generations-old cultural norms, initiatives which seek to empower women can cause social isolation and risk the safety of participants. Malawi is one example where some women farmers reported forceful resistance at household level, as the male heads of household resisted their wives’ efforts to independently earn and control income.  This highlights the importance of carefully designing culturally and context appropriate interventions in order to ensure the safety of women participants. Household negotiation is a powerful tool which can assist women to strategically gain voice and influence, while simultaneously reducing pressure within their households.

Tools for household negotiation:

A household negotiation approach emphasizes the inclusive management of household resources, assisting women and men to improve their collaboration at a household level. A woman farmer and field monitor named Mazouma, from Burkina Faso, says that in her community, many women are now able make family decisions in collaboration with their husbands, making it easier to manage their income. She also says that this has led to the increased inclusion of women in decision-making and planning in their farmers’ organizations and communities.

Any assessment of gender achievements must go beyond counting the number of women vs men involved. Nuanced examinations will inform new methods to more effectively facilitate the empowerment of women farmers. One such lesson learned for WFP was the importance of emphasizing the procurement of traditional “women’s crops”, such as niébé, in order to best increase women’s participation to sales. 

Blog post by Ken Davies, Global Coordinator Purchase for Progress (P4P)

After five years of piloting smallholder-friendly procurement models in 20 diverse countries, Purchase for Progress (P4P) has released a new report reviewing how market development can and cannot promote women’s empowerment based upon five years of field experience.

The results from WFP’s action research evaluation trial on “Reducing food losses in sub-Saharan Africa” clearly show the benefits for smallholders investing in post-harvest handling techniques and storage technologies. In the trial, 400 smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso and Uganda compared their traditional storage facilities with methods and equipment which have proven effective in developed countries, such as metal and plastic silos as well as different kinds of inexpensive hermetic (airtight and water-proof) storage bags. During the 90-day trial period, sampling and data collection were conducted every month.  The results show that participants in the trial retained at least 98 percent of their harvest when using the new storage equipment, regardless of the crop and duration of storage. The key to success was intensive training in proper use of the hermetic storage bags and metal and plastic silos, before using the improved technologies.

Seeing results

According to the project’s manager, Simon Costa, many farmers initially expressed scepticism about changing farming techniques which had been used for generations, and many believed that significant post-harvest losses were inevitable. However, Costa said that at the end of the trial: “It was quite emotional to see the reaction of some of the farmers when they opened their new storage units to check on their grain after a month had passed. After watching the grain in the traditional storage units deteriorate quickly, they expected the same (or worse) to be occurring inside the new units. Their disbelief quickly turned to jubilation when they discovered their harvest was in perfect condition.”

Results from the trial suggest that these improvements could potentially lead to a 64 percent gain in income for a single smallholder in Uganda. The improved storage systems also had a positive impact on women’s lives by reducing their workloads, as the storage units eliminate the time-intensive process of separating spoiled grains and re-cleaning.

Photos showing maize quality after 100 days storage using traditional storage (top) and new technology storage (bottom).

Increasing food security, improving lives

Decreasing food waste by reducing the post-harvest losses of smallholder farmers is a vital step towards meeting the world’s growing food needs, and is one of the pillars of the Zero Hunger Challenge. It also plays an important role in P4P’s objective to improve the lives of smallholder farmers, by making food more affordable and consistently available for poor households, leading to an overall increase in food security. The increased preservation of their crops also reduces the need for smallholders to purchase grains to replace the quantities lost during post-harvest storage. This in turn should increase smallholders’ disposable income, allowing them to make investments in better health, nutrition and education for themselves and their families.

Scaling up

Building on the successful results of the trial, WFP has launched a 14-month Special Operation targeting 41,000 P4P-supported farming households in Burkina Faso and Uganda. The operation aims to reduce post-harvest losses by 70% through the provision of specialized training and subsidized storage silos to protect harvested crops from pests, mould and moisture. However, without an assured market, smallholders may not have the confidence to invest their time, energy, and money in new post-harvest handling techniques and equipment. The presence of WFP as a buyer intend to give smallholders assurance that they will be able to sell their increased surplus. P4P will continue working to link smallholder farmers to quality markets beyond WFP in order to ensure sustainability.

A recently completed trial reveals how P4P-supported smallholder farmers drastically reduced their post-harvest losses, losing less than two percent of their harvest over three months of storage. WFP is now planning to scale up the successful initiative with a project that aims to reach 41,000 farming households in Burkina Faso and Uganda. By receiving specialized training and investing in subsidised storage equipment, these farmers are expected to substantially reduce their post-harvest losses and thereby also increase their surplus and sales.

Overview - P4P in Honduras

In Honduras, P4P focuses on providing a stable market to smallholder farmers. The implementation strategy focuses on investing in technology and building the technical capacity of farmers’ organizations (FOs). Infrastructure is created and rehabilitated through equipment provision and upgrading, and farmers have been linked to financial institutions to acquire credit through the use of revolving funds. Capacity development is carried out in postharvest handling and organizational strengthening. WFP offers P4P-supported farmers in Honduras an assured market by purchasing maize and beans to be distributed through the school meals programme.

Download the P4P in Honduras fact sheet to learn more.

Some 84 percent of WFP’s purchases from P4P-supported farmers in Honduras has been used for the government-funded National School Feeding Programme. This programme, which reaches 90 percent of schoolchildren in the country, not only provides smallholders with a sustainable market, but it also promotes attendance and improves nutrition among the pupils. Despite this success, further efforts are needed to more effectively link improved agricultural production to nutrition.

Overview - P4P in Kenya

In Kenya, P4P has strengthened small-scale farmers’ and traders’ capacity to engage with the agricultural market. P4P and partners assist farmers’ organizations (FOs) to increase their access to storage and facilitate their access to credit. They carry out capacity development in best agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and quality assurance. P4P has also connected FOs to rural agro-dealers to increase their access to inputs, production assistance, conditioning services, and markets. Currently, 74 FOs are registered as WFP suppliers, and P4P has supported 132 additional FOs to access other markets, such as government-run home grown school feeding. P4P has also engaged 35 small-scale traders and village level agro-dealers with the capacity to bulk grain and sell to WFP. In rural areas, the programme’s procurement strategy encourages resilience through diversification, emphasizing the commercialization of drought-resistant crops. This approach aligns with government strategies to promote high value nutritious crops grown in rural agricultural areas. P4P is currently being mainstreamed in Kenya, and emphasizes government ownership through links with home grown school feeding and nutrition.

In Kenya, over 13,000 farmers and other small-scale suppliers have been trained in topics including best agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and marketing. While significant progress has been made, some challenges remain, such as food quality and safety issues primarily caused by the prevalence of aflatoxin. This is currently being addressed in collaboration with FAO and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA). Read the P4P in Kenya fact sheet to learn more.

WFP procurement

Despite challenges, WFP has successfully increased its contracted quantity using P4P modalities throughout the pilot treatment period. From the beginning of the pilot in September 2008, until its end in December 2013, WFP has issued contracts for 431,542 metric tons (mt) of commodities at a value exceeding US$ 167 million. Of this, 287,041 mt has so far been delivered, putting US$ 117 million more directly into the pockets of smallholder farmers. Some 113,729 mt was contracted in 2013. Deliveries are currently ongoing, with 39% of the quantities contracted in 2013 delivered to date. Purchases through P4P modalities account for 12% of WFP’s local and regional purchases across the 20 pilot countries. This exceeds the 10% minimum target set at the beginning of the pilot.

Markets beyond WFP

A key P4P objective is to develop smallholders’ capacities, to support their engagement with formal markets beyond WFP on a sustainable basis. By providing them with an assured market for their surplus, WFP’s role is to catalyse and incentivize improvements in smallholder agricultural and business practices. To date, P4P-supported smallholders have sold some 200,000 mt of commodities to markets beyond WFP, at a value of at least US$ 50 million. Data collection on sales to other markets is ongoing.

WHERE have we contracted: *

  • 73% in Eastern and Southern Africa
  • 15% in Central America
  • 10% in West Africa
  • 2% in Asia

WHO have we contracted with: *

  • 65% farmers’ organizations (all pilot countries)
  • 22% commodity exchanges (Ethiopia, Malawi, Zambia)
  • 6% small and medium traders and agents such as agro-dealers (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zambia)
  • 3% the National Food Reserve Agency (Tanzania)
  • 2% warehouse receipt systems (Uganda and Tanzania)
  • 2% processors (Afghanistan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Zambia)

HOW have these purchases been contracted:*

  • 48% competitive processes
  • 26% direct contracts
  • 21% forward delivery contracts
  • 5% processed commodities

*Percentage is calculated based on the total amount of commodities that has been contracted by WFP through P4P modalities.


Of the 431,542 mt contracted throughout the pilot period, 66% has currently been delivered, with 76,586 mt confirmed as defaulted and the remainder under delivery. Four major categories of defaults have emerged: factors related to the local environment, such as climatic conditions and volatility of market price; factors related to suppliers’ capacity, such as side selling, miscalculation of marketing costs and insufficient access to credit; factors related to crop quality, such as high moisture levels or damaged grains; and factors related to WFP’s procurement and logistics process, such as delays in arranging transport, signing contracts or supplying bags. Thanks in part to efforts in capacity development by P4P and partners, defaults related to quality have reduced considerably since the beginning of the pilot. They were highest in 2010, accounting for 24% of total defaults, and decreased to 6% in 2012. The reasons for defaults on WFP contracts with P4P-supported farmers are as follows (% of total confirmed defaults):

  • 63% related to suppliers’ capacity (some 40% of which was due to side selling)
  • 17% related to the local environment
  • 16% related to crop quality
  • 4% related to WFP’s procurement and logistics process

Commodities procured

Though maize still accounts for 72% of all WFP contracts procured through P4P modalities, commodities have become increasingly diversified since the start of the pilot. Now purchases increasingly include pulses, such as beans, cowpeas and pigeon peas; other cereals, such as wheat, sorghum and millet; as well as processed commodities such as fortified maize meal, high energy biscuits and cassava flour. P4P has promoted WFP’s efforts to procure pulses, which account for 12% of total contracts with P4P-supported farmers. This is a component of P4P’s objective to promote the inclusion of women farmers, as pulses are often grown by women in traditional settings. 

P4P has supported the development of local processing capacity to produce fortified and blended foods in countries where processors have the potential to become market competitive. For example, P4P has done this by developing local capacity to process high energy biscuits, supplementary feeding products and fortified milled flour, linking the processors to smallholder farmers who supply the staple commodities.

Final P4P pilot figures are currently being reconciled. A final report including full delivery information will be available in the third quarter of 2014.


Preliminary procurement figures from the P4P pilot treatment period (September 2008 – December 2013) are now available, showing that WFP has contracted over 430,000 metric tons (mt) of commodities at a value exceeding US$ 167 million. Smallholders have also been successfully connected to sustainable markets, having sold over 200,000 mt of commodities to markets beyond WFP.

Overview – P4P in Tanzania

In Tanzania, P4P activities cover 14 districts in 10 regions, and reach nearly 19,000 smallholder farmers — 41 percent of whom are women. In order to reach farmers, WFP engages with Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), which provide credit and savings accounts to registered smallholders. As of December 2013, WFP supported 28 SACCOs. In order to improve collective marketing and reduce post-harvest losses, WFP has engaged in capacity development, as well as investments to rehabilitate storage facilities, linking them to an emerging warehouse receipt system (WRS). Between 2009 and 2013, WFP signed contracts with 24 of the 28 P4P-supported SACCOs for more than 12,500 mt of maize and pulses valued at US$ 4.8 million. An agreement between WFP and Tanzania’s National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has now provided smallholder farmers from 17 P4P-supported farmers’ organizations (FOs) with a potentially sustainable market for their crops.

In Tanzania, P4P-supported Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) have been successfully linked to sustainable markets such as the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA). Although SACCOs have sold over 5,000 metric tons of quality crops to markets beyond WFP, challenges remain to further encourage buyers to purchase from smallholders. Read the P4P in Tanzania fact sheet to learn more.