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

Purchase for Progress was launched by the World Food Programme in an effort to help smallholder farmers better cope with these drivers of change and vulnerability. Since 2008, P4P has sought to help these farmers seize opportunities throughout staple food value chains. We looked for programming and procurement models that showed the greatest potential to stimulate agricultural and market development in ways that maximize benefits to smallholder farmers.

P4P has demonstrated that smallholder farmers are ready and capable of stepping up to participate in formal markets when given the opportunity. We’ve seen numerous positive impacts and outcomes in the lives of smallholder farmers and their families, the way farmers’ organizations do business, and even in the way entire markets function. But we’ve also faced challenges. The following are some of the key lessons we’ve learned.

Blog by Bing Zhao, P4P Global Coordinator and Director. This article was originally published on Devex.

Smallholder farmers across the globe face a barrage of forces — from globalization, technological advances, and market liberalization, to privatization and climate change — that are disrupting and realigning their livelihoods. Previously well-established systems of political, social, economic and environmental resilience are shifting. Conflict, natural disaster, pandemics and economic shocks are apparently increasing in frequency and severity.

Smallholder farmers tend to sell limited quantities of low quality crops directly from the farm gate, often to small-scale traders whose prices are low, partly due to transportation costs. Farmers in less remote locations may also sell their crops in small-scale local marketplaces. P4P has worked to expand smallholders’ marketing options by providing them with an attractive alternative – selling collectively to large-scale buyers that are interested in bulked volumes of quality commodities, like WFP. To take advantage of this marketing opportunity, and earn better prices, farmers generally work together through farmers’ organizations, aggregating, cleaning and marketing their crops collectively to meet the buyers’ quantity and quality requirements.

Individual farmers’ marketing strategies

[publication|648428] A study carried out under P4P, entitled Smallholder Farmers’ Marketing Choices examines the complex ways in which individual members of such farmers’ organizations develop their marketing strategies. Based on research carried out in Burkina Faso and Rwanda, the study identifies the factors that influence farmers’ decisions on which marketing channel to use, and in particular, whether or not to market crops through their organization.

Although farmers hope to sell for the highest price possible, by the time the harvest arrives they often have an urgent need for cash to cover expenses such as school fees and loan repayment. Because smallholders tend to have few savings and limited access to credit and market price information, they may prefer buyers who can offer immediate cash upon delivery, such as traders buying at the farm gate. However, there are often more lucrative marketing options available for farmers capable of waiting a few weeks for their payment. Plus, smallholders are often located in rural locations with poor infrastructure, and they must factor in transportation costs. This generates additional challenges for remote farmers to market their crops beyond the farm gate.

Farmers’ organization capacity

These limitations can pose a challenge for collective sales through farmers’ organizations to reach formal markets. The process of aggregating crops and waiting for collection and payment tends to be a time-consuming process. Unless farmers’ organizations have access to credit to offer members partial or full payment upon delivery, this can lead lower income and more remote farmers to be unable to participate in group sales. The services farmers’ organizations are able to offer members – such as access to inputs and credit – also play a major role in encouraging smallholders’ sales. In some cases, farmers were able to access credit or inputs through their farmers’ organizations, on the condition that they repay them by participating in collective sales. Finally, price premiums offered for quality crops must be high enough to cover the costs of aggregation and value addition. While WFP pays premium price for products meeting the organization’s strict quality standards, large private buyers often already own equipment to add value to crops and are therefore unwilling to do so.

Transparency and trust

The level of transparency of farmers’ organization leadership played a major role in farmers’ decision whether or not to market through the organization. Without a sense of trust or loyalty, farmers were less likely to market their crops through the organization. For example, in Rwanda, one organization’s lack of transparency led to defaults due to members’ distrust. In contrast, in Burkina Faso, women members located near the headquarters of the Union Provinciale des Professionnels Agricoles du Houet (UPPA Houet) have embraced the production of quality crops and preferred marketing through the farmers’ organization. This loyalty to the organization was likely thanks to the broader benefits earned through their participation in P4P.

Enhancing women’s participation

[photo|648507] In Burkina Faso, farmers’ organizations enacted additional measures to address the substantial challenges women face, and encourage their participation in collective sales. The trust and loyalty generated amongst women in the UPPA Houet farmers’ organization seemed to be in large part due to the presence of a female field monitor hired jointly by UPPA Houet, WFP and Oxfam. UPPA Houet also provided a cash advance for values of up to 300 kg, exclusively for women members. To increase women’s ability to contribute to sales, Union des Groupements pour la Commercialisations des Produits Agricoles (UGCPA) waived the minimum transaction volume for women’s cowpea sales through the organization.

Examining marketing strategies in Burkina Faso and Rwanda

In Burkina Faso, most farmers adopted a smart marketing strategy to maximize their profit whilst allowing them to meet their short-term needs. These farmers sold their crops in three separate transactions to different buyers at different times. First, a portion was sold immediately after harvest to traders at the farm gate to address urgent cash needs. The bulk of production was then sold through the farmers’ organization at a later date in order to earn larger margins and repay credit acquired through the organization. Finally, the portion of crops remaining were sold later in the season to finance inputs for the coming season.

In Rwanda, members of Coopération des Agriculteurs des Céréales de Musaza (COACMU) and COTEBARU – which are located more centrally and along paved roads – primarily marketed their crops through the organizations, while selling small quantities of food to traders to cover their immediate cash needs. Members of farmers’ organizations in more remote locations generally marketed basic-grade commodities from their household plots directly to traders at the farm gate, while selling higher quality crops from communal plots through their farmers’ organization. Overall, farmers’ decisions were made primarily based upon the distance to the storage location and their ability to wait for payment.

Continued efforts to make organizations inclusive

To ensure that farmers’ organizations are truly inclusive of all farmers – including those with less available cash and in more rural locations – additional efforts are needed to strengthen the organizations’ capacity. Organizational strengthening and increased access to credit are particularly critical. On the part of buyers, additional efforts are needed to reduce the amount of time from delivery to payment, reducing the pressure placed upon farmers and their organizations to ensure the availability of cash in this period.

Read More:

In most developing countries, smallholder farmers are the main actors in agriculture, though they tend to benefit little from their sales. With Purchase for Progress (P4P), the World Food Programme (WFP) seeks to provide these farmers with additional marketing options, in which they can capture larger margins by making collective sales to large-scale buyers like WFP.


1.3 billion tons of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally each year

 In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers can lose up to 30 percent of their crops to post-harvest losses. Food commodities can become damaged, spoiled, or lost while being harvested, handled, processed, stored and transported.

Farmers often use traditional storage made from straw and wood, leaving their crops vulnerable to rain and infestation by insects and rodents. While harvesting and cleaning their crop, they may use antiquated techniques and tools which damage the grain. For rural families, lost food means lost land, labour, water, fertilizer and income. Lost food also deprives farmers of the opportunity to grow and strengthen their businesses.



Solutions to post-harvest losses can be simple and affordable

Thanks to WFP’s deep field experience and supply chain expertise, the organization has learned that simple and affordable steps like improving storage infrastructure and implementing good harvest and storage practices can drastically reduce food losses. In turn, this increases the amount of food available for household consumption and local markets, which means improved food security and greater resilience for smallholder farmers.



Efforts to improve post-harvest handling can have a big impact on the safety of food consumed

Because smallholder farmers can get a higher price for quality grain, they often retain damaged or dirty food for household consumption. Efforts to improve post-harvest handling can also raise awareness about the dangers of eating damaged food. Training on post-harvest handling and quality control, such sessions on using the Blue Box field testing kit, have proven effective at alerting farmers to negative impact this practice can have on their health.



With better post-harvest handling practices, farmers can earn more from their produce

When farmers are able to retain more of their crop at a higher quality, they have more to sell and can earn better prices. With access to improved storage, which maintains the quality of their crops for longer periods of time, they can wait for more profitable market prices. Take it from Esther, a smallholder farmer from Eastern Uganda, who used to sell her crops immediately after harvest to avoid losing her crops. Today, she can store her commodities in order to sell at a later time when prices are more favourable. By improving her storage, Esther also adds value to her crops – meaning they can fetch a higher price!



Reducing post-harvest losses can increase the amount of food available worldwide

Post-harvest crop loss is a leading cause of food insecurity for millions of farm families across the world. More efficient production is one of the key ways in which we can meet the world’s growing food needs. Reducing post-harvest losses would increase the amount of food available worldwide without requiring additional resources or placing additional burdens on the environment. If we ensure that this food enters markets, this can play playing a major role in creating a world with zero hunger.


Links to related documents:



One-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted. By preventing smallholder farmers from losing large portions of their crops after harvest, WFP helps increase the availability of food worldwide. This is a vital step toward meeting the world’s growing food needs, and one of the pillars of the Zero Hunger Challenge. Check out these five facts to learn more about post-harvest losses.

The Government of Ethiopia prioritizes agricultural development in its Growth and Transformation Plan, focusing on the commercialization of agriculture and targeting farmers’ cooperatives for support. Recognizing Purchase for Progress (P4P) as a potent tool for achieving important elements of the plan, the Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) brought together a group of partners to form the Maize Alliance in 2012. Based on the central platform of P4P, the alliance pools the efforts of actors, to maximize the use of resources and strengthen synergies, resulting in greater results.

This broad and coherent support to smallholder farmers and their organizations enabled P4P to surge forward and made Ethiopia the pilot country with the greatest quantity and value of WFP purchases from smallholder farmers under the pilot.

Khalid Bomba, CEO of ATA, spoke at the 2015 P4P Annual Consultation. While acknowledging the magnitude of the purchases made under P4P, Bomba emphasized that the pilot’s greatest benefit was building the soft infrastructure needed for the Government of Ethiopia to more effectively support smallholders to engage in markets. Additionally, he discussed the crucial role of strategic partnerships for scaling up support to small-scale farmers and strengthening the agricultural sector.

To learn more watch the below video interview with Khalid Bomba: 

In Ethiopia, the government has been building on the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress initiative to scale up support to smallholder farmers. Khalid Bomba, head of the Agricultural Transformation Agency, discusses the benefits of P4P and the way forward for scaling up pro-smallholder support through strategic partnerships.

[publication|647706|647707] Smallholder farmers generally have limited marketing options, often selling small quantities to traders at the farm gate for unfavourable prices. To help smallholders profit more from agriculture, WFP and partners support them to work together in farmers’ organizations. These organizations receive training to aggregate crops, add value and engage with formal markets for quality produce, gaining crucial experience by selling to WFP. 

Aggregation mechanisms

To meet the quantity requirements of large-scale buyers, smallholder farmers must aggregate their crops and sell collectively. This allows them to negotiate better prices for their crops, as well as access a range of other services. WFP supports farmers’ organizations with training and equipment to strengthen their ability to function as businesses and provide services to their members. In many countries, other innovative aggregation methods are being tested, such as commodity exchanges and warehouse receipts systems.

Farmers’ organizations demonstrate abilities

Generally, large-scale buyers do not purchase food from smallholder farmers’ organizations because they are seen as unreliable and lacking the necessary business skills. However, by marketing their crops to WFP, farmers’ organizations demonstrate that they are reliable and professional suppliers. Having seen this, both institutional and private sector buyers are showing increased interest in procuring crops from these emerging businesses, with farmers’ organizations making sales to millers, processors and supermarket chains.

P4P has shown that despite gains in capacity, farmers’ organizations still require patient buyers who take the challenges they face into account and continue strengthening their capacities. Therefore, WFP supports buyers to make purchases in ways inclusive of smallholder farmers. For example, national governments are now leveraging lessons learned under P4P, using pro-smallholder procurement modalities to source food for national grain reserves, home grown school feeding programmes, hospitals and prisons.

Smallholder-friendly procurement

[photo|647713] In countries such as Guatemala, WFP helps the Government to institutionalize and integrate the P4P approach on a national level, using a trust fund to support pro-smallholder procurement and the capacity development of Government institutions. In many other countries – including Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Tanzania – WFP supports governments to make their procurement practices more inclusive. Smallholder-friendly procurement practices may involve softening some contracting requirements, such as by waiving competition and transportation based on the capacity of the farmers’ organization. WFP holds training in its areas of expertise, such as quality assessment and control, warehousing, logistics and market information systems. Exchange visits organized by WFP have proven to be powerful tools for encouraging innovative approaches.

Management Systems International (MSI) and WFP carried out a desk review entitled Supporting Public Procurement from Smallholder Farmers to provide an overview of government buying from smallholder farmers, and recommendations for WFP’s continued support of these efforts. The paper concludes that continued capacity development is needed for smallholder farmers and government institutions.

Supporting Rwandan scale up

The Government of Rwanda was the first to fully embrace and expand the P4P concept under a project called Common P4P (CP4P). Under CP4P, legislation commits the National Strategic Grain Reserve and other public institutions to purchase up to 40 percent of their staple grain requirements from smallholder farmers’ cooperatives.

WFP supports CP4P by training Government officials on various aspects of engaging with smallholder farmers and providing guidance on direct contracting with farmers’ organizations. A WFP consultant was placed with the Ministry of Agriculture to develop a procurement strategy.

Exchange visits inspire in Burkina Faso

[photo|647711] In 2012, Government officials from Burkina Faso went on an exchange visit to Rwanda to learn about the Government’s efforts to support smallholder farmers. After the visit, La Société Nationale de Gestion du Stocks de Sécurité Alimentaire (SONAGESS), Burkina Faso’s national food reserve agency, began working to source 30 percent of its food needs from smallholder farmers’ organizations.

WFP helped SONAGESS expand its price collection system to gather more relevant data from rural markets closer to farmers’ organizations. The Government is now working to expand their warehouse network, and sought WFP assistance to identify locations to maximize procurement from smallholder farmers.

National Food Reserve Agency of Tanzania

In 2012, an agreement was signed to increase WFP purchases from Tanzania’s National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), while strengthening the NFRA’s pro-smallholder procurement. WFP trained NFRA and Ministry of Agriculture staff as well as farmers’ organization presidents in quality control, warehousing and logistics to support this process. In 2014, these efforts paid off, with the NFRA procuring US$6.9 million-worth of maize (23,000 mt) from 165 farmers’ organizations.

Private sector purchases

Through their engagement with WFP, farmers’ organizations have demonstrated their ability to meet quality requirements and deliver on contracts. This has built critical trust amongst private sector actors and led to increased purchases of crops from smallholder farmers supported by WFP. In Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, farmers’ organizations sold US$20.6 million-worth of crops to private sector buyers, including Walmart. P4P also held round tables to connect farmers’ organizations and buyers.

[photo|647710] In El Salvador, farmers’ organizations developed logos and barcodes for their produce to make sales to supermarkets and other buyers. They have also added value to their crops by marketing black beans in consumer-size pre-cooked cans. Two farmers’ organizations signed a forward delivery contract with flour producing company Harisa, and agreements have been signed through the Ministry of Agriculture for sales to companies such as GUMARSAL and MASECA.

In many countries, P4P-supported smallholder farmers have been linked to millers and processors who buy their surplus crops for the production of fortified foods such as flour blend and high energy biscuits. In Guatemala, a project under the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement is linking smallholder farmers to agro-industry companies that supply processed nutrient-rich food to WFP. A similar project is carried out in Afghanistan, where P4P provides support along the entire value chain – from farmers to local millers and processors. Locally-produced wheat and soya are used in the production of fortified flour, high-energy biscuits and lipid-based nutritional supplements.

Smallholder farmers have also been linked to private sector millers and processors in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.

Markets for quality

While buyers are increasingly making purchases from smallholder farmers, it is crucial to identify the availability of other markets that pay premium prices for high quality crops. In collaboration with WFP, MSI surveyed private sector buyers in 17 of the 20 P4P pilot countries. The results are described in a paper entitled Markets for Quality beyond the World Food Programme. The study found that 77 percent of buyers were willing to pay premium prices for smallholders’ quality crops, indicating a potential for increased purchases from smallholder farmers.

However, challenges include a lack of infrastructure and government policy on crop quality, low levels of trust and widely dispersed locations of rural farmers. In some countries, traders already own cleaning equipment and are not interested in purchasing high quality crops. The paper recommends that WFP advocate for better enforcement of quality standards, and continued efforts to raise awareness about crop quality. It also highlights the need for private sector actors to maintain relationships forged under P4P. WFP will continue to work with private sector actors to help smallholder farmers enter markets.

With Purchase for Progress (P4P), the World Food Programme (WFP) purchases crops from smallholder farmers’ organizations and supports them to become effective businesses. With help from WFP, other buyers bought more than US$60 million-worth of food from these farmers’ organizations, giving smallholders access to sustainable markets.

One third of land in Guatemala is arable, with only a small amount devoted to staple food crops like maize and black beans. The majority of farmers – over one million families – engage in subsistence agriculture. Since P4P began in February 2009, the Government has collaborated closely with WFP to support the integration of smallholder farmers into agricultural markets. This work has been according to national strategies for poverty reduction, food security and nutrition. Today, smallholder farmers participating in P4P are becoming small businesses capable of producing high quality crops in greater quantities, and are making sales to both government and private sector buyers.

Government trust fund to integrate pro-smallholder efforts

In February 2014, WFP and the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) signed an agreement with the long-term objective of integrating the P4P approach into the Government’s practices. Under this agreement, which is eligible for renewal on an annual basis, WFP would use a trust fund to support pro-smallholder procurement and the capacity development of government institutions. The trust fund was created with the Government’s initial contribution of US$2.1 million from the national budget. These efforts build upon the “Triangle of Dignity programme” inspired by P4P, which was launched in 2012, and provides financial access and technical support to farming families for the marketing of staple crops.

“P4P is aligned with the legal and political framework [in Guatemala] and it has shown in the field that it is possible to move forward from aid to trade,” says Oscar Hernandez, Adviser of the Minister of Agriculture, Sebastian Marcucci. “Five years ago it was a kind of paradigm that farmers’ organizations could not sell in the market meeting high quality standards. But after five years we have seen that it is possible.”

To date, WFP has purchased some 4,300 metric tons (mt) of maize from 17 P4P-supported farmers’ organizations using the government trust fund. The maize was used in national food assistance programmes and the national food reserve, as well as WFP’s Food for Assets and emergency food assistance programmes.

WFP is also providing support to government institutions in pro-smallholder procurement, quality assurance and logistics. Rural extension agents have particularly benefited from training in post-harvest loss reduction and crop quality and safety analysis using the Blue Box field testing kit, which was developed by the WFP Guatemala office. Training in good agricultural practices was provided by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and MAGA. In order to increase the capacity of national food stores, WFP provides training and logistical support to the regional warehouses managed by the Instituto Nacional de Comercializacion Agricola (INDECA).

Gender and agriculture

In Guatemala, P4P has had a strong focus on strengthening the equitable participation of women in agriculture. A joint UN project, Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women (RWEE), is being carried out with UN Women, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the leadership of WFP.

Good practices identified under P4P were used to develop an institutional gender policy for MAGA. The policy will be launched in June 2015. Gender sensitisation activities are carried out with government extension workers to ensure their activities take the specific needs of women farmers into account, ensuring that they benefit fully.

Private sector engagement

Strengthening institutional procurement is only one part of efforts to fully integrate smallholder farmers into agricultural markets in Guatemala. As a part of the government’s participation in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative, smallholder farmers now selling to the agro-industry companies that produce nutritious fortified foods. These foods are distributed to at-risk populations in Guatemala. Smallholder farmers’ organizations have also been linked to local, regional and international private sector buyers including Walmart and Maseca.

Oscar Hernandez, Technical Advisor, Ministry of Agriculture, gives an overview of how the Government of Guatemala is building on lessons learned from P4P:

In Guatemala, WFP is supporting the Government to institutionalize and integrate the P4P approach on a national level. Lessons learned and best practices from the pilot period are being used to increase the capacity of government institutions to carry out pro-smallholder procurement, enhance gender equity and improve quality control and post-harvest handling.

The seminar, entitled “Agriculture in Africa’s Transformation: The Role of Smallholder Farmers”, ran from 26 - 27 March and was held in Maputo, Mozambique.

“This senior policy seminar on agriculture in Africa’s transformation provided a timely forum for dialogue between senior policy makers and thought leaders, and among policy makers themselves. This debate was conducted in the best of AERC traditions, guided by rigour and evidence. This is where research meets policy. The seminar was inspired by a productive partnership between AERC and WFP on the P4P pilot programme,” said Professor Lemma W. Senbet, Executive Director of AERC.

The declaration, which was endorsed by all participants, acknowledges the centrality of smallholder farmers in Africa’s economic and social growth and transformation. It specifically emphasizes governments’ roles in promoting inclusive and sustainable growth by targeting smallholder farmers in public food procurement programmes.


Maputo, March 27, 2015

We African Senior Policy Makers assembled at the AERC Senior Policy Seminar,

Affirming that pro-smallholder agricultural development is pro-growth,

Recognizing the prominent position accorded to smallholder farmers in the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP),

Further recognizing the renewed commitment to smallholder agriculture in the Malabo Declaration by African Heads of State on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods,

Commending governments across Africa for devoting increasing shares of national budgets to agriculture, while recognizing that important gaps remain,

Noting that appropriate incentives are critical for smallholders to adopt the productivity - and income-enhancing technologies and practices that drive agricultural development and broader economic and social transformation,

Further noting that several structural conditions generate obstacles to such increased adoption, most notably by limiting smallholder engagement in key input and output markets, including critical information gaps,

Mindful that the needs of women farmers and youth require special attention,

Also mindful of the need to address expanded access to land, credit, and financial services,

Appreciating the urgent need for policy reforms and institutional innovation to overcome these obstacles, with an emphasis on stronger implementation,

Acknowledging the importance of reliable market outlets for surpluses generated when smallholders adopt improved technologies and practices,

1. Affirm that smallholders lie not only at the center of the financial inclusion agenda, but also at the broader financial development agenda, and that Central Banks can play a critical role in furthering smallholder inclusion in financial markets;

2. Commend the partnership between African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to strengthen the evidence base for policy and programme design and implementation for demand-led pro-smallholder market development, urging them to continue to work with other partners to develop a practical but cutting-edge Research and Development agenda to address policy and programming challenges raised by demand-driven pro-smallholder market development;

3. Take note of the promise of the demand-led Purchase for Progress (P4P) approach as an institutional innovation that can strengthen African smallholders' capacities to seize market opportunities and thereby adopt yield-enhancing technologies, raise their incomes, and enhance their well-being; and

4. Commit to undertake consultations within our own Governments to explore scope for employing pro-smallholder demand-led approaches within public food procurement programs, thereby promoting inclusive and sustainable growth and broader transformation.

This March, a seminar co-hosted by WFP and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) brought together senior African policy makers to discuss the importance of strengthening smallholder agriculture. Following two days of discussions, a declaration was adopted, reaffirming the commitment of policy makers to support pro-smallholder demand-led market development.

A summary report is available to provide the highlights from the consultation while the full P4P Annual Consultation report includes more details.

On this page you can access all material related to the P4P Annual Consultation. Presentations, remarks and other reference documents is also available for downloading. 




The sixth P4P Annual Consultation was held in Rome from 24 to 26 February 2015. The meeting brought together 170 stakeholders from around the world to discuss lessons and opportunities that could be built upon in the post-pilot phase, identify main challenges and propose new ways to improve the effectiveness of future P4P-like efforts. 

In Afghanistan, P4P has emphasized linking local agricultural production with efforts to improve nutrition. A variety of efforts are being undertaken to accomplish this goal, including the introduction of Afghanistan’s first mobile biscuit factory composed of seven containers shipped from Italy. The factory was assembled and installed in Jalalabad, and is sourcing wheat for biscuit production from Afghani smallholder farmers. WFP is collaborating with a local company which manages the factory through a commercially-based joint venture.

Improving local economies

Due to a lack of infrastructure to produce biscuits, the Afghan market is dominated by imported products. The mobile biscuit factory was introduced in an area where no capacity to produce biscuits existed previously. The initiative aims to develop the local economy and increase the availability of locally-produced fortified food both for sale on the market and WFP’s needs. The factory is sourcing part of the soy and wheat used to make HEB from smallholder farmers participating in P4P, providing them with a sustainable market for their produce. Micronutrient-fortified flour is sourced from national mills. The mobile biscuit factory also provides job opportunities for 30 people.

Factory manager Dildar Khan Shinwari says: “My team is learning valuable skills which they can retain and pass on to others.” He explains that the high quality standards expected from WFP are helping him build a commercially viable business for the local market. “We are learning a lot from WFP, and we are beginning to see the return on our investment.”

So far, US$ 670,000-worth (400 metric tons) of biscuits have been produced in the mobile biscuit factory. WFP purchased US$ 607,000-worth (370 metric tons) for use in emergency response. A communication campaign is planned to be undertaken in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health to promote the benefits of consuming fortified nutritious foods, including HEB.

An innovative solution to improve nutrition

The pioneering design of the mobile biscuit factory is a step towards creating a more sustainable supply of locally-produced nutritious food. The containerized design allows them to be used in a variety of rural or conflict environments, where lack of infrastructure might otherwise make it difficult to produce fortified foods locally. The factories are designed to take up minimal space and be installed quickly. They can be implemented in regions for medium to long term, or can be deployed to different regions of the country as needed. These containerized factories can be installed and operated by WFP, or, as is the case in Afghanistan, in joint venture with a commercial operator.

Lessons learned from a difficult task

Upon the arrival of the factory in Jalalabad, WFP and its private partner faced a number of technical challenges that delayed start-up. Given the lack of available expertise a food technologist worked with the team in-country to resolve these issues. The technologist developed a comprehensive plan to maximise efficiency and production, optimize the nutritional value and maximise profits. The main lesson learned was the need for a monitoring system to put all parts through a detailed evaluation to resolve all technical difficulties before shipping to a remote location.

One of the greatest challenges faced in Afghanistan is a lack of security. Unexpected events may disrupt work schedules, causing difficulties for the biscuit factory and limiting production.

Article by Ranait Feeney

Read more about the mobile biscuit factory and P4P’s efforts to link local agricultural production with nutrition in Afghanistan:

Biscuit Factory-In-A-Box Shows Its Value In Afghanistan

Soya production in Afghanistan supports P4P efforts to improve nutrition

In Afghanistan, P4P has introduced a mobile factory to produce High Energy Biscuits (HEB) to reduce malnutrition, boost the local economy and provide smallholder farmers with a sustainable market. Though the new technology faced challenges in the start-up phase, it is now producing nutritious biscuits for sale on the local market and use in WFP emergency response.

In 2013 alone, WFP bought around US$ 1.16 billion worth of food for cash, some 80 percent of which came from developing countries (including large regional purchases in India, South Africa and Turkey). Traditionally, this food has been purchased from pre-qualified large-scale suppliers through competitive tenders, ensuring that WFP purchases the greatest quantity of food at the best price in a timely fashion. The P4P pilot has enabled WFP to try out new ways of leveraging its procurement footprint to promote agricultural and market development, experimenting with smallholder-friendly procurement models which extend the benefits of WFP procurement to smallholder farmers.

P4P recently released the Final Consolidated Procurement Report (2008-2013). During the pilot, WFP bought US$ 148 million-worth of food more directly from smallholder farmers, who also sold an additional US$ 60 million-worth of food to markets beyond WFP. Across the 20 pilot countries, WFP’s pro-smallholder procurement increased from 8 percent of all locally procured commodities in 2009, to 22 percent in 2013. These have been key achievements particularly because most farmers and organizations were not marketing collectively before working with P4P. These local purchases have also reduced costs for WFP: throughout the pilot period, some US$ 42 million were saved as compared to importing the same food commodities.

Aggregating crops for collective sales

Because smallholder farmers cultivate small plots of land, even with support to increase their agricultural productivity, they are generally unable to produce enough to interest large buyers who purchase food in bulk. This, coupled with the fact that farmers are dispersed in rural areas, requires them to work together. Because of this, P4P and partners have supported smallholder farmers to market their crops collectively through farmers’ organizations to access formal markets and earn better prices, for better quality, at the same prices that WFP would have paid to large traders. 58 percent of food bought under P4P (US$ 90 million-worth) was procured directly from farmers’ organizations.

In Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia, WFP purchased food through commodity exchanges, where smallholder farmers through their organizations bid on contracts to provide commodities to buyers, including WFP. Purchases have also been made through warehouse receipt systems, which are emerging as innovative ways for smallholder farmers to market their crops. In countries like Tanzania and Rwanda, P4P has linked smallholder farmers’ organizations to the government’s strategic grain reserves, from which WFP buys food. P4P has also built the capacity of small and medium traders to buy from smallholder farmers.

Smallholder-friendly procurement modalities

WFP procured crops from P4P-supported smallholder farmers using various smallholder-friendly procurement modalities selected based upon the capacity of suppliers. Direct contracts have been used to provide lower-capacity farmers’ organizations with experience aggregating and marketing their crops collectively. Prices and quantities are negotiated directly with farmers’ organizations, based upon market prices for similar quality products on the open market. By building farmers’ organization capacity, direct contracts help them move toward more competitive tendering processes.

Soft competitive tenders have provided farmers’ organizations with tangible experience and the skills required to sell competitively to buyers beyond WFP. Farmers’ organizations compete with one another to bid for WFP contracts, in a process similar to traditional competitive tenders, though some requirements are modified. For example, while smallholders must meet WFP’s strict food quality standards, WFP can provide them with bags if needed, deducting the cost from the final payment.

Commodities were also purchased using forward delivery contracts (FDCs), negotiated before planting or before harvest, with an agreed floor price. Prices can then be renegotiated closer to delivery based upon current market prices. FDCs provide farmers with an assured market, helping them plan their production and marketing, and can be used as collateral for credit from banks or other financial service providers. In addition, blended food has been purchased from millers or agro-processors who source raw materials from smallholder farmers. This assists smallholders gain access to a sustainable market beyond WFP.

Diverse crops for WFP programmes

While WFP predominantly purchased maize grain under P4P modalities, commodities diversified throughout the course of the pilot. To enhance the participation of women farmers, WFP began focusing more on pulses. In many contexts, women traditionally grow and market peas and beans – such as cowpeas in West Africa – while men are often responsible for marketing cereal crops such as maize. These commodities have been used for WFP food assistance, mainly within the country where it was purchased, including school meals, food for assets or nutrition programmes or rations for refugees or vulnerable populations.

Addressing challenges with defaults

Side-selling and contract adherence were key challenges faced by P4P, due to difficulties smallholders sometimes faced meeting quantity and quality standards. While WFP has adjusted procurement practices to facilitate the participation of smallholder farmers, it cannot compromise on quality standards. Partners provided on-going capacity development to improve agricultural production, post-harvest handling and organizational management to address challenges. Defaults due to quality on contracts signed under P4P modalities decreased from 22 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2013.

For five years, the P4P pilot has experimented with innovative procurement modalities, allowing WFP to purchase staple food commodities more directly from low-income smallholder farmers.