Leaping and Learning: Linking smallholders to markets

handsLeaping and Learning: Linking Smallholders to Markets (pdf) is a comprehensive review of the existing literature on smallholder-centred market-based interventions.

Smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa number around 33 million, represent 80% of all farms in the region, and contribute up to 90% of food production in some sub-Saharan African countries. Developing smallholder agriculture can be effective in reducing poverty and hunger in low income countries, but only through sustainable access to markets can poor farmers increase the income from their labour and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Most poor farmers are not linked to markets for a variety of reasons: remoteness, low production, low farm-gate prices, and lack of information, to name a few. Addressing and overcoming these market failures in order to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets was the subject of this research project.

The report was launched on 29 May 2013 at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London.

Download the report

leaping and learning front coverLeaping and learning: linking smallholders to markets (pdf, 4 MB)

Research report
May 2013
By Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats

Published by ODI and Agriculture For Impact

You can also download the case studies from the report as a separate document:

Leaping and learning case studies (pdf, 1 MB)


Steve Wiggins gives a summary of the findings presented in the report.

Steve Wiggins: small holder farmers and commercialisation

Gem Argwings-Kodhek: what’s really happening in African agriculture?

Bill Vorley: how can we make better links between smallholders and others in the supply chain?

Christine Okali: small holder farmers and commercialisation

Andrew Dorward: small holder famers and commercialisation


Background to the project

Agriculture for Impact (A4I), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Firetail, and the Glasshouse Partnership have been working together on the project “Leaping and Learning: Taking Agricultural Successes to Scale’ funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). The project was also supported by the Future Agricultures Consortium.

The aim of the programme is to provide development partners with access to independent, evidence-based recommendations that set out practical policy options and approaches for scaling up smallholder agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure food and nutrition security and poverty reduction.

Our approach

A key challenge for agricultural development is how to link small-scale, family farmers to providers of financial services, inputs, technical advice and marketing; thereby allowing smallholders to innovate, invest and enjoy better livelihoods. Many government agencies, non-governmental organisations, or private firms are working to facilitate such links. But there is much to learn.  This programme is reviewing such experiences, to distil good practice.

Stakeholder Evaluation

At the start of the project A4I commissioned Firetail to interview stakeholders who represented the intended users of the Leaping and Learning project outputs both in OECD countries and Sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of these discussions was to explore how the materials could be developed to ensure they were of maximum value to stakeholders and the sector as a whole. 25 interviews were conducted between 2nd February and 9th March 2012. The Firetail report findings have influenced our approach.


A4I and ODI partnered with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) to run three events in Johannesburg (9 July 2012), Nairobi (11 July 2012) and Accra (13 July 2012). The events created opportunities to gather more evidence and seek feedback from agricultural development expert practitioners in sub-Saharan Africa.

Steve Wiggins also attended and spoke at ‘Making the Connection Value Chains Conference‘ hosted by CTA in Addis Ababa in November 2012.