Making sustainable agriculture work through successful farmer partnerships

2nd January 2016

During its workshop ‘Promoting Farmer Partnerships – The Missing Link in Sustainable Agriculture’, with over 60 farmers, business representatives and NGO experts participating, SAI Platform today launched its new and insightful ‘Farmer Partnership Guide 2.0‘.

This hands-on guide collects pertinent know-how and practices gathered from hundreds of experts worldwide. It is an attractive resource that should appeal to any organization or person wanting to work with and for farmers with the aim to move towards a more sustainable agriculture.

In recent years, food and drink value chain companies have set ambitious targets for buying agricultural ingredients from sustainable sources. To meet these commitments, companies and others alike need to work with farmers to promote sustainable agriculture, and countless good practices for a multitude of agricultural materials in many different countries already exist. Successfully developing farmer partnerships including all relevant actors is a ‘sine qua non’ for scaling up sustainable agriculture practices worldwide. Yet it presents a real challenge for all involved.

This guide’s first version (1.0) was issued in 2014 and has since been tested by member companies and reviewed by expert external stakeholders.

“This is a very good guide helping to address barriers to and opportunities for successful partnering. There is no doubt this guide meets a real need” says Dr. Kristin Davis, Executive Secretary, Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), South Africa.

The end result is a thorough and practical ‘Farmer Partnership Guide’ (2.0) for practitioners including recommendations, concrete examples and a 4-step approach for developing successful farmer partnerships for sustainable agriculture. It also offers concrete solutions for overcoming hurdles and leveraging drivers. More specifically, the guide highlights identifies 4 key types of such hurdles and drivers related to farmers’ adoption of sustainable practices worldwide into four categories:

  1. Psycho-social factors;
  2. Economic factors;
  3. Resource factors; and
  4. Political factors. One particular insightful category of drivers and barriers addresses “psycho-social factors”, which tend to be neglected by many project managers even though these factors greatly impact the behavior of farmers and their likelihood to adopt sustainable practices.

“It is hard for farmers to accept that someone else tells them how they can improve things. Our experience is that change is possible but it goes slowly, step by step, gaining their trust. Show successful results. Education is important, but must be brought in the right manner by the right person”, says Edward Helmond, Project Manager, Malaysia, Nedcoffee.

To gather the necessary knowledge and the 71 cases included the guide, SAI Platform interviewed farmers and extension officers around the world, and examined hundreds of expert publications globally from research and academia, extension services, farmer groups, development organizations, NGOs and industry.

SAI Platform’s work in the area is considered as crucial by everyone, and will therefore be continued and expanded as part of the newly formed Farm Sustainability Assessment (FSA) “Enablers workstream”.

For more information, please contact Lettemieke Mulder at: lmulder[at]