Women selling their produce at a market in the Morogoro Mountains. Like in many other African countries, women constitute the majority of the agricultural labour force in Tanzania.
Photo: P. Monteil


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Lack of access to markets is a problem for numerous small-scale enterprises in Africa. In order to overcome the existing bottlenecks and to facilitate smallholders’ market participation, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has been working with the Market Systems Development (MSD) approach for several years – and successfully at that, as the following example from Tanzania shows.

In many African economies, the rural situation is marked by continuing stagnation, poor production, low incomes and the rising vulnerability of poor people. Poor families are often excluded from all kind of formal markets, i.e., they cannot participate systematically in interactions between different market actors. They may put up some products for sale from time to time, but because they have only very small quantities to sell and lack information about recent developments such as prices or opportunities, they are in a weak position without bargaining power. Encouraging smallholders to increase their production is not effective if they do not have the possibility to sell the surplus products on a market and if they do not have access to the commodities necessary for production. This insight is not new, but for a long time it was not given enough attention. Interventions by donor-driven projects have often even aggravated the trend rather than reversed it.

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