Guest Articles

February 21

Camila Kauer Garcia

Saving Your Coffee and Avocado Toast: How Strategic Partnerships Can Build Smallholders’ Resilience to Climate Change

The climate crisis has spawned a new internet trend: With increasing regularity, headlines like “America’s Favorite Fruit Could Go Extinct” or “5 Favorite Foods You’re About to Lose to Climate Change” spark panic in readers. Forced to ponder what their lives would be like without imported bananas, coffee, chocolate or avocados, this kind of news personalizes the effects of climate change to global consumers. And it’s true that the consequences of climate change are affecting the future supply of these and other produce, which could negatively impact billions of consumers. But the warming climate creates an even more drastic reality for the 80% of the world’s population whose livelihoods depend on agriculture, particularly smallholder farmers.

In my program management work at Fintrac, I see every day how increasing access to agriculture technologies and improving smallholders’ technical capacity helps build resiliency throughout supply chains – working to counteract the impact of climate change. To take just one example, partnerships that we broker and facilitate among market actors – small and large agribusinesses, traders, government entities, development institutions, smallholder farmers and others – are a powerful (and popular) place to start. These partnerships extend knowledge and resources to help smallholder farmers become more resilient to climate change.

An important priority of these partnerships is to find ways to make the results commercially viable, while fostering vibrant marketplaces where smallholder farmers can choose the products and technologies that most benefit their farming enterprises. When done effectively, this can lead to both resilient supply chains and resilient farmers. Specifically, when we work with smaller agriculture firms to help sell their climate-smart products and services directly to smallholder farmers and/or other market actors, we create solutions that ultimately enable stronger supply chains. Let’s explore a few examples.


Fighting Food Spoilage with Cold Storage

ColdHubs Limited provides cold storage throughout Nigeria. Through the USAID-funded Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program, 20 new cold rooms will be established in an effort to save 22,000 tons of food from spoilage a year. This is no small goal since, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one third of all food produced globally goes to waste. In fact, if food wastage was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. ColdHubs’ pay-as-you-go system allows smallholders to affordably rent cold rooms to extend the shelf life of their produce. This cold storage prevents food from spoilage, decreases the carbon dioxide emitted by food waste and fetches better prices for the fresher products.


Modernizing Milk Production

Alma Dairy Training Institute in Ethiopia is also increasing the refrigeration available for cattle milk cooling and storage. Currently, an estimated 40% of milk is lost annually in Ethiopia due to its high spoilage nature. With USAID’s support through Fintrac, milk collection centers (MCCs) have become state-of-the-art commercial operations to aggregate and process milk. Smallholder farmers bring their milk to a small collection area where the MCC collects and refrigerates the milk, and then sells it to the processor. Similar to ColdHubs Limited, the MCCs keep milk fresher for longer, allowing farmers to sell their product at times when the demand is high, without worrying about spoilage.


Insuring Livestock against Drought

In Kenya, Fintrac’s project partner under Partnering for Innovation, Takaful Insurance of Africa Limited, sells index-based livestock insurance to pastoralists to manage climate-related risks, such as droughts. Their use of predefined drought conditions prompts automatic payments, allowing pastoralists to purchase water and food to keep their herds healthy in periods of stress. By the end of the partnership, Takaful is planning to sell this insurance to 9,000 pastoralists – along with the AfriScout application that uses satellite technology and weather mapping to allow pastoralists to find surrounding forage and water in less time, which minimizes herd deaths and overgrazing.

Opening opportunities for smallholder farmers to access the latest agricultural technologies, practices and knowledge enables them to become resilient despite climate change. However, like any development practitioner, Fintrac needs to be strategic about which partnerships we enter – especially when working with small agribusinesses. When the goal is to equip farmers with products, services and knowledge to reduce their crops’ or livestocks’ vulnerability to climate change, we need partners to share that same goal.

But of course, having a shared goal to improve the lives of smallholders is only one criterion. Based on our experience at Fintrac, we’ve learned that it is always important that partnerships with smaller agribusinesses: 1) have thought through a business plan for a quality product; and 2) are willing to understand and learn about the heterogeneity of their smallholder market. (See a full listing of criteria here.) When partnerships across market actors are forged, and commercial solutions for bringing the products and services to smallholder farmers are realized, supply chains will become truly resilient to climate change. Only then will consumers across the globe be able to confidently enjoy their morning cup of joe and nutritious avocado toast, knowing that the smallholder farmers who produced these delicacies can thrive in a warming world.


Fintrac is a woman-owned development consultancy that develops agricultural solutions to end hunger and poverty around the world. This article is based on two Fintrac-implemented projects: Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation and the USAID Ethiopia Value Chain Activity. For more information, contact Fintrac.


Camila Kauer Garcia is a program specialist at Fintrac.


Main photo courtesy of organization. Homepage photo courtesy of Ponce Photography.




Agriculture, Environment
climate change, food security, global development, poverty alleviation, smallholder farmers, supply chains