Farmer-to-farmer outsourcing

Rural Malawian farmers are outsourcing baobab gathering to other more rural Malawian farmers: this is the realization I came to this week while traipsing about in the bush.

The company I work with, TreeCrops, established depots along Lake Malawi to which farmers can bring baobab fruit they’ve gathered in the bush and, after taking a certified training course, crush it and separate it hygienically for sale to the company.

Turns out that farmers who’ve been certified to do the crushing and separating have outsourced the gathering to piece-workers. These pieceworkers go into the bush on foot or bicycle to collect 50-90kgs of baobab fruit for delivery to the depot nearest to them. The baobab trees still with fruit are quite remote and elephants roam these parts making gathering a dangerous occupation. But evidently it’s still worthwhile.

This division of work naturally came about without and orchestrating from TreeCrops and that interests me. What it is about this baobab processing venture that helped form this outsourcing relationship between farmers? Perhaps it hasn’t nothing to do with baobab, but instead the people involved or their particular geography. I wonder if there are similar outsourcing arrangements in other places or with other products.

I’ve met and chat with a number of these piece-workers and will be spending a few days in the bush with them both this week and next to better understand what goes into this farmer-to-farmer outsourcing.


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Working to include smallholder farmers in agricultural markets, we know there are no easy answers. This blog is a place to ask "What does it take to make it work?" and to share what we're seeing and learning.
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