Dramatic changes are taking place in farming. Local communities are intensifying existing patterns of production and diversifying their farm enterprises in an attempt to improve their livelihoods. In order to be competitive and take advantage of the new opportunities that are arising, farmers have to adapt their farm business to market changes and improve efficiency, profitability and income.
Marketing opportunities are emerging throughout the world as trends towards economic liberalisation and governmental decentralisation open new markets and give local communities more say in the management of their resources, including forests. The desire to increase income by taking advantage of market opportunities with tree and forest products requires farmers to become better decision makers and better at competing in this new environment. The emphasis on the market and the need of farmers to be competitive, calls for better management skills.
Business management skills and knowledge is recognised as important for farmers to effectively respond to present day challenges. Business management advice helps farmers to make the right choice according to individual levels of financial, labour, resource availability and land endowments and at their level of risk adversity.
Local communities therefore have more opportunities to benefit from forest resources, while also having greater incentive to better manage and protect those resources. But, increasing demand for forest products, which increases their commercial value, can result in over-exploitation of the resource base and economic exploitation of the people who harvest the products. Forest products need to be not only financially viable, but also environmentally and socially sustainable.
The Market Analysis and Development (MA&D) approach has been designed and developed specifically to assist local people in developing income-generating enterprises while conserving tree and forest resources. MA&D enables local people to identify potential Tree Aid has developed a set of training materials to help community facilitators develop their training skills in the MA&D so they, in turn, can assist interested community members.
The Tree Aid training of trainer programme guides community facilitators to explore and acquire knowledge and skills in business management ranging from basic business concepts and entrepreneurship to analysing, setting goals and planning for improvements in a business. Participants learn specific tools to use with interested community members such as mapping, market analysis and other means to measure the effectiveness of a small-scale tree and forest product, including financial tools that define and project economic viability, including calculation of profit and loss.
With the training, participants also learn how to help farmers analyse and compare small-scale tree and forest product enterprises to determine which are the most profitable and what affects profitability. They also become familiar with the cyclical nature of a business and the risks that the business might face and how to plan for these risks.
In the process of developing an enterprise development plan for a business, interested community members will learn how to: plan marketing; decide labour needs; plan inputs and materials; assess cash requirement and funding sources; and mobilise finance. Interested community members will also look into forming partnerships – both with other producers as well as with various actors in the value chain.
We recently delivered the training for trainers in Paga, Upper East Ghana, on our new Grow Hope project, supported by Jersey Overseas Aid. We trained extension workers, village facilitators and field managers, including those from our local partner, ORGIIS, so they can support local farming communities to build strong enterprises through forest resources.
Sabiana Abuga from OPGIIS took part in the training:
“I now have the skills and knowledge on enterprise development, which will help me as a facilitator to train communities about the importance of the forest products. It will help them make a living out of tree products and also improve their standard of living and the economy of Ghana as a whole.”
Lucas Apinya from ORGIIS also attended the training and said: “The training has improved my learning on supporting farmers to build strong enterprises through forest resources. Thank you, Tree Aid, for the opportunity to learn.”