Strengthening Smallholders’ Access to Markets for Certified Sustainable Products

Place: sierra-leone, Africa
Socio-economic dynamics and global markets Socio-economic dynamics and global markets
Total Budget: € 640,00 | Period: From January 2012 To


IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), a UN agency specialized in rurral development, has funded a pilot project to facilitate smallholders in accessing the markets.
IFAD has decided to fund a pilot-project named SAMCERT, Strengthening Smallholders’ Access to Markets for Certified Sustainable Products
SAMCERT has been working with groups supported by IFAD in several countries to identify the potential for certification Fair-trade, Organic, Utz Certified, and other certifications, and providing certification focused training and support, and developing Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

These partnerships are crucial for smallholders to reach commercial relations, capacity building and technical assistance.


ICEA - Italy

Lead applicant

ICEA, Environmental and Ethical Certification Institute, is a Consortium that control and certifies companies that carry out their activities in respect of people and nature, defending workers dignity and rights of consumers. With around 13 thousand controlled companies with strong ethical, environmental and social value, 300 technicians and 28 Territorial Operative Structures in Italy and abroad, ICEA is among most important bodies of the sector in Italy and in Europe, where it operates to favour a fair and socially sustainable development that ranges from organic farming to other bio related sectors. As a matter of fact ICEA certifications cover Food (organic food production and organic aquaculture) Non-Food, (organic cosmetics and detergents, ecological textile, ecologic furnishing, materials for eco-building, sustainable management of green areas, certification SA8000). Moreover ICEA carries out Research & Development activities to promote ecological innovation of products and processes, Training activity meant for operators and technicians/professionals of the organic sector, and is active in different projects of International Cooperation, other than being active on the national level. ICEA together with BIOL Italia organizes Prizes, Events and Campaigns of awareness rising to spread and share culture, knowledge and values linked to organic.

Sustainable Commodity Initiative - Canada

Initiative partner

The Sustainable Commodity Initiative aims to build effectiveness across voluntary approaches to sustainable commodity production and trade by promoting good governance, impact analysis, information exchange as well as policy and initiative development.

International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD_ - Italy

Initiative partner


SAMCERT has produced significant innovation in providing “Brokering services” and facilitating Public Private Partnership (PPP).

SAMCERT worked to establish a common language (a common ground) among different actors along the value chain: smallholders, governments, buyers, traders, certifiers, clients.

Putting them together is an exercise that requires time, patience, efforts but that can provide long lasting results.

From the crop to the cup Not only is coffee the third most popular drink in the world, but 25 million people in over 50 countries depend on the coffee industry for survival. Now, for the first time, coffee producers from the developing world meet the people who roast their coffee in Italy. Organized by SAMCERT (Strengthening Smallholders' Access to Markets for Certified Sustainable Products), funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

SAMCERT has started an interactive process, working with IFAD staff to identify key relationships - based on the needs of relevant IFAD projects -with the aim of developing certification-based supply chain partnerships to increase market access for smallholder rural producers and build supply chains where necessary.

Fieldwork is being undertaken to facilitate the development of such partnerships in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sao Tomé e Principe, Guinea, Sénégal, Ghana, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Indonesia.

The project work is focusing on several products, particularly on cocoa, coffee, white pepper, oil palm, shea butter and hibiscus.

Liberia cocoa cooperative members In Lofa County, Liberia, representatives of a cocoa cooperative meet to discuss together.

The achievements to date have been numerous, and at times in somewhat difficult contexts.
Cocoa producers in Sierra Leone have been certified Fairtrade and in 2013 sold cocoa for the first time at the Fairtrade premium rate. Producers in Liberia are being certified and are in the process of negotiating the sale of their first Fairtrade cocoa this year.
Initiatives for the development of Geographic Indications (GI) have been initiated for Cocoa, coffee and pepper in Sao Tomé e Principe.  Producer organisations in several countries have been trained on Internal Control Systems (ICS).
The success of SAMCERT has been the provision of market-access support to IFAD producer groups that are looking to get their products to market in order to overcome poverty and provide opportunities for their families and communities.

Sao Tomè: saved by chocolate São Tomé was once the world's biggest exporter of cocoa, but a decade ago the global cocoa price crash destroyed the industry here and desperate farmers have been clearing the forests to find alternative ways to make a living. But then the rising global demand for organic chocolate changed everything. IFAD joined forces with French organic chocolate company, Kaoka, to revive the island's cocoa industry. And it looks like chocolate might just save this island.

SAMCERT is supporting producers of shea butter in Ghana, hibiscus flower in Senegal and pepper in Sao Tomé e Principe. In Ghana SAMCERT has been supporting an IFAD initiative supportedworking with poor rural people to develop income-generating agricultural activities to supplement subsistence farming.  Particular emphasis is being placed on people who are dependent on marginal lands, rural women and other vulnerable groups.

In Senegal SAMCERT is supporting another value chain that is dominated by women’s producer groups, namely the hibiscus or ‘bissap’.

SAMCERT’s support has hence focused on the development of Geographic Indications (GI), including technical advisory support for the GI implementation process and the creation of GI working groups (Cocoa, Coffee and Pepper) involving the necessary stakeholders. 

Senegal bissap farmer A farmer of bissap (hibiscus)

Due to the different range of activities and Country situations, SAMCERT has adopted a flexible approach.

According to the specificity of the tasks to perform, SAMCERT has established dedicated partnerships and collaborations with several expertise: representatives of the private sector, technicians, trainers, certifiers. Each one of them has provided a specific and tailored service that added a relevant value to the project.

Staff included four (4) global coordinators; consultants and organizations working at the country-level.

Italian Coffee roasters in Nicaragua Two representatives of artesanal coffee roasters from Italy, visiting coffee cooperatives in Nicaragua

IFAD is working in some fairly challenging contexts, including in countries that are rebuilding from war and conflict and where poverty is disconcertingly commonplace.
In these contexts, it can be difficult to respond quickly to the demands of European and North American companies. Unfortunately, some companies are also very hesitant to consider, or have little experience, doing business in such countries.  Accordingly, SAMCERT and IFAD are seeking to bridge the gaps by way of PPP that assist in ensuring that products meet market requirements (through capacity building support, infrastructure, technology etc.). SAMCERT is assisting in setting up such PPPs and encouraging the inclusion of sustainability certification, where it makes sense for the producers.
Certification can be challenging in some of these contexts, particularly where the producer groups are poorly organised, scattered over vast territories, or where basic infrastructure is lacking. 

Ebola in Sierra Leone Ebola affecting Sierra Leone activities

SAMCERT puts a specific emphasis on sustainable agriculture production.
In most of its interventions at the Country level, SAMCERT is dealing with smallholders producing according to the principles of organic agriculture (certified and not-certified).
This implies  a list of beneficial impacts such as:
- Soil. Soil building practices such as crop rotations, inter-cropping, symbiotic associations, cover crops, organic fertilizers and minimum tillage are central to organic practices.
- Water management reducing the risk of groundwater pollution
- Climate change: Organic agriculture contributes to mitigating the greenhouse effect and global warming through its ability to sequester carbon in the soil.
- Biodiversity: Organic farmers are custodians and users of biodiversity at all levels. Several studies concluded that organic farming produces more biodiversity than other farming systems.

Organic cocoa in Sao Tomè Empty Cocoa husks are left on the ground for compost.

Developing a solid and long lasting partnership in commercial relation is a challenging issue, and particularly when smallholders are involved. SAMCERT has tried to act as a “match-maker” putting together partners that could ensure a solid partnership. SAMCERT has therefore selected the most appropriate enterprises that could fit with the potentials and capacities of the smallholders. SAMCERT did not look for buyers, but for real “partners” willing to engage in long lasting and fair relations with smallholders

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Coffee panel test at IFAD Coffee roasters and coffee buyers making testing coffee from IFAD supported projects

SAMCERT has attended several exhibitions and specialized fairs, with the participation of delegates and representatives from the projects involved in SAMCERT. Producers and technicians alwayas had the chance to present their products and projects. During Biofach 2014 (www.biofach.de), SAMCERT has collaborated with the Family Farming Action Network, to develop a live and video performance to illustrate the reality of family farmers in the field. The live performance was accmpanied by the testing of the products (coffee, hybiscus).

Based on its experience SAMCERT is developing a guide-lines for developing PPP with smallholders. This will be a practical tool to guide project managers in identify the opportunities and the problems to be considered when starting and implementing a partnership with the private sector.


Family farming Biofach show 2014 The video presents the live performance to illustrate the reality of the family farmers involved in IFAD/SAMCERT project and other projects.