Rikolto decided to concentrate on only a few commodities: coffee, cocoa, rice and fresh fruit & vegetables. Our main area of expertise lies in methodologies and approaches to strengthen farmers’ organisations as businesses and support them in building long-term relationships with other stakeholders inside and outside value chains. Yet these methodologies and approaches often have specific and different characteristics for each commodity, depending on the specifics of the market systems (stock markets, market players, etc.), production systems and policy environments for these commodities. If we want to remain relevant for farmer’s organisations and private actors, we need to develop our expertise in the specific context of the commodities to enhance learning between regions so as to have impact at local and international level.
In some cases, we still work with specific commodities other than those that we focus on (cinnamon in Indonesia, sesame in Senegal) for historical reasons or because of very specific opportunities.
Coffee and cocoa are two commodities that in large parts of the world are still smallholder crops offering good opportunities for farmers’ livelihoods. Although these traditional export crops have had a lot of attention in the past (as forerunners of the Fairtrade movement), there are still huge challenges in terms of sustainability (uncertainty of stock markets, which makes it difficult for smallholders to invest) and even survival of crops in times of climate change.
Rice is one of the biggest food commodities globally and, although it has low margins for smallholders, it is governed by numerous laws and regulations imposed by local to international governments/bodies because of its strategic importance in feeding a growing and increasingly urban world. For smallholder farmers, it is the basis for food and income in major parts of the world, mainly Africa and Asia.
Fresh fruit and vegetables as a group of products have become a major source of income for a significant number of smallholders. Because of their characteristics (fresh and perishable), in many cases they need to be produced close to the markets and sometimes offer opportunities as export crops. They generally also offer high margins for smallholders, but on the downside they present huge challenges: high risks (perishable) and high investments.