LINK methodology: changing relations between business partners

LINK: changing relations between business partners

How do you build trustworthy relationships between farmers and food companies? Rikolto facilitates the use of the LINK methodology.

Besides supporting and strengthening farmer organisations, Rikolto encourages food companies and retailers to make their procurement policy ‘inclusive’ for small-scale farmers and their organisations. In an ‘inclusive’ business model, farmers are viewed as fully fledged players in the chain.

With improved business relationships and more inclusiveness, smallholders can provide a stable supply of higher quality products leading to increased sales for buyers, and higher profits for all participants of the value chain.

Mark Lundy CIAT

To ensure the inclusion of farmer organisations in local, regional and global supply chains, Rikolto brings all value chain actors together through the LINK methodology. We co-identify critical areas for improvement and accompany food companies in the design and implementation of inclusive business strategies and the evaluation of the effects of these changes on smallholder farmers and on the business itself. As such, using LINK can also lead to a systematic learning process between actors from a selected value chain, and allow them to discover new opportunities for innovation, based on the application of a participatory toolkit.

The tool

The LINK Methodology is a participatory method created by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and other organisations within the Sustainable Food Lab. Its aim is to foster inclusive commercial relationships between smallholder producers and markets, linking chain actors more effectively and improving their relationship step by step.

Based on a questionnaire and consultation moments between the different players in an agricultural chain, the bottlenecks and strengths of their commercial relationship are uncovered according to the following six principles that underpin inclusive business models

  1. cooperation between all actors in the chain with a common goal;
  2. new relations between all chain actors, leading to a stable market and constant supply;
  3. a fair and transparent policy (labour conditions, fair prices, good working conditions)
  4. equal access to credit, technical support in the field, market information, etc.
  5. inclusive innovation (not ‘for’, but ‘with’ farmers); and
  6. measurable results (indicators and concrete tailored monitoring programmes or follow-up plans).

What is special about this chain approach, is that it goes beyond looking at commercial relations. It unravels and connects the way of working of all the actors in the chain.

Josephine Ecklu Inclusive Business Coordinator @ Rikolto

How does LINK work?

The LINK methodology is designed around four main tools:

By the end of the process you will be able to understand the relationship between specific business models (buyer and seller) and the overall value chain; identified critical areas for improvement; designed, implemented, evaluated and improved the innovation prototype for the business model you selected; and evaluated the effects of these changes on small-holder farmers and on the business itself.

Our experience

Rikolto started as one of the first NGOs piloting LINK cases in 2011 and by today we have successfully implemented the toolkit in over 15 agri-food chains within 6 commodities: cocoa, coffee, vegetables, banana, asparagus, passion fruit and corn.

Our partners involve:

  • chocolate companies such as Ritter Sport, Pacari chocolates, Chocolats Halba and Conexión Chocolate;
  • multinational retail corporation Walmart and La Colonia, the second largest supermarket chain in Nicaragua
  • Colruyt Group N.V., the biggest retail company in Belgium and Grupo Hualtaco, Peru’s third largest banana exporter, amongst others.

Want to know more?

Get in touch with me to address your organisation’s specific needs.

Bram Markey
Bram Markey
Business Developer