1. The project must have added value for each chain partner.
This does not have to be the same for every partner. For some, the added value resides in the process, for others in a more secure sales channel. But without a clear 'win', there is no motivation to persevere on difficult moments.
2. Ownership and leadership must be reflected at all levels of the chain.
From the retailer to the farmers' organisation: you need people who have authority within their organisation and stick their necks out. You should at all times avoid that the whole business only depends on 1 or 2 people, because that makes the project vulnerable.
3. Coordination and exchange are crucial.
Coordination and exchange largely determine the dynamics of the project. Coordination of the chain itself is best done by retailer. Coordination of activities at the production level is best left to the party that supports the farmers' organisation (Rikolto, Solid, Enabel,...).
4. The producers' organisation must be strong enough for exports.
This requires meticulous coaching. You should also beware of a too rosy presentation of the state of affairs on the producers' side. The drive to create a new sales channel sometimes leads to too much optimism.
5. Ensure shared understanding about the positioning and added value of the product.
Farmers need to understand how their product is brought to the customer and that there must be a market. Retailer buyers need to be aware of the conditions in which farmers work and the concerns they face.
6. Constantly build an atmosphere of trust and openness.
Personal contacts are the engine of trust. A physical kick-off moment speeds up this process considerably. In addition to the many informal contacts to take care of operational matters, it is best to set up a number of formal meetings each year in advance, in order to evaluate the broad outlines.
7. Start with a clear business case.
A thorough performance study that systematically identifies strengths and pain points makes it possible to avoid starting a shaky business purely out of conviction. There must be a "business case" for all partners.
8. Learn to work with external funding to finance innovation.
Many "pre-competitive" investments cannot be financed from the market. Fortunately, there are financiers - such as IDH and the Belgian Development Cooperation, Enabel - who can help. Funds that have a link with one of the chain partners, such as Collibri Foundation at Colruyt Group, can also play this role.
9. Work step by step towards scaling up.
We learned new things in each and every value chain project, because there is no ready-made recipe. Learn with limited volumes. Once it's running smoothly and confidence is good, things can go fast. In the chain project around the quinoa from Peru, the volume increased fivefold after 2 years.