The agricultural sector dominates the economies of most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, providing food, employment, income and foreign exchange. Recent developments in Africa highlight an increasing trend toward liberalised domestic markets and an opening up of their economies to the forces of international trade.
To take advantage of these developments, smallholder farmers must be able to participate in productive activities in which they have a competitive advantage. This implies access to well-organised marketing, distribution and post-harvest systems; effective market information; and technologies that allow them to be price and quality competitive.
This paper describes an ongoing strategic partnership between ICRISAT, an international agricultural research institute, and TechnoServe Inc., an international non-profit business development organisation, and their work with a range of public and private sector actors to improve the incentives for smallholder farmers to produce highquality pigeonpeas targeted at high-value niche markets differentiated by quality standards. Examples are presented from Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique, where smallholder farmers are being linked to different niche markets through a range of institutional and market arrangements.
The paper concludes that a regional strategy to introduce new technologies, along with simple and easily administered quality standards based on end-user needs, can help farmers, traders and exporters to benefit from niche markets that demand higher quality standards than the traditional export market for fair average quality (FAQ) grain.