Providing marketing information to smallholders in Zimbabwe: What can the state usefully do?
In recent decades, significant international assistance has been provided to assist the establishment of market information systems (MISs) in a range of developing countries, including many in Africa. However, experience with state-run MISs, looking to provide current price information to market participants, has not been encouraging. Volatile horticultural markets provide particular challenges for such MISs. Therefore, it is suggested that it might be more appropriate to provide other types of marketing information to inform the production and marketing decisions of smallholder producers. This paper reports on recent efforts by the national extension agency, Agritex, to provide such information to smallholder horticultural producers in two districts of north-eastern Zimbabwe. Drawing on an initial evaluation of this pilot programme, the paper suggests that: 1) in the Zimbabwe case, the extension service may provide a viable vehicle for dissemination of marketing information to smallholder (horticultural) producers; 2) information on new crops and market opportunities is valued more highly by farmers than information on current market prices; 3) such information should complement, not supplant, traditional production extension advice. The paper concludes by considering some of the issues pertaining to the continuation and expansion of the pilot programme.
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