Linking farmers to markets has become an integral part of the development agenda of world donor agencies in developing countries in the current decade as a result of the changes in the competitive environment brought about by globalization. It recognises the need to connect the rural economy more effectively with modern economic processes by building forward and backward linkages with rural producers. These linkages help to define rural development as rural industry development in the context of supply chain management.
Under the Australia-Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) there is an initiative aimed at developing the Pakistan mango industry, which is one of the major and important industries in the horticulture sector of Pakistan. Various constraints associated with the mango industry development were identified using a rapid supply chain appraisal approach (RSCA). These constraints are being addressed under a project “Optimizing mango supply chain for more profitable horticultural enterprises in Pakistan and Australia”, which uses a ‘whole of chain’ approach to development.
The RSCA process involved field visits and interviews with various stakeholders, including growers, commission agents, transporters, exporters, importers and retailers in Singapore, quality management companies, freight forwarders, shippers and support agencies such as PHDEC, universities, government departments and wholesale market committees. Consequently, three critical areas such as quality management, market understanding and supply chain management had been addressed in years of project activities. This is consistent with participatory approach that practitioners have sought to accommodate in rural industry development projects in developing countries.
Various approaches have been taken in building relationships between producers and their counterparts in the chain to improve their competitiveness. There is little evidence in the literature that provides a demonstration model of supply chain development which adopts a ‘whole of chain’ participatory approach involving all key stakeholders, either in developed or developing countries. The overall objective of this research is to evaluate can an industry development project that adopts a ‘whole of chain’ approach be effective in linking farmers to their markets.
A system-based approach has been taken to evaluate the results being achieved under the mango industry development project of the ASLP. This study is qualitative, adopting an ontological and epistemological stance referred to as constructivism. Longitudinal evaluation is the overall research strategy consisting of three rounds of data collection in different time intervals over the ASLP project duration. The research is framed around a case study of the mango industry therefore case study methods guided the data collection and analysis.
The overall findings of data analysis indicated that the respondents all along the chain recognized the issues of Pakistan mango in three critical areas, such as quality management, market knowledge and supply chain management, identified in the ASLP project. The ASLP project activities in three critical areas demonstrated the benefits of improved practices. However willingness to change their traditional practices was influenced by their expectations of what potential benefits emerged from their involvement in the ASLP project activities. Hence their commitment to be involved in project activities designed to change their practices varied from one level to the next level in the chain.
A high degree of enthusiasm towards change in traditional practices was found among those who were unhappy with the existing supply chain system e.g. growers. There was little progress achieved within the core stakeholder group members at the middlemen level e.g. contractors/ commission gents and exporters, as they did not find any compelling reason to change, particularly among those who deal in volume supplies and were better off in making money with traditional system. However, some of the middle men showed positive attitude towards change that deal in small volumes but the ASLP Project Team was not aware of this potential group. The findings also confirmed an increased level of funding available to the mango industry from the government and donor agencies that could be directly related to the ASLP project activities.
The study contributed that under the pressure of globalisation the rural industry development approaches adopted in developing countries must adapt in order to improve the competitive performance of the industry, not only at the farm level, but down the stream levels. The presence of a wider representation (middlemen and exporters) in the stakeholder group provided a broader perspective on the planning, execution and review of the industry development activities in terms of focusing these activities on the needs of the entire chain in connection to the consumer need.
However, with the different levels of motivation that existed among members of the stakeholder group, this research clearly indicated the importance of identifying members of the stakeholder group that are motivated to change. This is one of the greatest challenges for the practitioner to design and implement the rural industry development project adopting a ‘whole of chain’ approach.