From Kenya to Bangladesh: 5 ways Heifer builds strong market systems

Access to markets and fair pricing allow more farmers to lift themselves out of poverty.
Photo: Heifer International / Phillip Davis

The road to resilient food systems is not without its obstacles. A changing climate often complicates harvests. Natural disasters flood fields and damage yields. And, sometimes, a novel pathogen triggers a once-in-a-century pandemic, battering supply chains and forcing agricultural workers to stay home.

Heifer understands working toward a world free of poverty and hunger means planning now for an unpredictable future. For lasting change, we’re thinking big by working local, improving the collective power of smallholder farmers through technical training and business support, and by developing sturdy market systems at the community level.

This requires investing — in local farmers and their communities, the infrastructure they use and the systems in place that enable the most vulnerable to earn a Sustainable Living Income, generating wealth to lift themselves out of poverty.

And the stakes are high: Efficient market systems and fair prices give farmers the purchasing power to keep nutritious food on the table and roofs above their heads. Investing in infrastructure across our projects in Asia, Africa and the Americas paves the way forward for farmers’ success.

Here’s some of what that looks like on the ground:

1. Reimagining Value Chains in Guatemala

Farmers in Alta Verapaz often sell their cardamom for far less than it's worth. Nueva Kerala is changing this dynamic.
Photo: Heifer International / Daniel Lopez

Heifer's private investment entity Heifer Impact Capital invested in new spice company Nueva Kerala in Guatemala. The company buys, processes and distributes spices grown by farmers in the department of Alta Verapaz, and sells those spices — cardamom, cinnamon, allspice and black pepper — directly to importers.

It’s a critical intervention that cuts out middlemen and shortens an otherwise long value chain in which farmers typically earn only a fraction of the amount buyers do. Connecting smallholder spice producers with big industry players increases the leverage farmers have in market negotiations, snagging them more equitable portions of the profits.

“A company like this … has the potential to have so much impact for farmers,” said Suzanne Munson, Heifer’s director of global partnerships and alliances, indicating that Nueva Kerala is poised to transform market dynamics in Guatemala and beyond.

2. Creating Local Markets in Haiti

The newly opened market in Anse-à-Pitres will increase the sales and production of local farmers.
Photo: Heifer International.

The newly opened market in Anse-à-Pitres will increase the sales and production of local farmers. Photo by Heifer International.In Anse-à-Pitres, a municipality on Haiti’s southeastern edge, underproduction frequently plagues smallholder farmers because they lack a local market; most travel to neighboring Dominican Republic to sell their produce and don’t earn enough to maximize their production potential.

Together with municipal authorities, and despite a devasting earthquake and ongoing sociopolitical challenges, Heifer Haiti opened an outdoor marketplace in October 2021 to increase farmer incomes and keep Haitian money in Haiti.

The market is set to become a platform for 174 full-time small vendors. It’s a substantial investment, said Hervil Cherubin, country director of Heifer Haiti, who estimates the marketplace will keep $90,000 in the community per week.

“The most important thing about it is the economic impact we’re going to have,” he said. “With this market we’re going to increase the annual income of farmers substantially.”

3. Building Warehouses in Bang