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Submitted by CharithaR on
Indeed Melissa, why aren't we doing more? One inherent problem with small-artisan production is the cost of aggregation, another is how to efficiently and fairly spread overheads. The problem is only worse when those artisans are scattered in rural areas, whether occasionally clustered in villages or not. People like the World of Good Development Organization have been working for a while on another issue, helping artisans correctly cost the value of their own efforts (http://www.worldofgood.org/our-work/projects/living-wage-project/). At the point of aggregating and effectively marketing such products, an intermediary - or middleman - can add tremendous value. Effective marketing means developing the market, conveying market signals and trends back to the producers, helping producers build capacity, keeping margins reasonable and passing on value chain profits to the producers. Unfortunately the term "middleman" has gained negative connotations precisely because market intermediaries have been letting down the rest of the value chain too badly, for too long. We set up Rural Returns (www.ruralreturns.org) to 1) help rural communities identify high-end products unique to them and thus able to help them gain greater income due to their inherent comparative advantage, and 2) help raise producer prices by providing price competition so that market discipline forces all intermediaries to pay out more sustainable share of value chain profits to original producers.