Saturday, 3 September 2011

Guide to making commodity-based projects work

Edited by Paul Mundy et al. 
Published by Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) 
2011, 150pp, ISBN 978 94 6022 156 9(Pb), €25 or free to download

From sorghum to shrimp is an accessible, sensible and practical, and a very valuable guide to making commodity-based projects work. It draws on the experience of 11 Commonwealth Fund for Commodities projects, from Asia, Africa and Latin America, guiding the reader through a series of key questions. What commodity to choose is the first: there are advantages to choosing a 'privileged' or established commodity like cocoa, cotton or coffee, but for the poorly resourced community, an 'infant' crop, such as bamboo in East Africa, or a neglected, 'orphan' crop like sorghum, will have less competition from big players and is often the best choice.

Working in a single country helps to reduce complications, which is a good idea as most commodity projects need to focus on bottlenecks at various points in the value chain, and not expect to achieve a result from action on just one issue. Being flexible throughout the project implementation, responding to unexpected problems, taking advantage of new opportunities and constantly assessing whether the project goals need to change in light of the evolving situation, are all important ingredients to success. Other chapters focus on the roles of stakeholders and partners, using market opportunities and achieving a lasting impact.