Researchers to Study Legume Value Chains in West Africa

MSU researchers Michael Olabasi and Mywish Maredia will study the legume value chain in West Africa through research commissioned by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research.

Photo of men selling legumes at Market in Kano, Nigeria.

Pieces of a puzzle hardly ever make sense individually, but chained together they form a complete picture.  In the same way, completely connected links in a chain can yield success. Lose a piece and the whole chain fails. Making value chains work can be especially challenging in developing countries. Agricultural value chains link value-adding activities at every stage of a product’s life cycle, from farmer to consumer. Unfortunately, the links of the chain are often undefined and policymakers are forced to design farm-to-market interventions without identifying and understanding all the pieces.

To provide policymakers with a better view of the pieces in the legumes value chain, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) commissioned by the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research will study the legume value chain in three cities in or near the West African Sahel – Kano and Ilorin in Nigeria, and Niamey in Niger. The goal of the research is to provide information on how these value chains function and what makes them resilient.

A resilient and well-functioning value chain/market system is critical for farmers to generate income and earn livelihoods, and for consumers to access food, and other agricultural products.

Market system failures that result from crises or lack of information undermine the ability of farmers, consumers and other actors in the value chain to survive and thrive. The research effort, led by MSU Drs. Michael Olabisi and Mywish Maredia, will use surveys to document key actors along the value chains -- their locations, genders, ages, and the scale of their businesses. They will document the buyer-supplier linkages step-by-step from farmers to consumers for these legume markets. The surveys will assess the function and resilience of the value chains.

The market surveys and the map of buyer-supplier linkages will collect detailed data on the profiles of all the major players in the grain legume value chains in the selected markets. This activity will address the cross-cutting issues of gender and youth by documenting the role men, women and youth currently play in the legume markets and value chains. The map can help to identify constraints to the participation of youth and women as producers, traders, distributors, and retailers, in the legumes value chain. As a result, it should be easier to identify opportunities for enhancing employment and market engagement for the next wave of youth and female value-chain actors.

The information generated by the survey has great potential for mitigating the effects of events that may break a link in the chain -- disrupting the flow of food from producers to consumers. The insight from this effort will be valuable to the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab management team, as well as other researchers, and policymakers that need to understand the value chains that deliver legumes to regional markets. This activity relates to the Legume Systems Innovation Lab Area of Inquiry 2.1, systems modeling to inform and guide actions, technologies, and policies for resilience and food security within the context of variable climate, as well as area 2.2, dynamic assessment of regional trade.

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