Organisation Coleacp has launched a new programme to continue and ramp up its assistance for farmers in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region, with the overall goal of reducing poverty, improving food security and food safety, while ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth through the strengthening of these countries’ export sectors.
Fit For Market (FFM) is a five-year programme with a total budget of €25m, co-funded by the European Union and focused exclusively on fruit and vegetables. “The specific objective of the programme is to support the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises, by improving their access to international and domestic markets, while increasing the resilience, inclusiveness and sustainability of the value chain through the provision of capacity-building and policy guidance,” says Coleacp’s general delegate, Guy Stinglhamber.
Poverty alleviation is a major initial focus, he says, through the support of fairer and more inclusive value chains, strengthening links between farmers and companies of all sizes.
The programme will support companies’ growth, he adds, by “enabling them to train and sustain their human resources and by supporting the implementation of quality environmental management systems”. If a business is being developed, he explains, the key is to translate that into job creation.
Coleacp’s director of operations, Jeremy Knops, spoke of efforts to improve gender equality by building on the successful work of the PIP 2 programme, which saw permanent jobs for women double over a five-year period.
He also stressed the importance of growing regional trade. “Today, trade at a local and regional level is picking up, and it is of increasing importance to companies,” says Knops. “We want to support not just sales towards exports but also towards local and regional markets, with the end objective of increasing the quantity and quality of fruit and vegetables for local consumption.”
As everywhere, the key for the future will be to produce more while minimising the impact on the environment. “The idea is to work with committed companies who embrace sustainability, and by embracing sustainability improve their competitiveness, which improves their ability to access markets and finance,” says Knops. “With Fit For Market, we move from a reactive to a more proactive approach. There is a real business case behind sustainability for companies to go along this path.”