Connecting Smallholder Farmers in El Salvador to Reliable Markets
by Stephanie Manciagli, Regional Director for the Americas & the Caribbean
Smallholder farmers around the world face layers upon layers of obstacles in selling their harvests: they tend to lack savings, have few options for financing, maintain inadequate farming tools and infrastructure, and can’t access reliable and fairly priced markets, which often favor large-scale or industrial farms. While the definition of smallholder farmers includes those with access to up to 24 acres, Whole Planet Foundation mostly funds those farming on less than five.
Acceso’s ‘farmer first’ model is removing these obstacles by linking small-scale farmers to high value domestic and international markets. By providing farmers with crop market analyses, financial advice, weather data, training in good agricultural practices, and farming inputs, farmers improve their productivity and profits. In fact, results from a 2021 Acceso study found that many of their smallholder farmers’ incomes increase by more than 250%.
Their pioneering 'seed to market’ approach builds the whole supply chain between smallholder farmers and formal markets, helping members to build the operational infrastructure needed to get their produce to market, and then selling it for them. Thus, Acceso provides smallholders with a ‘one-stop-shop’ to remove production and sales barriers. At the same time, Acceso’s services benefit large buyers like Subway and major grocery stores, who buy from Acceso to ensure a single, transparent, and reliable system to source high quality produce from smallholders at scale.
Acceso’s partnership with Whole Planet Foundation and Kasperick Foundation finances farmers taking loans to produce one or several of over 50 crops including tomatoes, beans, onions, and more. Loan recipients receive a combination of seed, seedlings, fertilizer, micro-tunnels, or compost on credit.
Whole Planet Foundation met several clients taking their first loans with Acceso, when we visited in May 2023.
Carlos began selling tomatoes when his brother lent him his greenhouse when he emigrated from El Salvador. He didn’t have any experience with this variety but has been able to pick it up quickly with the guidance of an Acceso Technician, who provides technical assistance and supports Carlos while he pays back his loan, by selling his harvest to Acceso.
Gloribel, 21 years old, took her first ever loan, for $360. She learned about Acceso from her uncle, who’d taught her basic farming techniques as a teenager, when she worked on his small farm. She and her family do not have much land but with her Acceso greenhouse and seeds, she is able to generate more income.
In the years to come, Acceso anticipates working with thousands more like Carlos and Gloribel. In fact, in May 2022, Acceso signed a $15 million agreement with USAID to expand across El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Whole Planet Foundation and Kasperick Foundation are proud to be early supporters of Acceso, which is revolutionizing smallholder access to formal markets.
Learn more at wholeplanetfoundation.org.