The role of non-governmental organisations in facilitating smallholder farmers’ sccess to markets in Eswatini.
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Market access is believed to be a necessity for smallholder farmers who produce crops and sell surplus crops for income purposes. The lack of market accessibility is a challenge faced by the majority of smallholder farmers. Lack of market accessibility is caused by various factors such as low levels of production, poor infrastructure as well as issues to do with high transportation costs. However, the role played by Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) within the agricultural sector has been of influence in facilitating market access for smallholder farmers. NGOs in developing and less developed countries have identified the need to support smallholder farmers and intervene to alleviate poverty and positively contribute to improving smallholder farmer livelihoods. In the Kingdom of Eswatini (KoE), there has been a growing emphasis on smallholder farmer agri-business development to enable smallholder farmers to benefit from market operations. Smallholder farmers are, however, still faced with constraints that negatively influence their participation in various markets. In the KoE, smallholder farmers have often found it difficult to produce crops in large quantities, and crops with good quality for the available markets that are highly dominated by commercial farmers. However, the Ministry of Agriculture in the KoE has managed to collaborate with key international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). As a result, programmes such as the Swaziland Agricultural Development Programme (SADP) have been launched to work with local NGOs to establish marketing platforms for smallholder farmers seeking to engage in agri-business. This has resulted in the need to fully explore the role of NGOs in facilitating market access for smallholder farmers and what the smallholder farmers think about the work that the NGOs do in improving their agricultural livelihoods. The study focused on exploring the role of NGOs in facilitating market access for smallholder farmers. The study adopted a mixed-method approach, and the data collection was conducted through the distribution of questionnaires to smallholder farmers and the conducting of interviews with NGO representatives. The selection of participants occurred using purposive sampling. The smallholder farmer participants were recruited from various NGOs in the KoE that this study selected. A total of six NGOs working with smallholder farmers in the KoE ensured that several of their smallholder farmer beneficiaries and representatives participate in the study. The questionnaires were analysed using SPSS 27 and the interviews were analysed using Nvivo 12. The study revealed that NGOs do play a vital role in assisting smallholder farmers to have access to markets from the production level to the market accessibility level. Furthermore, the study revealed that smallholder farmers rely on NGOs for production inputs to increase their yields and for NGOs to find appropriate markets for them. The research also found that NGOs have their challenges when it comes to operating with smallholder farmers and facilitating market access for them. Further, the study revealed that a lack of access to funding is a major constraint that smallholder farmers are faced with and are therefore unable to produce high-value crops which can enable them access to various formal markets. The study recommends that NGOs in the KoE ought to train smallholder farmers more on the importance of establishing their markets in the communities that they come from. The study recommends that market identification, accessibility, and creation for smallholders should be the focus for policymakers and NGOs. Interventions aimed at enhancing market accessibility and participation among smallholder farmers in the KoE should be implemented. There is also a need for the government to play a vital role in assisting NGOs in the KoE to meet their goals. Lastly, it is recommended that a market-led approach to smallholder farmer development be adopted to improve the commercial prospects of smallholder farmers whilst bolstering farmers’ livelihoods.