In many countries, ECOM employs agronomists directly in SMS agronomy divisions within the local operating company to provide training, conduct credit assessments, and facilitate the procurement process.
In several countries where local laws or circumstances dictate, ECOM has established separate agronomy advisory subsidiaries. These are wholly-owned and explicitly dedicated to supporting farmers with the goal of being able to source their product, but they are separate for management and accounting purposes.
In several countries, separate non-profit farmer training centers have been developed with partners.
ECOM’s efforts are aimed at building long-lasting capacities for ongoing farmer training. Establishing these programs is almost always in partnership with development agencies, NGOs, clients and banks. These partners engage with ECOM in public/private partnerships, recognizing the public good that is a component of this work.
Some learnings from ECOM’s experience so far include:
- The strength of ECOM’s programs for farmers is its link to the market (that is, the link to ECOM purchasing) which enables ECOM to focus the training efforts on market needs and opportunities, advising farmers on which certification program(s) to adopt, which higher-value market segments to aim for, and which technologies to implement.
- ECOM’s sustainable programs must not only be relevant to producers’ needs, but they must be cost-effective enough to still enable ECOM to be a competitive buyer in harvest season. Partnerships with clients, NGOs and donors help mitigate risk and upfront costs.
- The synergy between training, services, credit and purchasing is critical to the success of the program, both for ECOM and the farmers. The manpower and data collection from each of these activities leverage each other, making them collectively stronger.
- To be successful over the long-term, ECOM must continue to build in-house training and input support capacities, rather than relying on external consultants. ECOM has found that internal capacities maximize synergies and provide a valuable year-round presence.