01 Dec 2014

Sharing experiences on market systems development in Latin America

Early M4P projects in Latin America are showing signs of success and raising important questions, writes Annick Vollmar.

In October, ASOCAM, in collaboration with the SDC e+i network, organised a regional workshop in Peru on systemic change in market development. More than 40 representatives from different organisations and institutions [1] from 11 countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region attended the workshop. Several M4P projects were presented and despite being early in development, conclusions, successes and challenges were identified. The main takeaways are outlined here.

A sound analysis of context and the principle market system, as well as its interconnected market and relevant actors, need to be factored in from the beginning to support the sustainability of interventions and its potential for scaling-up. Furthermore, systemic change objectives must be realistic. For this, it is crucial to consider:

  • the project’s duration
  • the capacities and incentives of actors
  • the experiences of the sector/territory
  • the business dimension of the principle market.

Practitioners at the conference.

M4P projects tend to concentrate on production and identify systemic limitations connected to the first value chain link (for example advisory service for producers). Both limited knowledge and practical experience of the systemic approach can hamper the project team's ability to identify limitations that are not directly linked to the production chain.

Addressing bottlenecks and the underlying causes of market failures in the main system and sub-systems yield better results when market system actors are organised in the territory through multi-stakeholder platforms and when these platforms are legitimate and representative. A project's sustainability is more likely when existing platforms are strengthened rather than creating new ones within the project frame. It is important to ensure that ‒ from the beginning ‒ the leadership of these platforms is taken by a local actor, which may imply that the capabilities of market system actors need to be strengthened.

Finally, scaling-up and crowding-in strategies require a good knowledge management strategy. Projects must include evidence-based communication strategies. In most cases projects should involve partnership with financial service actors as well as a selection of different types of actors (public, private, academy etc.). Scaling-up and crowding-in strategies should be defined early on because often they do not happen automatically; they need an impulse.

The application of the M4P approach has increased since the first Latin America SDC training in 2012. But there are still challenges and difficulties to overcome; it will be necessary to follow-up on these experiences, continue to adapt and exchange, and of course learn.

If you are interested to know more about the contents of the workshop, please visit the website (key documents, documented case studies and guides) and blog (participants testimonies, audios and slides of presentations) prepared for this occasion (in Spanish).

[1] SDC, Embassy of Sweden, Swisscontact, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, PNUD, Mercy Corps, CIAT, GIZ, Practical Action, OXFAM, IICA, PROFIN, Ministries of Agriculture, ADAM, Grupos Gestores, Brücke-Le pont and Universities.


Annick Vollmar works as a Regional Advisor on market system development with HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation. Based in Lima, Peru, she supports and advises different projects and programmers in Latin America and the Caribbean in project planning; market system analysis; implementating the M4P/MSD approach; establishing results measurement systems with the DCED Standard; and facilitates trainings on market system development and results measurement. Annick holds a Master in Anthropology and Economics from the University of Berne, Switzerland and a MAS in Development and Cooperation from the Swiss Technological Federal Institute (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland. 

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