Increasing the economic return that the poor realize from nature based products is an important element in any strategy to use nature for poverty reduction. Many of the goods that the poor produce or obtain from nature yield low prices relative to the labor involved. Changing this involves action at three different levels.
Improve Production and Processing
The first level of creating value is improving production or processing efficiency so that the same labor yields more or a higher-quality product. An important aspect of this is improving the storage and handling of products to reduce losses and improve quality. A high rate of post-harvest losses is typical for small producers. In Ethiopia, post-harvest grain losses from spoilage, insects, and rodents rob grain producers of 5-26 percent of their harvest (Gabriel and Hundie 2004:4). Losses of milk in Tanzania total some 60 million liters per year, worth over US$14 million (FAO 2005). Reducing losses involves a concerted effort to educate small-scale producers about good production hygiene and the use of low-cost technologies for storage and shipment. For example, FAO is currently helping to implement milk-hygiene programs for small producers in East Africa, and to explore the adoption of an inexpensive milk preservation system called the lacto-peroxidase system to extend shelf-life of small producer milk (ILRI 2003:6).
Paying more attention to factors like appearance, packaging, or labeling, particularly for export or tourist markets, can also raise the value of products. State extension agents or NGO technical assistance can frequently help. In one example, small farmer cooperatives in Nicaragua have worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Thanksgiving Coffee Company to build