In 1984 Yvonnick saw the creation and development of a large number of micro businesses as a key strategy to foster new farming markets and restore the autonomy of poor populations. He initially used the support of the Congolese state (getting a percentage of oil revenues) and major private companies like Total to launch his programs. Now, Yvonnick’s integrated approach is based on a three-step process to reorganize the farming structure: (i) conduct an in-depth market analysis to understand local macro and microeconomic specificities and design the proper path of intervention (ii) design a grassroots action plan to identify local partners and potential beneficiaries (iii) train beneficiaries to build business capacity and to improve techniques among small farming businesses. Underlying these efforts, Yvonnick also works to ensure that individuals consider themselves as central to the supply chain. Agrisud follows their progress over three years. During this time, Agrisud provides them with the right tools to understand and propose an appropriate offer to the market, constantly watching its evolution through economic research institutes. Agrisud has also worked on expanding the network’s markets by building bridges with private companies such as Veolia for water distribution or Club Med for food supply in tourism hotels. By facilitating those win-win alliances, Yvonnick is opening new markets from which small producers were previously excluded, while advising private groups to shift their practices and develop economic relationships with local populations.
Yvonnick recognizes the great potential of his problem solving model within contexts beset with natural catastrophes, political instability, and food crises. Since 1993, Yvonnick has been applying his approach to many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Determined to avoid reliance on Agrisud, he has encouraged the emergence of powerful local networks to support small businesses in their development. Yvonnick emphasizes the creation of national structures affiliated with Agrisud to ensure the sustainability of the model. When a gap exists in the local institutional setting, Agrisud fills this gap through initiating new activities to fill it. In Gabon for instance, the Gabonese Institute of Development, a national non-profit entity to foster the agro-ecology field across the country, was created by Agrisud (1992) and has been playing a key role in structuring the local farming markets ever since. In addition, by constantly increasing the number of business-minded farmers, Yvonnick’s ground approach lies in building the capacity of “master-farmers”—trained and experienced farmers supported by Agrisud—to disseminate the know-how in local area networks. This strategy is proving a tremendous impact: In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2,000 farmers were supported directly by Agrisud, but through the network effect of master-farmers, 25,000 farmers have been effectively trained. With master-farmers in thirteen countries, there is great potential for this self-fuelled process.
Responding to a high demand, Yvonnick has created tools to formalize and deploy the way Agrisud impacts markets. His expertise is so recognized today that he is routinely consulted by local actors and international donors. This proactive approach allows Agrisud to apply its own project without the interfering agenda of international donors. It also accrues roughly €5 million (US$6.5 million) in funding each year from local ministries as well as French and European development agencies to launch and sustain programs. To impact markets on a permanent basis, Yvonnick is building strategic alliances with key partners in new countries and new sectors: CIRAD for horticulture, French Senior Fellow Pierre Rabhi’s Terre et Humanisme for agroecology, and AFD for French development assistance. Yvonnick’s methodological approach has enabled him to scale widely in various contexts. Constantly acting on new opportunities, he is currently launching a project in France with the Food Bank to support unemployed women in creating small businesses around wasted fruits and vegetable recycling. Finally, to further multiply Agrisud’s impact beyond its own development capacity, Yvonnick has developed two Learning Cycles to train COs and institutions in order to spread his tools. The ninety COs trained so far are transforming their practices while reaching new in-need populations and integrating a systemic economic approach to respond to developing countries challenges.
Yvonnick recognizes that to reduce poverty and increase food security, individuals and communities need functioning, local markets and that to help create and sustain these local markets it is critical to shift the mindset of individuals so that they view themselves as active and engaged participants in a supply-chain for the market. He recognized that a key part of this was changing the relationship between the individual farmers and the other actors in the local markets. Yvonnick brings together groups of individuals to overcome barriers to entering the market (e.g. transportation costs, the need to have a certain amount or volume of food, and physical space constraints in the actual marketplace where goods are sold); and then he works to create an enabling environment for the farmers to succeed and last over time. Activities that help him achieve this include, training in negotiating skills, training local organizations to provide business advice, and enlisting local institutions to provide small amounts of credit to the collective.
Yvonnick has become a reference and architect of the field. He can now share broadly his expertise and know-how through apprenticeship cycles. Yvonnick keeps innovating to apply his model to various contexts to help people reduce hardship by becoming successful micro entrepreneurs. In Cambodia, Niger, Haiti, Angola, or Sri Lanka, in contexts of social and humanitarian crisis, thousands of refugees have crafted a social and economic role in society by launching their own small businesses. More recently, Yvonnick has begun to apply his approach in France by supporting long-term unemployed women who need an integrated and entrepreneurial solution to improve their condition.