“The price of octopus last year was 4,000 TSH but, following the PMSD workshop, the fisher committee organised a meeting with local octopus buyers to discuss prices. The local buyers initially agreed for 4,500 TSH, but with further negotiation they increased their price to 5,000 TSH, a 25% increase overall. Well, it is the PMSD workshop with FFI that deserves the credit for this success.” – Ali Said, Mwambao Coastal Community Network.
PMSD, which stands for Participatory Market System Development, is not as complicated as it may sound!
It started when my colleague, Helen Schneider, saw the potential for using this social development tool, developed by Practical Action, in the conservation world. Small community-owned businesses set up under market-based projects were struggling to sustain themselves long term – for reasons including a lack of clear understanding of the market demands and business models. There was clearly a need for a new approach.
This is where PMSD differs from traditional market-based approaches. It emphasises the importance of understanding the demand for a particular product or service. The NGO’s role should be that of a facilitator, encouraging stakeholders such as farmers, traders and private companies to come together to capitalise on the market opportunities. The approach encourages participants to take a more holistic view and see the market as an interconnected network, in which the actions of a mere handful of stakeholders can have a big impact on the whole system.
In the beginning, I was quite sceptical. I could see the benefits of bringing stakeholders together, especially to address information gaps typical in rural markets where farmers and companies hardly meet or know each other’s concerns. However, I couldn’t see how structural barriers in these market systems could be addressed by PMSD without requiring significant additional support from NGOs to build the capacity of rural communities.
But I was wrong!
I underestimated the power of stakeholders and the energy that is unleashed when barriers are broken and different groups come together for the common goals of improving their lives and conserving biodiversity.
A shining example of this can be found in Pemba, off the Tanzanian coast, where Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working on community-based marine conservation in partnership with the Mwambao Coastal Community Network. The PMSD approach was introduced to strengthen the octopus market system, enabling the fisher community and buyers to meet and understand that the issues they faced individually were actually shared concerns. With two participatory, multi-stakeholder workshops now complete, we are seeing some interesting system changes. As illustrated in Ali Said’s quote above, prices for octopus have now increased – especially for women, who were previously paid less than men – and the extra income is beginning to contribute to the operating cost of conservation initiatives such as closure monitoring and patrolling.