Choices in commodity project design.

This is a chapter from a book entitled 'From sorghum to shrimp: A journey through commodity projects'


The basic question this book investigates is how the public resources available through grant projects can be deployed to support agricultural commodity chains for local economic development, with a specific objective of poverty alleviation. This book describes some of the practical dilemmas that project designers and implementers face. It is intended for development professionals and students, as well as donors that want to increase the likelihood of project success. It aims to help project designers, implementers and evaluators make pragmatic, realistic decisions in designing and implementing commodity development projects

This chapter discusses issues relating to complexity in commodity projects. Complexities relate to the type of commodity, the focus the project chooses in terms of single or multiple issues tackled, the approach used, starting from a problem or an opportunity, and the number of countries involved. It draws the following lessons for project designers and implementers:

  • It is important to focus on opportunities rather than problems. It is only when an opportunity exists that an intervention can have a positive impact on the stakeholders involved. The project can then tackle the constraints that hinder the intended beneficiaries from taking advantage of the opportunity.
  • Single-focus projects need specific justification. They should be initiated only where a thorough systems analysis has clearly identified a single, most important bottleneck for commodity development. Even then, other relevant issues should be made explicit. In other cases, focusing on a single issue is not justified.
  • Commodity system innovation often requires a multi-focus approach, working on different issues simultaneously – which makes commodity projects complex. The coordination should have a broad overview of the system and be able to coordinate among a range of stakeholders.
  • A multi-country project is only justified if the participation of other countries brings clear benefits for each country. The project has to make such a win-win situation explicit.


Agwanda, C. Choices in commodity project design. In: Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) and Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) (Eds) From sorghum to shrimp: A journey through commodity projects. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2011) 11-22. ISBN 978-94-6022-156-9

Choices in commodity project design

Published 1 January 2011