In this Devex interview, Patrick Norrell, former director of Tetra Tech’s agriculture and economic growth practice, discusses connecting bottom-of-the-pyramid farmers to commercial agricultural supply chains that can bridge the gap between subsistence farming and growing a sustainable business.

In recent years governments, foreign aid donors, and their implementing partners have made a noticeable shift in efforts to integrate the poorest of the poor into commercial value chains, with the goal of improving food security, health, and livelihoods.

Mr. Norrell explains that one of the main challenges remains largely unchanged—how to sustainably deliver training, information, technology, financing, and market linkages to the smallholders at the bottom of the pyramid. Building the capacity of the local, small and medium-sized enterprises—agriculture’s missing middle—is crucial to providing goods and services that link those smallholders with markets, capital, and suppliers at the top of the pyramid.

In addition to increasing overall production and productivity, Tetra Tech’s approach to holistic agricultural value chain development—recently tried and tested in U.S. Agency for International Development projects in Colombia, Uganda, Macedonia, and Kosovo—focuses on building the private sector capacity within this missing middle. In Uganda, Tetra Tech is supporting USAID in formalizing linkages between input suppliers and wholesale dealers and building win-win business relationships between input dealers and village-based sales agents to facilitate last-mile initiatives that make quality agricultural inputs more accessible to rural farmers.

This interview is part of Devex’s Feeding Development campaign, which focuses on food security. Learn more about the campaign.