Economic Empowerment

Economic Empowerment: Tapping the potential of rural populations as entrepreneurs, producers and consumers.

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Inclusive Markets

People should not be treated as victims needing aid, but as people with skills and resources. We give people the opportunity to develop in such a way as to be able to create their own sustainable livelihoods. Whether that requires developing specific skills, acting as intermediary or investor: our efforts are focused on empowering people so that they can link up to viable and sustainable value chains, acquire income and produce sufficient and quality food for a balanced diet. In other words: we want to make markets work for the poor and the poor work with their markets’ (ICCO MASP)”

For multiple reasons and in many different ways, markets often fail to deliver sustainable livelihoods and development opportunities to small-scale producers and workers in poor countries. ICCO wants to contribute to correcting this failure. We do this through our economic empowerment approach.

Aim & approach

The Economic Empowerment Program is based on our vision that all small producers and workers should be able to enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, to fulfill their potential and to decide on their own future. Because livelihood strategies of poor people are linked with market systems, we essentially work on transforming market systems. Using an inclusive market systems development approach, we aim to increase the capacity and resilience of local systems. We leverage the incentives and resources of the private sector, ensuring the beneficial inclusion of the very poor and stimulate change and innovation that continue beyond the project period.

Our focus is on sustainable farming and agri-business value chains. To generate income and improve food security of small scale farmers, we train them so they can improve their production (quantity and quality) and to strengthen their business skills. By promoting diversified, productive and resilient agricultural systems, we safeguard natural resources and mitigate climate change. At the same time we work on improved access to resources (particularly to land and water) and to markets (inputs / outputs).

ICCO empowers small producers and marginalized groups by connecting them to viable and sustainable value chains and its actors. Equality throughout these value chains is the key to success. Therefore, we also recognize the important role of larger farmers and local entrepreneurs as drivers of economic activities that also benefit the poor. While bigger private companies, rural advisory service providers and financial institutions are not part of our target group, we collaborate with these actors in order to improve their service delivery to our target groups.

Cross cutting issues

Throughout the program, there is also attention for gender and social equity as a cross cutting theme. When promoting changes in production systems and markets, the current position of women, men, youth, and disadvantaged persons should be analysed, as well as the potential impact of project activities on these different population groups.

Also crosscutting is the focus on advocacy. We support farmer groups and communities in their empowerment process, strengthen civil society and perform rights-based advocacy. At the level of policies, we strive to promote a conducive environment for sector development and equitable management of natural resources. We also advocate for more equitable rural development at the international level (e.g. rules of the game, standards), and sensitize consumers as well as trade partners on development issues.

In all our programs, ICCO Cooperation stimulates innovation, knowledge sharing and learning. We promote the development of creative solutions and support capacity building of local actors. The organisation strives at constantly improving our own and our partners’ competencies in the different working areas.

Sustainable Development Goals

No PovertyZero HungerGender EqualityReduces InequalitiesResponsible Consumption and ProductionPartnerships for the goals

    Food Security

    • Smallholder farmers produce or have access to adequate and healthy food for household consumption and markets.


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    Responsible Business

    Companies do no harm in local communities and governments create an enabling environment for companies. 

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    Humanitarian Aid

    Disaster preparedness, life-saving aid and rehabilitation after an emergency through local organizations.


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