Enabling Rural Farm Enterprises

Lead Organization:

Fundación Aliados

Partner Organizations:

ESPAE (ESPOL) Graduate School of Management; farmer associations Asociación de productores Agropecuarios La Ruta Escondida; Asociación de producción Agropecuaria Mushuk Tarpuy. AZAMA. Asproamauta; Asociación Artesanal Chakrata Tarpushun; Asociación de Productores MABE; Asociación de Productores Santa Rosa de Cusubamba; and Asociación de Desarrollo Comunitario Aromas del Cayambe; and corporate partners Terrafertil/Nature’s Heart and TippyTea

Community of Practice:





For rural smallholder farmers, creating enterprises presents challenges (Jayadatta, 2017): geographic, business experience, product volume and quality, and access to finance or markets. High-quality support services are scarce (Macqueen et al., 2018), and little evidence exists about their effectiveness (Sydow et al., 2020; Sutter et al., 2017). Many interventions have demonstrated little success (Chmielewski, Dembek & Beckett, 2020).

Bottom of the pyramid literature has paid little attention to understanding the role organizations play in bridging rural businesses with supply chains. This research, too, shows little success (Chmielewski, Dembek & Beckett, 2020). McKnight-supported research suggests a need for improved quantity and quality of extension provided to farmer associations (Root Capital, 2015). In short, a research gap exists on how to support rural farming communities with service provision to establish agroecological enterprises.

Challenges also exist around embedding enterprise activities and outcomes within holistic, sustainable livelihood strategies. Why promote a rural enterprise driven exclusively by productivity, growth, and profit? Numerous socioeconomic factors affect poverty outcomes that can mask new technologies’ true impact (Adato et al., 2007). Smallholder farmers’ objectives and circumstances are not uniform, found Nelson and Coe (2014), and AEI promotion must be context dependent. Rural farmers are often more concerned with risk management than strict production and profit maximization (Nelson & Coe, 2014).

Another challenge for rural economic development is natural resource conservation alongside community life strategies (Pavel Bautista-Solis et al., 2012). New concepts and analysis are needed (Chambers & Conway, 1991), as are more holistic approaches and comparative case studies (Adato et al., 2007).

CATIE has undertaken research applying the community capital framework for analysis of resources that communities use to establish life strategies on enterprise incubation for climate resilient landscapes (Macqueen et al., 2018). With McKnight support, Root Capital researched appropriate delivery of support for rural enterprises. The FAO generates regular knowledge on rural enterprises and market-oriented activities for improving both livelihoods and food security.

In terms of practitioners. NESsT provides financial and technical support for Andes social enterprises. Riccolto aims to generate sustainable income for farmers, and nutritious, affordable food for all, by bridging farmer organizations and companies. Technoserve applies a traditional business approach to help people in developing countries improve the value of what they produce and strengthen their role in larger markets.

Grant Aims:

  1. Implement an integrated incubation program to enable rural farm enterprise development that improves sustainable livelihoods (SLs) in the Ecuadorian Andes.
  2. Embed rural farm enterprise objectives and activities within farmer association SL strategies.
  3. Undertake an action-research cross-case analysis to identify learning, innovation, and process dynamics that generate direct and indirect impacts on SL capitals.
  4. Engage the wider research, practitioner, and policy space to situate the research within existing priorities and amplify lessons and generate influence.

Outputs and Outcomes:


  • SWOT analysis
  • Regenerative enterprise workplans
  • Increased agroecological farm productivity
  • Increased farmer incomes
  • New local jobs
  • Enterprise management capacities
  • Enterprise profitability
  • Increased finance for enterprises
  • Market access partnerships
  • Sustainable livelihood strategies (assessing SLF capitals)
  • Participatory evaluations of enterprise performance
  • Updated livelihood strategies
  • Research protocol: methodological guidelines for data collection, analysis, and interpretation of results
  • Progress reports: qualitative and quantitative assessment on Aliados’ redeployment of knowledge and capabilities to strengthen rural enterprises within community livelihood strategies
  • Project database: for Aliados’ and project partners’ knowledge management, innovation, and continuous improvement
  • Academic paper about process framework on how to co-create agroecological enterprises that can support rural community life strategies
  • Evidence-based guidelines to co-create agroecological enterprises that can support rural community life strategies
  • Teaching materials for students and practitioners about development and management of agroecological enterprises


  • More productive agroecological farms
  • Improved economic livelihoods for farming families
  • Viable rural enterprises
  • Long-term community vision for sustainable livelihoods
  • Alignment between enterprise activities and community vision
  • Knowledge and best practices shared among community of practice, local communities, academia, and practitioners in Latin America
  • Publications available for future generations of entrepreneurs, policymakers, and university students on how to manage agroecological enterprises
  • Policymakers, entrepreneurs, university students, and managers with new knowledge on best practices of agroecological enterprise scale-up and management, plus incentives to change status quo