Lecofruit is the Malagasy subsidiary of the French company Basan, which has been operating in Madagascar since 1989. Since 2012, Lecofruit has received support from various EU initiatives including the Europe-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific Liaison Committee (COLEACP) and Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zausammenarbeit (GIZ) in order to diversify farmer income sources and increase productivity. Lecofruit builds relationships between smallholder farmers and exporters to enable smallholders to profit from growing export markets. Contracts are limited to a small portion of farmer’s land (typically contracted plots are just 1/100th of a hectare, although households may have more than 1 contract).
One of Lecofruit’s main exports is hand-picked French beans, destined for Europe. Lecofruit has contracts with more than 11,000 smallholder vegetable farmers, each with a hectare of land or less. Lecofruit advances seed, fertiliser and pesticides and provides an extension worker for small groups of growers to help them meet the standards required by European supermarkets.
Lecofruit is in the process of expanding their scope to provide exports for the growing European organic market. Currently 10% of Malagasy French beans are organic, so Lecofruit has trained around 70 technicians in organic farming practices, who have passed on their knowledge to 1,270 farmers.
As scarce water supplies and inefficient irrigation are large contributors to low productivity in the region, Lecofruit invested in micro-irrigation systems and extension training, employing 370 instructors to help 5,000 farmers. On average, farming households with a contract with Lecofruit experienced a lean period of 1.7 months, compared to 4.4 months for a similar household with no contract demonstrating that contracts can be extremely important for seasonality smoothing. Lecofruit contracts have increased smallholder annual incomes by 8% for conventional farmers and 64% for organic farmers.