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Guidelines | January 13, 2016

A Guide to Strengthening Business Development Services in Rural Areas

This guide is focused on how business development services can increase the sustainability of smallholder agroenterprises in rural communities. By exploring theoretical frameworks and highlighting practical applications, the guide demonstrates how a variety of support services not only improve the performance of individual producer organizations and agro-enterprises, but how they also strengthen entire agricultural sub-sectors and market chains and fuel new employment opportunities in rural areas.

The aim of this guide is to equip new and existing service providers with a set of methods and tools to help smallholder producers engage more effectively in local, regional and global markets. By doing so, smallholder farmers may enhance their capacity to innovate and compete, increase their household income, and ultimately improve their livelihoods. 

This guide is part of a series of agro-enterprise publications developed in a long collaboration between Catholic Relief Services and the Rural Agro-enterprise Development project of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and their partners. The series is grounded on the area-based (territorial) approach to rural agro-enterprise development, which supports local communities to engage with competitive market chains that are equitable, pro-gender and participatory. Its preparation has been a collaborative effort based on experiences and lessons learned from designing and implementing agro-enterprise and marketing projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The guides are intended for use by the staff of development organizations that wish to adopt a market-and enterprise-oriented approach to rural and agricultural development. They can serve as a basis for training field agents and developing staff capacity to facilitate enterprise development efforts involving rural communities and local service providers.


  • Abbreviations

  • Preface

  • Acknowledgments

  • Introduction

  • Part 1: A Guide to Strenghtening Business Development Services in Rural Areas 

  • Part 2: Case Studies

  • Annex 1. New Business Model Components

  • Annex 2. About the Partners

  • Annex 3. About the Donors

  • References