During the last months, twenty herder groups in Mongolia have participated in a training on adding value and marketing. This training is part of the Waterpoint and Extension Station Establishment project, especially the income generation part of this project. The first ten trainings Ikhbayar, my Mongolian colleague and Livestock Expert and I conducted the trainings, the last ten trainings, Aly Loes (my Dutch colleague) joined me for the Marketing part. The next weeks I will write the stories about the training with different herder groups on this website. Now I will start with giving general information about this training as it was successfull in a way that the herder group members were very enthusiastic about it.
The training starts with introducing the project and that we are the ‘Business team’ of the income generation part of the project. We ask for the expectations of the herder group members about this training. Often, the herders don’t have any idea about adding value to their products and marketing and just like to know more about it. Then, we tell them we ourselves have one expectation about this training: that they will earn more money if they use the knowledge and skills they learn in the training. As their time is valuable, we will count every minute they spend in the training and equal those to 100 Tugrik. The exact time of the start of the training is written down on a flipover. In the end of the training we will calculate all the minutes and the participants can tell us if this time/money is spent well in their opinion and how they will earn it back this year. This works very well to make the participants realise that their time is valuable and should not be wasted.
Then the official training starts. The livestock part during the first ten trainings discusses the inputs for the pastoralist way of farming (labour, finance and natural resources), calculates how much pasture (feed) every sheep consumes a year and how much money this would cost if it wasn’t for free, and at last, what an optimal herd size is with 100 sheep divided in 1 or 2 year old and older sheep and ewes and rams. The herders have to divide in small groups and write down their optimal herd composition with 100 sheep (number of ewes, number of lambs, ..). After that they calculate how much income and offspring they get from this sheep herd composition. Big differences occur if a high number of ewes are chosen and this makes the herders realize that they have to make choices in which animal will consume the pasture and which animal gives the highest yields. At this moment, most herders keep all their animals and only sell some or eat some if they need money or food. With this information, they will make better choices and save pasture for the most important and most productive animals.
The second part of the training is about adding value to agricultural products and the value chain of the products the herders produce. By analyzing pictures about cheap and expensive cheese, two types of potatoes with different price and small pieces of packed meat versus whole animal carcasses, the herders start to think about why some products can be sold for a higher price than others. Options to add value to their products are discussed, but also threaths of adding value. The herder group chooses one or two products they like to analyse further. Cards with different steps in the value chain are given to the herder group. They have to put them in the right order for their chosen product. After some discussion in the group, the cards are placed in a certain order. The group explains every step. They realize that with every step, the product increases in value. We ask them which steps they do themselves and which are done by others. Then we ask them in which steps the most profit is made or when the most money is made for the product and in which step(s) the most costs occur. Often, they don’t consider their own labour as costs. If they start realizing that their labour is a big part of the costs, we are able to estimate how much they earn (per hour or even per minute) with their product(s) and how much it differs per product. This is a big eye-opener, as well as the fact that they have a choice of which product(s) they will spend their time on and how to increase their income without working every minute of the day.
After a short energizer, the marketing part of the training starts. With a short introduction about having a marketing strategy and using the marketing mix (product, price, place, promotion) the participants get a little insight in what marketing is. After that, one of their own products is analyzed by doing a SWOT analysis. By knowing the strenghts and weaknesses of their product, they can promote it and will know how to improve the product. Looking at new opportunities and the possible threaths gives them new ideas where to sell their products and what can be alternatives to the way they produce and sell their products now. If applicable, a target group analysis is done for one product, to create awareness about different market possibilities and what specific things related to the product those target groups want. Finally, a competition is done. The herder group is divided into smaller groups of 2-3 persons. Those have to compete against each other in selling their product. All of them sell the same product. One of our ‘business team’ members is a business man who wants to buy that product. The groups can do everything to convince the business man to buy their product. The best group gets the honour of ‘selling the product’ and gets a small price.
The training is finalized by summing up the topics that have been discussed. Then we jointly calculate the number of minutes that the herder group has attended the training on the flipover. On a sticky note, the participants write down how they will earn this money extra this year. The notes are read aloud and the herder group members promise to keep each other sharp on making this extra money. With this, the training finishes and the socializing time begins.