Training Market Systems Facilitators to Improve the Economic Viability of Hawaiʻi's Small Farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $89,983.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G289-23-W9986
Grant Recipient: Hamakua Institute
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Dennis Flemming
Hamakua Institute
Adhann Iwashita
Hamakua Institute
Andrea Kuch
Hamakua Institute
Melissa Nagatsuka
Hamakua Institute


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: participatory research
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public policy

    Proposal abstract:

    Since the closure of the sugarcane plantations nearly thirty years ago, Hawai’i Island’s agriculture has changed dramatically. Diverse, smallholder production now comprises a majority of the island’s farms, yet resources and support to increase their competitiveness have often fallen short. More recently, diverse stakeholders have recognized the issues holding back nearly all small farms are at a system level. Rather than helping farms on an individualized, farm-by-farm basis, a systems approach can unlock solutions that simultaneously benefit large numbers of producers. Although interest is there, finding a supply of technical expertise who can apply this approach to improve the island’s agricultural sector remains challenging.

    This project’s purpose is to build a talent pool of diverse agricultural professionals, trained in market systems thinking, who can offer the island’s farms the technical expertise needed for analyzing, understanding, and addressing agricultural issues from a more holistic, systems-level perspective. Participants will be trained using a market systems approach based upon a set of economic development principles currently being applied in more than 60 countries worldwide. Once trained, these professionals will have the knowledge and skills to jointly conduct deeper analysis with farmers on three of the island’s key agricultural value chains - staple food crops, export crops, and agribusiness services. The trained cohort will have the skills and insight to effectively analyze each value chain starting from input supplies, to production, aggregation, processing, distribution, and retailing - with the intention of identifying system-level issues holding back small farm performance during each phase. Information collected throughout the value chain analysis will be incorporated into publicly available studies anyone involved in the island’s agricultural sector - from farmers to nonprofits and even policymakers - can access for a magnified look at the problems constraining growth in those sectors and potential solutions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The project’s intended impacts are to increase income and employment opportunities for Hawai’i Island’s small farms by creating a talent pool of professionals who can understand market systems, analyze high-potential agricultural value chains, and identify solutions for issues affecting large numbers of farms. To achieve these impacts, the following objectives will guide the project’s strategic framework and work plans:

    Objective 1:
    By month 12, improve the knowledge, skills, and technical capacity of 12 agricultural professionals in applying a market systems approach and using diagnostic tools to better understand the systemic problems limiting the economic viability of small farms on Hawai’i Island.

    Objective 2:
    By month 12, improve the skills of 12 agricultural professionals in effectively training producers how to analyze the systemic problems affecting their profitability and sustainability, working with real data in three key agricultural value chains on Hawai’i Island - staple food crops, export crops, and agribusiness services.  

    Objective 3:
    To strengthen the technical capacity of at least 48 agriculture professionals and producer representatives by month 12 to jointly develop at least three shared action plans designed to overcome systemic problems holding back economic potential in staple food crops, export crops and agribusiness services on Hawai’i Island.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.