Smallholder Performance Measurement

As part of promoting the sustainable development impacts of global supply chains, Sustainable Food Lab facilitated a community of practice on performance measurement in smallholder supply chains. Today, Sustainable Food Lab focuses on Living Income for smallholders, and co-facilitates the Living Income Community of Practice.

The Smallholder Performance Measurement Community of Practice brought together companies, development and research organizations, lenders and certification organizations to share cases and lessons and to develop consensus on a common approach to and share learning on smallholder performance measurement.  

Specific activities included:

  • Workshops and peer-to-peer discussions on measurement that focus on sharing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to what to assess, how to assess and how to turn that data into action on the ground in smallholder food supply chains (see the 2017 Smallholder Performance Measurement Report from our March 2017 workshop Hosted by Nestlé in Vevey Switzerland);
  • Development of the framework called A Shared Approach to Smallholder Performance Measurement;
  • Fieldwork to test indicators and metrics;
  • Peer learning groups on emerging topics such as data management in backbone organizations, nutrition security and climate resilience; and
  • Creation of the Living Income Community of Practice, co-hosted with GIZ and ISEAL.
“I think there is real value in a group of companies engaged in measuring the status of their smallholder supply chains to come together and learn from one another about what is working and what’s not. By sharing our learning, and by collaborating to develop a shared approach to performance measurement we can avoid duplication of efforts and gather more actionable data more efficiently.”

-Duncan Pollard, Nestlé

Project Partners

The community of practice was made up of nearly 70 organizations, and was led by a core Steering Committee from the following organizations:


Defining, Calculating and Using Living Income Benchmarks in Agricultural Commodities

Living income is the net income a household would need to earn to enable all members of the household to afford a decent standard of living. Elements of a decent standard of living thereby include: food, water, housing, education, health care, transport, clothing, and other essential needs including provision for unexpected events. 

Learning Events

The Food Lab, GIZ and ISEAL co-hosted a series of learning events to better explore two connected themes on Living Income:

  1. A common definition and methodology for Living Income Benchmark
  2. Approaches to assessing actual farm and household incomes, and modeling the impact of different interventions.

The first theme is building on the ISEAL Global Living Wage Coalition’s work to establish a common methodology for Living Wage Benchmarks; the second focuses on how different organizations assess actual farmer and household incomes through farmer surveys, baseline studies, and secondary data.

Linked to that are various modeling approaches to understand the relative impact on household net income from change in key variables such as productivity, decreased cost of inputs, farm size and crop diversification.

Inspired by the dynamic of a living wage discussion in the garment sector, the living income debate is gaining more attention on the agenda of leaders in the public and private spheres.

The concepts of ‘living wage’ and ‘living income’ are both about achieving a decent standard of living for households. The idea of a living wage is applied in the context of hired workers (in factories, on farms). The idea of a living income is discussed in the context of any income earner, such as self- employed farmers.

There is growing interest among many supply chain actors in understanding whether smallholder farmers are actually earning a ‘living income’ and, if not, what it would take to get them there to improve ethical sourcing.

You can learn more about the Living Income Community of Practice and be added to their newsletter distribution list on their website. An overview of the Food Lab’s work on Living Income can be found here.

Copies of material developed and shared by partners is below.

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