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Saturday, April 09, 2016


Sun drying coffee beans in Laos
Coffee and cardamom (the large, black kind used for medicinal purposes) are important cash commodity crops in Laos, especially in the uplands.

We have recently completed  a successful 5 months input into the Northern Uplands Development Programme (NUDP) in Laos.  The Programme has been funded by the Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) and has run for about four years, drawing to completion on 31st March 2016. The programme's technical assistance operated from Luang Prabang with a national coordination office in Vientiane. Note #1

FoodWorks provided the services of the Senior Agribusiness and Value Chain Specialist. Mr. Geoff Quartermaine Bastin reviewed and evaluated grant-based micro sub-projects in horticulture, livestock (including forage), coffee and spices (cardamom, benzoin, agarwood). The work included training district-level officials at agriculture offices and technical service centres in business planning, gross margin analysis, project implementation and value chain development. Eddie Vernon, our Senior Partner for Agronomy, provided support for the coffee research from a base in Paksong which is the main growing area in the south of the country. Coffee has struggled in the North from poorly directed investment and lack of marketing which NUDP sought to correct.

Cardamom (growing under forest shade and dried pods)
Two well-attended workshops were conducted at national level for coffee and cardamom. Both private and public sector representatives heard detailed industry reports.

A short mission was undertaken to Guangdong Province in China with Dr. Thipavong Boupha our local counterpart expert to meet cardamom buyers and manufacturers of traditional medicines. We found that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a multi-million dollar market that shows significant growth; good news for Lao growers of cardamom and other medicinal plants which are indigenous to the northern upland forests.

Click on these links to download our Powerpoint presentations for coffee and cardamom.

More information:

Note #1: FoodWorks was sub-contracted to NUDP via SOFRECO

Friday, February 05, 2016


Last year was a watershed for FoodWorks. We firmed up our affiliation with Global Solutions Group (GSG, based in Dubai) and reached some decisions about the future of our company.

The first MAJOR decision is to re-orient our work towards private sector investing that makes an impact on development in agriculture and agriculture-based industry

The publicly  and donor funded development aid industry certainly has its place in our business, but we feel the thrust of rural development and human nourishment will now be taken up more by responsible private-sector companies investing directly in agriculture and agribusiness. Of course we will retain our valued core donor clients, but will focus more on impact made through profitable commercial investments that nevertheless safeguard the interests of the vulnerable stakeholders. 

In order to develop this approach we have had positive contacts with companies that channel donor funds into the private sector, for example, AgDevCo, which has a model we really like. I'd also mention Tractus-Asia, a respected management consultancy with which we have been in associated for many years; Tractus has a firm base in Asia and forms a link between the wider commercial and industrial world and our more specific activities in agriculture and food supply.

In re-focusing on impact investment we have decided to focus on our CORPORATE capacity rather than the expertise of individual experts. As a COMPANY FoodWorks has a track record of successful business since 2003 and we wish to trade on this past performance and experience rather than "sell" individuals no matter how senior they may be. Our Senior Associates and Partners will remain with us, but we will now expand the range of technical expertise and skills available to us and offer the services of the company rather more than particular experts, although individuals will still be made available on request as client's require.

Finally we have confirmed our focus on the areas where we have the greatest expertise: Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa, Central Asia and most especially South-east and East Asia. However FoodWorks' home(s) are in Hong Kong and Bangkok and we feel this link with Asia is one we should celebrate and build upon.

That said, 2015 saw the completion of work in Cambodia (ADB - rice infrastructure and policy), India (The World Bank - irrigation economics) and we are now currently working in Laos on livestock, coffee and cardamom (Northern Uplands Development Project - to complete in March this year). With our new focus  we have a private sector initiative in developing an animal feed business in Thailand based on Napier Grass and further emerging plans for horticulture development in the south of Laos. Africa retains its place however and our affiliate office with GSG in Lusaka Zambia is pursuing a bio-fuel project.

With all this in mind the next step is to upgrade our web site. The "blog", chatty style adopted here satisfied a purpose when we set out as a group of senior experts working as a cooperative, but we will now be moving to a different and modern style to reflect the corporate approach. 

For more information, please do email me: Geoff Quartermaine Bastin, I'm on skype too: geoff.q.bastin

Monday, April 27, 2015

Project Update - South Sudan (JICA) and Cambodia (ADB)

South Sudan – JICA – Comprehensive Agriculture Management Plan Project – JIN Corporation

Bob Lindley in South Sudan
FoodWorks has recently successfully completed the so-called “third dispatch” for the CAMP project. We have been working on this project since August 2012 providing fisheries and livestock expertise (Robert Lindley, Jerry Turnbull and Justen Smith) to prepare a multi-sector management plan and related policies. 

The lead company was originally the International Development Centre of Japan (IDCJ) and then when the civil war forced a general retreat to Entebbe and security became a major concern the JIN Corporation took over.  

The project is on-going. We wait to see what the next steps might be for FoodWorks.

For more information contact: 
Robert Lindley

Cambodia – Ministry of Economics and Finance (Asian Development Bank Loan) – Climate-resilient Rice Commercialization Support Programme - NIRAS (Denmark)

Rice paddy field in Cambodia
This $100 million program started in November 2014 and will continue for 6 years.  FoodWorks played a part in the original bid and with NIRAS and CamConsult and our consortium won against fierce competition. Unlike many loans, not only does the Ministry of Economics and Finance (MEF) administer the funds, but in this case manages the project directly. It does so through a Project Management Office under the auspices of the Supreme National Economic Council (SNEC) and implements the components via separate National and Provincial Implementing Offices. The geographic focus is the major rice growing areas of Battambang, Prey Veng and Kompong Thom. 

Funded by the ADB and other four other donors "Rice-SDP" aims to (a) undertake policy reform and (b) provide infrastructure along the rice industry value chain. 

FoodWorks has taken the lead on the policy program element but is also helping with public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements (Geoff Quartermaine Bastin and Pradeep Patnaik). For policy the challenge is to take responsibility for ensuring compliance with ADB loan conditions. This includes establishing a modern regulatory environment for the rice seed industry, developing a law for the use of agricultural land, and putting in place plant protection and sanitary/phyto-sanitary (SPS) arrangements.

Related to climate change, we have a requirement to draft a National Action Plan to Combat Land Degradation. This NAP is a requirement of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification to which Cambodia is a signatory. The country is held to be one of those most at risk from climate change given that 80% of rice cultivation depends on the annual floods arising from the Ton Le Sap water body.

For PPP and the general business development aspects of the rice sector, we have a number of sub-projects to bring to private investment. These include seed farms and drying and storage facilities. We are also assisting other experts with market studies for the value chain.

For more information contact:
Geoff Quartermaine Bastin

Friday, January 09, 2015


Editorial Comment: We wish all our visitors to this site a very prosperous 2015.  Robert Lindley starts our year with thoughts and lessons learned about the critical role of women in our industry. The Asian Development Bank has mandated a 30% inclusion rate for women in loan projects at every level from project management in government agencies to work in the field.  We find that if women are fully engaged and supported in agriculture and agribusiness the work goes better and the profits are higher. Lindley makes the key point that women are usually already very busy; giving them more work may NOT be the right answer; neither may the answer be directly related to the given sector. We find it a general principle that development projects that make life easier for both sexes have an impact - projects that try to be clever to impress other consultants and the donor agencies seldom do. 

Aweil, South Sudan
The role of many women in fisheries,  is usually that of gatherer of sedentary organisms on the shoreline, or in processing and marketing.  Women very seldom “go fishing” in the generally understood sense of the word, since this activity is seen in almost every society as men’s work, and indeed in many societies there is a taboo against women on fishing boats, particularly those that go out far to sea or onto large lakes.  Simple gears in local shallow water is about as far as “fishing” goes for women.

This is very similar to the traditional role of women in hunter gatherer societies, where the women gather and glean from plants and slow moving animals on land, and process the products of this activity and anything their husbands can hunt.  This enables the women to bring up children at the same time as contributing to the household food inputs, since even very young children can accompany their mother, either carried or by foot, whilst gathering or processing food[1].  This role is ingrained, both in traditional and modern communities, and it is unlikely that there will be much change in the immediate future.

Dried fish market, Panyimur, Uganda
This is not to say that the processing and marketing role is not important nor lucrative.  In some West African fishing communities societies the women process the catch, do the marketing, and control all the income; making them very powerful and the key to successful fishing operations that provide smoke dried fish deep into the West African interior.  The women are rich, influential, money savvy, control household expenditure and are much held in awe by their husbands and male relatives, who have to made do with what beer money is permitted them by the matriarchs between fishing trips.

What is however often misunderstood about the women in fishing communities [Editor: indeed in ALL communities!!] is that their lives are generally already very busy.  They process the catch bought in by their husbands, gather and glean, maintain the household and look after the children, cook the food and undertake all the other domestic duties expected.  Without the benefit of electric gadgets to simplify many of these tasks, such as laundry, water collection, collecting firewood, cleaning and cooking, as well as their fisheries activities such as processing or marketing, there is little time left for additional activities. 

Fish factory, Aden, Yemen. Note the dress code
Liberating women in fishing communities from drudgery or transforming their lives is not going to be achieved by adding activities to the list of things they have to do every day, as is so often proposed. 

Making a few baskets or “fishy” trinkets for sale in the urban centres, so often proposed by well meaning development artists,  is hardly going to have any effect.  What may have a great effect is improving the existing infrastructure so that what they already do will be made easier or more profitable.  

This may be as simple as providing a clean water supply so that women do not have to spend hours fetching water, building a road to improve marketing opportunities or connecting a village to the electrical grid so as to “lengthen the day”.  Not exactly fishy solutions, but solutions that improves the lives of the women in fishing communities.

The so called “liberation” of women in western societies has mostly been effected by
a)      the control of fertility being placed in the hands of women (through the contraceptive pill and other such devices) and
These women run the fish market in Valencia, Spain.
Bright, modern and clean
b)      the use of electrical gadgets and piped water to reduce the workload at home and enable women time to do other things, like get a paid job.  Washing machines wash and dry the clothes removing the need for “wash day”, and indeed disposable nappies reduce the need for much washing if children are in the house; vacuum cleaners reduce the time needed to clean the house, dishwashers wash the dishes, lights make the day 24 hours long, public transport reduces travelling time to the shops.  Electric or gas stoves heat up immediately and are easy to clean, as opposed to charcoal or wood stoves, which are dirty, expensive and slow.  Water comes out of a tap not a pump several hundred metres away.  Convenience foods, for all their nutritional shortcomings, reduce the time needed to prepare the families’ meals.  All this is driven by technology for convenience and time saving, and much is aimed directly at traditionally women’s work.

A rare example of a simple fisheries development introduction that has impacted positively on women in fishing communities is the introduction of improved smoking kilns, which has enabled women in countries such as Malawi, where the women have always smoked fish, to reduce the amount of firewood they use, making fish processing more profitable and less environmentally damaging. 

A good example of the way modern non fisheries technology can benefit women in fishing communities is the introduction of mobile phones in rural areas, usually done by private companies seeking profits.  This has had a significant effect on fish marketing and processing.  Firewood can be ordered from suppliers, ice supplies ordered, transport to take fish to market hired and casual labour obtained, all at the price of phone call, from the fishing village, without the need to spend hours travelling about.  Fish traders also can inform when they will be visiting to purchase fish, and check with retail outlets and customers as to likely demand; this greatly reduces wastage throughout the supply chain.  Improved communications through mobile phones has immensely benefited women in many communities (not only fishing ones) all over the world.  The possibilities of extending the benefits of improved communications on fishing communities have hardly been explored in most regions, though some fish cooperatives have begun to distribute market information.  Development Agencies, as usual, are miles behind the commercial companies and fish traders in exploiting these kinds of hi-tech developments.

Female and child labour in South  Sudan
Social changes may also greatly improve women’s roles or status in fishing communities, though these are more long term orientated and often very difficult to introduce. Land and property rights, equality before the law and rights over inheritance, and rights over children and property in the case of a divorce, may have significant impacts on the status and condition of women in fishing societies.  These are longer term aims, but nonetheless important.

The lesson to take away from this is that traditional roles will persist in most conservative fishing communities, but by building on the strengths that already exist, improving and simplifying tasks already being undertaken, or providing services to make tasks more efficient, it is possible to make a very big difference relatively quickly.  Although the women are in fishing communities the way to transform their lives may not be directly related to the fish from which they rely on for income and food.

[1] Recent research shows that shopping serves much the same function in modern society, in that it also is the obtaining of food, is done at a leisurely pace, and can also be done with the kids in tow !

Robert Lindley is Senior Managing Partner for FoodWorks responsible for Fishery. He is currently leading our team on the Comprehensive Agricultural Management Plan project in South Sudan.

Monday, September 15, 2014


We reported on this 9-month long project earlier in the year (see "White Gold"). It has been funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) and the European Union (EU).

The work has now reached a successful close with a second workshop in Phnom Penh held at the Sofitel on 11th September 2014. Overall the research on international markets for Cambodian high quality rice (especially the Phka Malis jasmine rice) meshes with a number of initiatives being taken by the Government of Cambodia to develop and promote the Cambodian rice industry. An Asian Development Bank project will also start soon aimed at assisting with the further commercialization of the rice sector.

FoodWorks researchers Geoff Quartermaine Bastin and Eddie Vernon worked under the direction and excellent leadership of William Scott of Agland Investment Services Inc. covering the China and Singapore markets as well as providing a world market review. Michel Timsit of GEM of Paris covered France (in superb detail with a special consumer research element) and Germany while Bill Scott himself researched the USA and the Cote d'Ivoire. William Mott of Agland contributed extensively on branding strategy. These six countries were seen as being the most likely where Cambodia can increase its exports.

Here's a screen grab of an article published about the workshop that focuses on the results from the China market research; we also undertook market research in Singapore.

Full article at: China Rice Market

The workshop was well-attended, with over 100 people present during the day and 92 people staying for lunch. A significant portion of the audience (at least 80% or more) stayed for the entire event, which ended at approximately 5:15 in the afternoon.

The United States, France, and Germany were discussed in the early morning session. After coffee, China, Singapore, and Cote d’Ivoire were presented. All of the presentations were PowerPoint slides based on the graphs and tables found in the individual countries studies written by the consultants from the combined Agland Investment Services, FoodWorks and GEM team led by Mr. Scott.
William Scott Team Leader of the Agland Investment Services, FoodWorks and GEM business advisory team addressing the workshop.

In the afternoon, there was a session to discuss strategy issues confronting the newly formed Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) and the rice sector in Cambodia.

Creating a quality image for Cambodian rice appeared to be a priority for everyone in the room. The reality is that in the marketplace, Cambodian jasmine rice of the same (or better) quality as Thai Hom Mali sells at a price lower than the Thai rice. There was general agreement that in the long-term, a market of certification, similar to that developed for Thai Hom Mali, needs to be created for Cambodian rice. In addition, the meeting suggested that Cambodian rice needed to improve its price competitiveness and to establish a reputation for reliable, sustainable and consistent supply.

Each company participating in the seminar received a flash drive that contained PDF versions of the country studies and the strategic synthesis report. Copies of the main reports may be obtained from the CRF. Mr. Lun Yeng, Secretary General of CRF, served as the moderator during the entire day. Mr. Sok Puthyvuth, President of the CRF, was one of the key opening speakers to the Workshop.

A word of thanks to Madelaine Nelson of Agland: without her unstinting work on the text of the reports this project would never have got finished. Thanks!

Also for more information contact William Scott on email:


Thursday, May 22, 2014


CAMP Technical Team member interviewing a fisherman
at Dolieb Hill, Upper Nile State
Working on the JICA-funded Comprehensive Agricultural Development Master Plan (CAMP) for South Sudan 2012 - 2015 

FoodWorks has provided a staff member to assist in the production of the Comprehensive Agricultural Development Master Plan (CAMP) for South Sudan, a JICA funded project. Mr Robert Lindley, the Foodworks Senior Managing Partner and Fisheries Specialist (click here to see Robert's profile) worked with the CAMP team in 2012 and 2013 to assist the team to produce the Situation Analysis Report and then the Interim Report of CAMP.

After a short delay due to the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan, in June 2014 Mr Lindley is again returning to Africa, initially based in Kampala, accompanied by Dr. Jerry Turnbull, a Foodworks Senior Associate Partner and livestock specialist, who is also joining CAMP in 2014.  The two Foodworks staff will be cooperating with the South Sudan CAMP Technical Teams and the other JICA funded CAMP Technical Experts to produce the Investment Plan which is to be one of the main components of the Master Plan, to be produced by March 2015.

A significant feature of CAMP is that the whole process is led by the Government of South Sudan, through a Steering Committee comprised of senior members of government, and a Technical Team (TT), which has undertaken the day to day activities of the project; assisted by the Technical Experts provided under the JICA assistance. In addition “Focal Points” have been appointed in each of the states of South Sudan and serve as the links between the project and the States’ governments and rural stakeholders.  Ownership of the outputs of the project by the South Sudan Government, States and others is thus assured.. 

Mr Lindley led a team of four staff members of the Fisheries Department who traveled widely throughout South Sudan collecting information on the fisheries of the various states, working with focal points, states’ governments and the other stakeholders to collect data which was analysed and compiled into one chapter of the situation analysis and presented at a stakeholders meeting in late 2013.  There are several significant findings coming from this Situation Analysis, including:
Women fishing using cover pots.
Kuom Payam, near Aweil.  Western Bahr-el-Gazal State.

·       Consumption of fish is approximately 17kg/year per capita.  This figure in itself is not surprising, being comparable to other countries with similar abundant inland fish resources in Africa.  What is surprising is that the “official” figures, internally, from FAO, and elsewhere give consumption of less than 2kg/year/capita.

·       To provide this amount of fish the catch must be in the order of 140,000 tonnes/year.  Much higher than any other estimates.

·       There are at least 220,000 people engaged in fishing activity in the country with at least 1.7 million people living in households directly relying on fisheries for livelihood, food security or employment.  Again this is significantly higher than previously thought.

·        Potential yields are unknown with any accuracy, and no system is in place to measure potential, so it is essential to introduce fisheries co-management systems based on the “precautionary approach”, and “ecosystems approach”.  It is also very urgent to strengthen the National and States’ Governments capacity to manage.

All these are very important conclusions because they not only emphasise the importance of fisheries in the national economy and for food security and nutrition, but also highlight the difficulties and challenges in management of the fish resources in a sustainable manner for the future.

Mr. Lindley weighing dried fish in Malakal, Upper Nile State
For the Interim Report at the end of 2013, (of which the Situation Analysis is an Annex) the Fisheries Technical Team, advised by Mr Lindley, outlined two differing 25 year scenarios which may occur in fisheries in South Sudan, with, and without, wise management of the capture fisheries.  These showed that 120,000 tonnes of potential production from fisheries and aquaculture would be lost if proper management of the resources was not effected and as a result serious overfishing occurred  Examples from other African fisheries were used to illustrate the pitfalls of failing to adequate control the rise in effort and subsequent overfishing in inland fisheries.

In 2012 and 2013 the project was implemented by the International Development Corporation of Japan (IDCJ) and the JIN Corporation.  In early 2014 the JIN Corporation will take over the management of the project.  Foodworks looks forward to a long and fruitful co-operation with the JIN Corporation on CAMP and other projects in the future.
Mr Lindley measuring a gill net on the Nile at Nimule, Central Equatoria State

For more information contact Robert Lindley on

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


The FoodWorks team [1] has been undertaking in-depth market research aimed at increasing exports of Cambodian milled rice - "White Gold" - especially the unique variety of fragrant rice or Phka Malis in Khmer language.

The Study of the International Markets for Cambodian Rice” is being undertaken in association with Agland Investments Service, Inc. It is jointly funded by the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group) and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The principle stakeholder is the Federation of Cambodian Rice Exporters (FCRE), but all those involved in the Cambodian rice industry, including the Royal Government of Cambodia, are considered to be interested parties.

Cambodian rice includes some of the most traditional varieties found in South-east Asia and some claim that it is the origin of Thailand's famous jasmine rice (Th. Hom Mali). Cambodia has only been a serious (if small) exporter of milled rice since 2010 – a base volume of 48,202 tons rising to some 200,000 tons last year, but it has a very long history of irrigated rice culture and indeed the ancient civilization of Angkor Wat was founded on rice.

More recently Cambodia has recovered from decades of civil war and become a much loved tourist destination and an increasingly important source of food for the Greater Mekong Sub-region. There are more than 60 rice mills of various sizes up to 80 tons/day using modern equipment and eager to push exports to over 1 million tons annually.

Cambodian Premium Fragrant Rice was awarded the ‘World’s Best Rice’ Award for the
second straight year in a row at the global rice tasting competition during the World Rice Conference (WRC) organized by The Rice Trader (TRT) in Hong Kong, China from November 19-21, 2013.

The aim of the research work to date has been to identify the likely best markets for Cambodian rice, in particular, fragrant or jasmine rice. The focus is milled (processed rice) not padi or unmilled rice (a very large volume of which gets milled in neighboring countries). 

On the basis of preliminary analysis, a First Consultative Conference was held in Phnom Penh with the membership of the FCRE on 17th February 2014. At this meeting, the consulting team, led by Mr. William Scott of Agland Investments, Inc., presented the initial findings and analysis to more than 60 stakeholders. This conference was followed by a series of short meetings including the IFC team members and FCRE members – millers and exporters.[2] 

In later stages of the project the team will undertake detailed studies of the export markets in the USA, China and France, all identified as having considerable potential for Cambodia's rice. Three more countries (likely in Africa, Asia and the EU) will be added once the initial country results are in.

[1] The FoodWorks team comprises Geoff Quartermaine Bastin, Dr. Shane Tarr PhD and Eddie Vernon.

[2] The presentation constituted a “draft” analytical snapshot of the industry and was presented in the form of a PowerPoint, which was then distributed as a .pdf document file to all FCRE members on 25th February 2014.

Photo credit: www.