PRO-Cashew Training Increases Farmer Incomes

PRO-Cashew Training Increases Farmer Incomes

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Sumaila Edibo is a cashew farmer living in Iyale, a settlement in the Kogi state in central Nigeria. Since Edibo’s two-ha cashew farm provides his family with their primary livelihood and source of income, he decided to partner with the USDA Food for Progress-funded West Africa PRO-Cashew Project in 2021 to learn how he could improve his business skills, agronomic practices and harvest and post-harvest handling to increase his farm’s productivity and revenue.

Edibo participated in all of the trainings organized by PRO-Cashew in Nigeria where he learned best practices for weeding, timely pest management and disease control and harvest and post-harvest handling. He also learned how to collect and analyze relevant market information from buyers like Sonata Agri International, a local agro-processor, to improve farm-level decision-making and take advantage of market opportunities.

After Edibo applied these improved practices on his orchard, the productivity of his farm significantly increased. Edibo recounted that in 2021, before his participation in the training program, his farm yield was approximately 960 kg per ha, for which he earned $960 (NGN 420,000). In 2022, however, his farm yield increased by about 25% to 1,200 kg per ha. As a result of his farm’s increased output and the better prices he began receiving for his products through his partnership with Sonata Agri International, Edibo recorded an annual income of $1,710 (NGN750,000)—a 79% increase over the previous year.

Sumaila Edibo purchased a motorcycle to haul goods with his increased cashew earnings.

Edibo explained how the training program has benefitted farmers across Iyale, highlighting that the majority of local trainees have embarked on different projects throughout the community, such as building houses, launching new businesses, digging boreholes and installing grinding machines, with the additional revenue they acquired from the sale of cashew nuts. Edibo himself used his additional income to purchase a three-wheeled motorcycle with a trailer for hauling goods. This has enabled him to provide rural logistical services to farmers within and beyond his community, further increasing his earnings. Following the advice of a Sonata Agri International extension officer who provided training in partnership with PRO-Cashew in 2022, Edibo also saved $1,256 (NGN 550,000) of his cashew nut sales, which he used to sustain his family during the cashew off-season.

When asked about the impact of the training program on his livelihood, Edibo said, “Before participating in the project, transporting harvested goods from me and my friends’ farms was always a major challenge. We had to walk long distances, sometimes above three kilometers from our farms to our homes with heavy loads on our heads.”

Edibo plans to expand his farm to three hectares in 2023 using the new improved seedlings that the PRO-Cashew Project is distributing to farmers and nurseries. Next year, Edibo also hopes to help his wife start a small grocery business in the community.

One Cooperative’s Improved Organizational Capacity Strengthens Services Offered to Producers in Rural Mozambique

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The Forum of Associations of Producers of Mathariya (FACAM) is a smallholder farmer cooperative in the Rubáuè District of Nampula Province, Mozambique, that was formally registered in 2008 to serve as a platform organization for different associations. FACAM has 421 members, of whom 220 are women, distributed across 22 smallholder farmer clubs, each of which has its own leadership. The main purpose of FACAM is to provide commercialization services to members, as well as to protect forest resources, disseminate best practices for the sustainable use of mineral resources and advocate on behalf of those affected by epidemic and endemic diseases like HIV/AIDS within the members’ communities.

Although FACAM aspired to grow its organization and business ventures, an assessment conducted by the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program in June 2021 highlighted several improvements that the Forum needed to make in order to take their activities to the next level. For example, low membership retention resulted in a reduction in income from dues, which are used to fund the cooperative. Additionally, the cooperative’s high turnover rate meant that FACAM members had limited relationships with clients, and therefore fewer clients using their commercialization services. The cooperative also had inconsistent organizational management and record keeping structures, making it difficult to track operations and extract data for financial statements.

In October 2021, the cooperative received its first of two F2F paired assignments involving local volunteers working on the ground while collaborating with U.S.-based volunteers remotely. The local volunteer, Dieter Savaio from Manica province, is a teacher at the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Manica. He is also a shareholder of Emilia Commercial Seed Company and a consultant who had spare time to volunteer with F2F due to the COVID-19 restrictions placed on in-person classes. The U.S. volunteer, Joe McFadden from New Jersey, spent the last 40 years of his career as a certified public accountant working in accounting, auditing, budgeting, financial analysis and financial reporting.

After assessing FACAM’s financial management practices, the volunteers assisted their managers to set up a simple financial management and bookkeeping system. As a result, the cooperative now uses printed forms to document sales, expenses, income statements, balance sheets and controls of stock, debtors, creditors and cash flow.

In December 2021, Savaio again supported FACAM, this time with veteran U.S. volunteer Pamela Karg from Wisconsin, to assist the cooperative in improving their organizational capacity. The volunteer assistance focused on increasing due payments and strengthening leadership and association management, including improving understanding of the association’s function and the rights and duties of members. The volunteers conducted a SWOT analysis with the FACAM board members to assess major operational constraints. The volunteers also trained the club members associated with FACAM in association function, highlighting the importance of participatory management strategies. At the end of the assignment, Savaio presented recommendations to FACAM Board members for improving the organization and helping them achieve their goals.

As result of the F2F trainings, currently 60% of the members are paying their dues – a considerable increase from before. Additionally, sale volumes increased from 640 ton in 2021 to 970 ton in 2022, as an increasing number of farmer clubs commercialized their products through FACAM due to its improved organization and services offered to clubs and non-associated producers.

Fast forward and in August 2022, FACAM received a grant from the INKOTA consortium to initiate mechanization and transport services through the purchase of tools such as a tractor and a trailer. Even though INKOTA received applications from four cooperatives located in Ribáuè district, FACAM was the only one that met the conditions required by INKOTA to have a strong organizational capacity.

Antonio Joaquim, president of FACAM, noted his gratitude for the assistance his cooperative received from F2F volunteers, stating that “FACAM now develops its business in a professional way. Our vision is to continue growing and we will count on more assistance from F2F to support us to better position ourselves in the market.”

Commodity Association Applies New Knowledge to Increase Farm Yields and Unlock Access to Finance

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Maize is an important staple food in Nigeria with the country producing over 33 million tons, making it the largest producer of maize in Africa. Not only is maize the most consumed staple food in Nigeria, but a recent study also reported that 50 – 70% of the country’s maize is used to manufacture poultry feed, another key product for farmers. Therefore, to properly support this industry, it is no surprise that the successful cultivation of maize, like any other crop, depends on the correct application of inputs and best practices to enhance efficiency and boost productivity for farmers.

Conscious of how insufficient practices have impeded their productivity in previous years, the Ebonyi State chapter of the Maize Growers and Processors Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN) partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity to arm themselves with new knowledge and apply improved maize cultivation practices in seed distribution, fertilizer application and soil tillage. Supporting their commitment to commercialize maize production and meet growing demand, the USAID Activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture facilitated trainings on good agronomic practices for 350 MAGPAMAN lead farmers in the state. The lead farmers then went on to cascade the training to 910 additional farmers.

Members of MAGPAMMAN meet with CNFA and USAID during a visit to Ebonyi State.

According to MAGPAMAN’s State Chairman, Chief Ebere Orji, the training provided by the Activity in July 2020 helped farmers learn maize production best practices, which unlocked Eco Bank input loans for the 2020 wet season worth $415,000 (171.4 million Naira) through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Program. He added that the farmers also successfully applied these practices during the 2021 planting season, earning input loans worth $367 (157,461 Naira) for each of the 1,260 trained farmers.

“We were able to put our knowledge from the Activity’s good agricultural practices training into good use. In 2021, I harvested about 210 bags (21 tons) of maize on my 300ha farm because I applied the information I learned from their training”, Chief Orji said. He added that as a result of their increased yields, his members could also repay their loans to Eco Bank.

Today, farmers can boast of their improved yields and access new funding opportunities that expand their farm productivity, improve their incomes and sustain their livelihoods. Additionally, the Activity’s continued support to MAGPAMAN will help the commodity association position themselves well enough to take advantage of the opportunity to produce maize on a commercial scale. The Activity will keep supporting the commodity association to strengthen their knowledge on enterprise fundamentals and enhance their leadership skills, enabling them to stand out as commercial maize producers in Ebonyi State.

Musgola Fish Farms to Double Production through Access to Finance

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Nigeria’s annual fish production currently stands at 0.8 million metric tons per year, which is 2.7 million tons short of the local demand. To help increase domestic production and meet local demand for one of the country’s most consumed proteins, fish production firms like Musgola Farms Ltd need all the support they can get to improve their output, quality and capacity.

Since 2021, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity has provided technical support to Musgola Farms Ltd, a fish production firm based in Minna, Niger State, by helping them structure a business plan proposal to access $56,470 (24 million Naira) in finance through Sterling Bank’s Women and Youth in Agriculture Finance (SWAY-AGFin) product.

The firm received the payment in two disbursements of $28,235 (12 million Naira), each over a six-month moratorium period and with a standing agreement to keep receiving funds on a rolling basis. They received the first disbursement in October 2021, which they quickly paid back, and received another $28,235 (12 million Naira) in June 2022. With the funds from the first disbursement, the company turned over a profit of $9,827 (5 million Naira).

“We completed the first production cycle with the $28,235 (12 million Naira) we received, and we sold about $38,062 (17 million Naira) worth of fish,” said Umar Musa, CEO of Musgola Farms Ltd. He added that the firm will continue to access $28,235 (12 million Naira) or more on a rolling basis as they adhere to the repayment window per cycle over the next two years.

Musgola Farms Ltd representatives during a field monitoring visit to Minna, Niger State.

Highlighting how the funding helped his business increase its production capacity and produce more fish, Musa, who is also the founder and head of a fish cluster in Minna, said, “The money we received from Sterling Bank helped us to increase our fingerling stocking capacity from 100,000 per annum to 130,000.” He noted that the firm was also able to increase their fish feed production to provide feed,  not just for his farm, but for the rest of his 300-member fish cluster which owns over 2,500 ponds, each with a stocking capacity of at least 5,000 fingerlings.

Musa expressed confidence that the firm will sustain their relationship with the bank in order to access more funding but noted that the firm needs more working capital to meet the growing demand for fish products, especially in nearby Abuja where demand for catfish products is high.

“Our cluster controls the fish market in Minna, but we want to acquire a market share in Abuja where we know demand is very high,” he said.

With an annual product shortage of 1.9 million metric tons of fish, much support is still needed to optimize production to cover this gap. The Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity will continue to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the aquaculture value chain to enhance their performance and strengthen access to finance, enabling them to expand their businesses and optimize their growth.

Feed the Future Supports Women Entrepreneurs to Expand their Skills and Participate in International Fairs

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To support women farmers and entrepreneurs working across the Sikasso Subzone, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa activity builds the competitiveness and resilience of female market actors by enhancing their capacity and increasing their access to key business linkages.

In June 2022, Sugu Yiriwa supported three women entrepreneurs from Sikasso, Bougouni, and Koutialato—Ami Bagayoyo, Diarrah Traore Kamissoko and Rokia Togola—to participate in the 22nd edition of the Foire Internationale de l’Agriculture et des Ressources Animales (FIARA) exhibition held in Dakar, Senegal in the leadup to Tabaski.

The three participants were first prize winners of a culinary competition organized by Sugu Yiriwa in May 2022, which highlighted nutritious local recipes and processed foods from the activity’s focal value chains of cereals, cowpeas, horticultural products, poultry and small ruminants. The women were also first-time FIARA attendees and shared the costs of the trip with Sugu Yiriwa.

Prior to the fair, Sugu Yiriwa trained Bagayoyo, Kamissoko and Rokia Togola to improve their marketing and price negotiation skills, which helped them outshine their competitors. They also received support from previous FIARA participants, enabling them to make informed decisions about what to present during the fair.

Ami Bagayoyo, Diarrah Traore Kamissoko and Rokia Togola at their stall during the Foire Internationale de l’Agriculture et des Ressources Animales (FIARA) exhibition held in Dakar, Senegal.

Bagayoyo of the Cooperative DIOBA de Koutiala recalled, “Even though this was the first time I participated in FIARA, thanks to the information I received, I was able to bring honey and Tô mougou (a product made from corn), which sold for high prices in the Senegalese market. If I have the opportunity to participate in the next fair, I will be ready to bring more products and therefore generate more income.”

Together the women sold their full inventories, which included processed cereals, chia butter and honey worth $3,400 (2,164,500 FCFA). Their participation in FIARA also opened up new business horizons as they succeeded in establishing connections with wholesalers in Dakar, Mborur and Thies.

Recognizing the economic feasibility of participating in the fair, the participants expressed their willingness to contribute to the costs of the trip and to increase the quantity of products they would supply at future exhibitions.

Kamissoko from the Groupement Balimaya de Bougouni said, “During the fair, I made higher profits negotiating with wholesalers as well as selling honey and millet transformed into dèguè mougou—a product that was in great demand in Dakar. If I have another opportunity to participate in FIARA, I look forward to showcasing more products and contributing to the cost of the fair.”

Building Resilience: Malian Farmers Lead Their Own Development

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Timothy Coulibaly is a maize, millet, and peanut producer in Farakala, Mali. In 2021, when Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa began to collaborate with his village, Coulibaly was selected to work as a community focal point, helping Sugu Yiriwa provide technical support to local farmers, producers, and entrepreneurs.

So far, Sugu Yiriwa has trained over 200 development leaders like Coulibaly to assist their communities in exchanging agricultural best practices in the Sikasso region. Through their training, these community champions elevate local voices, share knowledge with agricultural stakeholders, ensure that context-specific needs are addressed, and help develop locally-driven solutions.

In June 2022, Sugu Yiriwa hosted a training in Sikasso on conservation, cereal storage, and good sanitation practices for producing and handling dry cereals like millet, sorghum, rice, maize, cowpea, and by-products. The training highlighted the serious consequences that post-harvest losses can have across the grain supply chain, such as increased market prices, fewer livelihood opportunities, and negative health impacts. During this training, Coulibaly was introduced to multifunctional threshing machines and was able to see the equipment in action.

Given the poor capacity of threshing machines in Farakala and surrounding villages, Coulibaly realized that buying an axial thresher would be a great business opportunity that would fill a gap in his area by increasing productivity, revenue, and community resilience.

Reflecting on the machine’s potential, Coulibaly said: “In the past, 30 percent of our harvest was lost due to the lack of machines that could thresh the crops in a timely and efficient way. During the harvest season, producers were obliged to wait their turn for threshing and the results were not ideal. This exposed produce to animals and rain. If the produce was not stored well before threshing, farmers were at the mercy of mold and parasites that, in addition to being vectors of disease, have a negative impact on health and agricultural yields.”

At the end of the training, Coulibaly reached out to Sugu Yiriwa to help him buy a threshing machine for his community. “Sugu Yiriwa put us in touch with SOCAFON, a company based in Niono that manufactures agricultural equipment. Sugu Yiriwa field agents accompanied me throughout the process and helped me get a price reduction. Sugu Yiriwa also helped facilitate access to a loan of 2.5 million FCFA ($3,700), which covered both the purchase price and on-site training with the manufacturer’s technicians.”

Cereal crops are central to agriculture in the Farakala area and the new thresher provides great value-added for farmers, with a capacity of up to two tons of grain per hour. “In a single working day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., we can now thresh ten tons of grain, or 100 bags of 100 kg each,” Coulibaly said. “We provide threshing services for rice, maize, and sorghum farmers, and we have not stopped working since the arrival of the machine. Our work will continue until January, which is the end of the harvest season. I am currently working with my younger brother who is passionate and helps a lot.”

Operating the threshing machine costs between 7,500 FCFA ($11) and 10,000 FCFA ($15) per ton of maize, and between 12,500 FCFA ($19) and 15,000 FCFA ($22) per ton of rice. It operates at higher capacity and lower cost than the only other, old threshing machine in the area. Demand for Coulibaly’s threshing services is unrelenting. With the extra income he is now earning, he plans to repay his loan and buy another machine of the same type.

Sugu Yiriwa not only facilitates the acquisition of agricultural equipment, but also supports producers by offering training and advice to better manage their business and increase their profits. So far this year, two new threshing machines are up and running in Sikasso region thanks to Sugu Yiriwa and there are more to come.

Climate change has drastically reduced crop yields, lowered the nutritional quality of major cereals, and decreased livestock productivity in Sikasso. To cope with these impacts, Sugu Yiriwa promotes climate change adaptation initiatives designed to positively impact agricultural productivity in the grain sector, improve food security, and increase incomes and community resilience. This includes assisting local stakeholders, like Coulibaly, with the tools they need for more efficient harvesting and better storage, resulting in reduced effort and fewer products going to waste.

Women-Run Literacy Center Provides Skills for Entrepreneurs in Karazomé, Maradi

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The Karazomé Literacy Center was founded in 2021 by 40 women from Maradi, Niger, to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of women entrepreneurs in the region. The co-founders, who also represent eight local poultry producer organizations (POs), learned about the importance of literacy in strengthening their agribusiness management after attending a functional literacy program hosted by the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa activity in 2021.

The women of the Karazomé Literacy Center first partnered with USAID Yalwa through their poultry POs, which were supported by the activity to strengthen their production and marketing in order to improve producers’ incomes and livelihoods. USAID Yalwa’s support included training in improved animal feed production using local ingredients, improving animal healthcare and husbandry through a local network of private veterinarians, developing business plans for income generating activities and supporting PO members to establish business linkages with other market actors.

Encouraged by the progress they made during these trainings, the women came together to establish a literacy center with the goal of running it without the activity’s support.

A literacy learning session in Karazomé, Maradi.

They established good management practices early on by mobilizing internal resources and generating additional income, which supported the development of the center. These practices ranged from collecting weekly contributions from learners to expanding business activities from herding to ‘habbanayi,’ a traditional system of ‘re-constituting livestock’, which allowed each learner to raise an animal and use their products and by-products for marketing. These mechanisms for mobilizing internal resources reduced the Karazomé Literacy Center’s dependence on technical and financial support from USAID Yalwa and allowed the women to sustainably cover the costs of running the center.

Based on the income they generated during their 2022 campaign, the learners at the Karazomé Literacy Center can now cover the costs for their teacher’s monthly salary and for the equipment and supplies (notebooks, pens, chalk, etc.) needed to operate the center.

Thanks to the training provided by the activity, the women were also able to improve their household incomes and increase support to their families.

“Because of the functional literacy program, I can read and calculate my revenue, which has improved the management of my businesses.  I have also applied these skills within my household, which has improved my relationship with my husband and allowed me to support my children’s studies,” said Ilya Loubabatou, a 22-year-old learner at the center. “The knowledge I have acquired with regard to hygiene and nutrition has also greatly benefitted my family,” added Loubabatou.

Improvement of Livestock Vaccination Coverage in Guidan Roumdji Department

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A veterinarian by training, Dr. Issa Nassirou Mamane, operates a private practice that covers the department of Guidan Roumdji in Niger, supporting clients with quality veterinary products and providing daily supervision to his network of livestock managers. With support from USAID through the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa activity, and previously through its predecessor, the USAID Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, he ensures the timely distribution of zootechnical and veterinary inputs and products across his community. He also provides quality animal health services to local producers, sensitizes and trains farmers on improved animal production techniques and promotes and popularizes innovative methods and technologies in animal husbandry, helping increase animal production.

While working with the USAID Yalwa activity, Dr. Mamane has taken part in several capacity building exercises, including in areas related to private practice management and taxation. He received support for technical training for his livestock auxiliaries, and has been equipped with small surgical and cold chain equipment to enhance the services his business offers to the community. Dr. Mamane also collaborates with USAID Yalwa on targeted campaigns to raise small ruminant breeders’ awareness on the importance of  livestock vaccination.

Dr. Issa Nassirou, the private veterinarian for the department of Guidan Roumdji, Maradi region, pictured with the Auxiliaires d’Elevage (Livestock Auxiliaries) of the Maradi Region.

With USAID Yalwa support, Dr. Mamane has improved his business management practices, with the implementation of an accounting system that aligns with the Nigerien tax requirements. The business management training Dr. Mamane received from USAID Yalwa has allowed him to grow his business, expanding the number of permanent staff from three employees to 10, and his network of livestock auxiliaries from 30 auxiliaries to 60. He has also hired 30 local women to serve as community vaccinators. At his clinic, Dr. Mamane organized the construction of a training room to both train personnel and use as a conference space for business purposes.

With these improved facilities and resources, and with support from USAID Yalwa, Dr. Mamane has increased the rate of marking of small ruminants in Guidan Roumdji to 98% in 2022, improving livestock vaccination management and reducing waste resulting from the vaccination process like vials, packaging and vaccines. Furthermore, Dr. Mamane has been key to improving the understanding and recognition of the private veterinary services and their activities, such as appearing as a guest on community radio stations. These efforts have directly resulted in more famers trusting veterinary institutions to vaccinate their herds.

Cowpea Demonstrations Promote Adaptable and Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Bringing Greater Yields and Increasing Revenue

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To sustainably improve cowpea productivity and the incomes of producers, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri activity established demonstration plots throughout the agricultural season and hosted field visits to showcase good agricultural practices for land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting periods. The plots allowed farmers to test new agricultural methods, technologies and climate-smart practices, building resilience and developing mitigation strategies to deal with environmental shocks.

From 2020 to 2022, the USAID Yidgiri activity established more than 300 demonstration plots to test new varieties of improved cowpea seeds for food and feed, and to develop different techniques of water and integrated soil fertility management. In addition, more than 200 field visits focused on improved cowpea production practices, dual purpose cowpea variety, climate adaptability and resilience to help producers adopt new agricultural techniques in their local contexts. The demonstrations were conducted with support from Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture and producer organization extensionists to ensure sustainability of the activity.

Maria Ouedraogo, a farmer from the Nebnooma cooperative in Silmiougou, a village in the commune of Kaya, applied these improved cowpea production practices, including the use of high-yielding seed variety.

Maria Ouedraogo, a model producer for USAID Yidgiri’s cowpea demonstration plots.

“I reproduced it in my field of half a hectare and I am very satisfied,” she said. “I harvested five 100-kilogram bags of cowpeas in the 2021-2022 agricultural season, which I was able to sell at a good price.”

Sibila Sawadogo, a producer at the Wendkouni Cooperative in Nagbingou, in the commune of Boulsa, learned methods such as contour farming to conserve water on his plot. This is particularly important for his commune’s context, where they often face periods of drought.

“Since I have been experimenting with contour farming, I see that my plants grow better and do not dry out during these dry periods,” he said. “I experimented with this technique on half a hectare last year, and I have extended it to one hectare this year to harvest more and earn more money.”

For farmers like Sawadago, implementing efficient and sustainable cultivation practices that increase cowpea yields is a game changer, especially when farmers can take advantage of periods of high prices.

Amado Ouedraogo, a producer organization-based extensionist and model producer for USAID Yidgiri’s cowpea demonstration plots.

Amado Ouedraogo, a producer organization extensionist from the Songtaba cooperative in Tangasko, also benefitted from the demonstrations, scaling up the technology packages he teaches to his local peers and even increasing cowpea productivity on his own plot. Last year, he planted cowpea grain on just one hectare but decided this year to plant on all three of his hectares.

“I started to apply the techniques from my demonstration plot to my field because of the increased yields, and I invited my neighboring farmers to replicate it in theirs,” he said. “Nowadays, many of them apply it because they understand that they have a lot to gain, and I am happy to share my knowledge.”

Conducting hands-on demonstrations in a farm environment allows producers to increase their yield and adopt practices which are sustainable, efficient and revenue generating. This is particularly important moving forward as the effects of climate change continue to intensify. Climate-smart solutions are needed to ensure that farmers can continue to cultivate crops, like cowpea, and maximize their earnings.