Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Rootstalks and Grafting with Mother Plants

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Rootstalks and Grafting with Mother Plants

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for handing rootstocks and grafting with mother plants.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Grafting Techniques to Improve Budding and Horticulture Production

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for grafting plants to enhance budding and horticulture production.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Extracting and Preparing Seedlings for Sale

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for extracting and preparing plant seedlings for sale.

 

Reducing Post-Harvest Losses for Persons with Disabilities in Rwanda

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USAID Feed the Future Hinga Weze grant provides post-harvest equipment to persons with disabilities.

Founded in 2007, Twisungane Mageragere, a 140-member cooperative based in Rutsiro district, strives to ensure their members with disabilities meaningfully and consistently gain from income-generating activities through cultivating reliable markets for their produce.

To strengthen their efforts and capacity to support their members with disabilities, the cooperative applied for and received a grant worth $8,600 through the USAID Feed the Future Hinga Weze Activity, implemented by CNFA.

Hinga Weze and the cooperative worked together to promote independence in adults with disabilities and establish a gender support network in the community through Hinga Weze’s gender and social inclusion program.

With the grant, the cooperative purchased post-harvest equipment appropriate for some of its members with disabilities including electronic maize shelling machines, hand shellers, and tricycles to transport produce from the gardens and to the market. With this equipment, the cooperative was able to harvest and process 1.5 metric tons (MT) of maize earning about. USD $350 (350,000 RWF), up from 200 kg harvested the previous season.

“Our members are excited and now feel they can compete favorably against other farmers,” observed Protais Ukizuru, the President of Twisungane Mageragere.

The grant has also enabled female cooperative members to process and transport their produce with ease and have enough time to attend to domestic chores.

Among the 2,111 PWDs supported by Hinga Weze in ten districts across Rwanda, these cooperative members are already considering expanding their farming and maize processing from neighboring farmers to increase their incomes.

Small-Scale Irrigation Technology Transforms Farmer Livelihoods In Rwanda

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Farmers get better yields from improved access to irrigation.

In Kayonza district, part of Rwanda’s drier Eastern province, Beata Mukanyirigira (52), like most farmers, wanted to increase her yields and productivity including access to water for a higher income and better livelihood.

To confront this challenge, farmers in four districts, Bugesera, Ngoma, Kayonza, and Gatsibo, partnered with the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity, a five-year U.S. Agency for International Development activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), and local authorities to bring small-scale irrigation technologies (SSIT) to themselves and hundreds of their peers.

These technologies are small-scale, adaptable and fit for the irrigation needs of smallholder farms and the system is powered by solar energy, making it sustainable, environmentally friendly, and affordable. With support from Hinga Weze and the RAB, nine sites for this irrigation infrastructure have been completed and two sites are under development, covering a total of 200 hectares.

Once Hinga Weze and local authorities identify sites like these, farmers mobilize to consolidate land and form groups and cooperatives to best manage these irrigation systems. To date, over 10 cooperatives and savings groups have formed, attracting private sector partnerships from lending institutions, buyers, traders, and agrodealers. These partners supply agricultural inputs, offer employment opportunities for farmers who work on consolidated farms, provide access to markets, and more.

Because of this greater community cohesion, Hinga Weze could strengthen its relationship with local communities through farmer-led outreach and capacity building interventions. Through these efforts, farmers developed a knowledge base and capacity to manage irrigation infrastructure, contributing to the sustainability of the initiative. Farmers also learned good agriculture practices, which further supported improved crop productivity.

So far, over 1,200 households benefitted from access to the small-scale irrigation infrastructure and this number is expected to increase to include thousands of farmers as this infrastructure will eventually cover 300 total hectares throughout the life of the activity. This undertaking will significantly increase productivity, improve incomes and nutrition, ensure food security, and improve the quality of livelihoods for farmers.

Approved Policy Opens Opportunity for Agri-business Transformation in Delta State

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Agriculture is the mainstay of Nigeria’s rural economy, but the sector still faces a myriad of challenges. The sector struggles with a lack of proper legislation and weak enabling environment for agribusiness, limited access to appropriate financing options, poor commodity value chain networks, climate change and the environmental consequences of industrial activities, particularly in the oil-rich Niger Delta. These obstacles have persisted even in the wake of decades of government and donor-funded agricultural development initiatives.

To provide a sustainable solution to these persistent challenges and diversify the economy away from its reliance on extractive industry the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), together with the Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project (NAPP), supported the Delta State Government to develop this new Agricultural Policy.

The State Executive Council (SEC) approved the Delta State Agricultural Policy on January 29, 2021. The Activity provided technical support through the entire process of policy design, convened inclusive stakeholder engagements, and facilitated its approval by the SEC through the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The new Delta State Agricultural Policy will support agricultural productivity, improve agribusiness performance, and raise enterprise value of the agricultural sector by developing commodity value chains, improving access to quality inputs, finance and investments, storage facilities, and new markets.

“With the approval of this Policy, we believe that Delta State has now moved a step closer to its food quality, safety and security goals by creating a platform on which to build mutual understanding and trust between agribusinesses, financial institutions, and government entities,” said Dominic Graham, the Activity’s Managing Director and Chief of Party.

“The Activity will continue to support the Nigerian Government, MSMEs, producer groups, aggregators, processors, and other service providers in our focal agribusiness value chains as they operate in a more conducive regulatory, finance, and investment climate,” he concluded.

Cultivating Young Changemakers for Agricultural Innovation

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Young Osama Shahid joined his family-owned Punjab-based agricultural manufacturing business ‘Soby Ag Engineers’ in 2016 with a clear mission: to tackle Pakistani small farmers’ challenges and improve their productivity through innovation in the agriculture sector. “Our business scope was limited, and we performed functions on a seasonal basis at harvesting and land preparation time only and manufactured a small range of seasonal agricultural machinery. In 2018, we were headed towards a downfall due to Pakistan’s stifling economic climate, political instability, and core manufacturing challenges but I was passionate about bringing change,” explained 26-year old Osama.

Osama’s trajectory took a new direction when he stumbled upon USAID Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity’s (PATTA) call for partnership on a local recruitment website. The four-year technical assistance project is dedicated to investing in agri-preneurs, innovators, and leaders including farmers, dealers, and owners of private sector agribusinesses to collectively revitalize agriculture and transfer game-changing innovations across Pakistan.

In January 2019, Osama signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PATTA and began attending the project-facilitated agricultural technology demonstrations sessions across Pakistan. With PATTA, Osama explored new fruit and vegetable markets in Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan and met diverse local farmer groups. “Based on my direct interaction with small farmers mobilized by PATTA, I quickly learned about their struggles. I realized that the average landholding size of small farmers in Pakistan is less than five acres and in order to reduce their overhead costs for better economic returns, I had to somehow introduce affordable and small agricultural tools and equipment,” said Osama.

As a result of this new learning, Osama imported small two-wheel tractors, three-wheel tractors, and handy tools such as brush cutters, hand push seeders, and other multipurpose tools priced at an affordable range of PKR 10,000-20,000. Osama believed that by adopting these small agricultural tools, farmers could reap more benefits and plant a diverse range of vegetables and crops including maize, peas, peanut, sunflower, wheat, and rice. He collaborated with PATTA and demonstrated these technologies at the project’s agricultural demonstrations in districts Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Mardan, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Tando Jam, and Hunza, among others. “I was able to grow my portfolio from eight to 100 agricultural products and tools for small farmers in a span of one year with PATTA’s facilitation. I have now bid farewell to the days of ‘seasonal’ working,” he added.

PATTA also helps its private-sector partners develop new, targeted solutions to respond to the needs of Pakistani smallholders. For example, as Osama came closer to accomplishing some of his goals, he used PATTA’s guidance and facilitation in Research and Development (R&D) to develop wheat harvesting and land preparation machinery. “Wheat is the largest crop in Pakistan and involves intense labor including harvesting, binding, and threshing. PATTA supported me in my efforts to design, re-engineer, and manufacture mini tractors and reaper binders. We successfully performed reverse engineering of these machines which allow farmers to save time, reduce fuel consumption and increase production,” Osama said. In September 2019, PATTA mobilized 500 farmers and facilitated Osama in launching and promoting these new innovations in Kala Shah Kaku, District Sheikhupura in Punjab province in collaboration with the Rice Research Institute (RRI), Government of Pakistan. To date, PATTA’s support has led Osama to sell 35 mini tractors and 94 reaper binders priced at PKR 300,000 and PKR 750,000 respectively.

Following his collaboration with PATTA, Osama was recently shortlisted for a sustainable small farming start-up idea at the National Incubation Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences. “I owe my success to USAID PATTA since the project has helped me create new solutions for local manufacturing. In Pakistan, we will have to focus on local manufacturing to make agriculture sustainable. Many investors are now keen to invest in my business for expansion,” he explained. This is just one example of how PATTA has successfully collaborated with the private sector and empowered the youth to build linkages with farmers and make a difference by improving productivity and enhancing competitiveness.

Private-Sector Agripreneur Spurs Banana Revival in Malawi

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When most people think of farming, they may immediately see visions of tractors, plows, and harvesters. But as one USAID Farmer to Farmer (F2F) engagement in Malawi, facilitated by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), clearly illustrates, successful farming today often has more to do with access to far more sophisticated technology beyond mechanization. For Frankie Washoni, a farmer in Lilongwe, Malawi, F2F partnerships which bring knowledge and free capacity support to communities and businesses, were key in scaling his business to meet the needs of his community.

Pests and diseases are common threats to crops in every country around the world, and Malawi is no different. Since the mid-1990s, smallholder farmers in the southeast African country have seen banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) wreak havoc in their plantations. According to the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, over that period almost 70 percent—more than 30,000 hectares—of Malawi’s total banana production area was lost due to the disease, which is transmitted unknowingly through infected banana suckers—shoots from the plants’ roots that are used for new plantings.

As plantations continued to dwindle in the 2000s, consumer prices increased steeply, causing traders to rely on banana imports from neighboring Tanzania and Mozambique. While the higher prices inspired some Malawian farmers to attempt to set up new banana farms, finding BBTV-free planting material proved an insurmountable challenge.

Hortinet Foods Limited, a farming business owned by Mr. Frankie Washoni, maintains 6,000 BBTV-free banana plants on 7 of its 17 acres. Since founding Hortinet in 2012, Washoni maintained good management practices to keep BBTV out of his operation, helping him to become one of Malawi’s few sellers of BBTV-free banana plantlets. While he initially used revenues from the plantlet business to supplement the income from his banana sales to grocery stores, he soon realized that the overwhelming demand for his BBTV-free banana suckers represented a significant new business opportunity: “[Accessing] banana seed remains a big problem, and we saw an opportunity to bridge the gap and eventually slow down the banana imports into the country,” Washoni said. “We decided to invest in tissue culture technology to mass-produce good-quality and disease-free planting material.”

After establishing the first private tissue culture laboratory in Malawi with $55,000 in investments, Washoni turned to the CNFA’s Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer program to request a volunteer expert in tissue culture laboratory operations and management. By August 2019, Dr. John Griffis, Professor of Horticultural Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, was on the scene, helping Hortinet set up the new lab, ensuring that it had all necessary equipment, and designing a layout to facilitate efficient operation. He also trained seven up-and-coming lab technicians—four young men and three young women—in areas such as biosafety and risk mitigation.

His work was not done. In December 2019, Dr. Griffis returned to the new Hortinet facility to help establish standard operating procedures and protocols for lab operations and to train the team in how to initiate the trial cultures that would pave the way for a larger production. The results of the two consultations exceeded expectations. Four months after Dr. Griffis’ second visit, Hortinet had already produced 20,000 banana plantlets out of a recent order for 40,000 banana plantlets from the Ministry of Agriculture to distribute to smallholder farmers who previously lost their plantations—especially in the main banana production areas in Malawi’s southern and central regions.

Based on the success resulting from the two Farmer to Farmer engagements, Hortinet now is investing in additional equipment that will allow it to triple its production capacity—forecast to reach 1 million banana plantlets a year at full capacity. Washoni notes that the limited knowledge he had acquired online prior to the interventions by Dr. Griffis had left him technically “very weak,” and would not have equipped him to reach such high levels of production. “Dr. Griffis equipped us with skills and protocols we could not get from our own research,” Washoni said.

Thanks to Washoni’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm and CNFA’s Farmer to Farmer facilitation, the future looks bright for Malawi’s banana producers. As for Hortinet, the company is now exploring tissue culture propagation for potato and pineapple!

Input Credit Scheme Links Agro-Dealers to Farmers

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Agricultural productivity depends on the affordability and accessibility of agriculture inputs including seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers that are essential for improving yield and raising incomes (AGRA, 2013). Unfortunately, farmers in Rwanda must incur significant up-front investment in agro-inputs before they can generate revenues to recoup these pre-seasonal expenses. Without access to finance, poor farmers are exposed to perpetual sub-optimal yield and low revenues due to their inability to invest in appropriate inputs. As a result, production levels of key crops in Rwanda including maize, potato, and vegetables, are relatively low.

Hinga Weze set up a pilot input-credit scheme in two districts to bridge the gaps in the financing of agro-input supplies for farmers and later scaled it up to link more agro-dealers to farmers to boost their production and incomes. This is in line with part of Hinga Weze’s goal to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems.

Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze has now enrolled 318 agro-dealers across its 10 targeted districts of Rwanda, into the scaled-up input-credit scheme to gain technical knowledge on agrochemical regulation, climate-smart agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and product knowledge in pesticides, fertilizers, and lime. They were also provided with training and skills in business record-keeping, warehouse management, and marketing strategies to give good services and products to farmers who were able to double their harvest.

Through Hinga Weze’s model and support, the agro-dealers were also linked to financial institutions that to date have provided 79 agro-dealers with loans worth over $277,242. For example, 11 agro-dealers from Karongi were assisted to access loans from banks and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) worth $21,019 (19,800,000 RWF) and were, therefore, able to provide agro-inputs on credit directly to farmers, who, in turn, were able to repay the loan upon harvesting. In the last three months, the scheme has assisted 1,838 farmers to access inputs worth $38,419.