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

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.

USAID Yidgiri Facilitates Cowpea Farmers’ Access to New Markets

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To increase access to markets for cowpea producers, platforms are needed to build linkages between stakeholders across the cowpea value chain. With greater access to a range of inputs, the production process is made smoother, enabling producers to generate more profit from their goods as a result of higher quality and quantities. In Burkina Faso, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity supported the establishment of innovation platforms to help producers access new markets.

Innovation platforms are consultation frameworks that bring together stakeholders, such as cowpea producers, union leaders, input distributors and microfinance institutions to develop value chains, facilitating access to inputs and marketing. These are especially successful in connecting local producers with buyers.

Through an innovation platform meeting organized with the support of USAID Yidgiri in May 2022, the Provincial Union of Cooperatives of Cowpea Producers of Sanmatenga connected with Catholic Relief Services and agreed to deliver 84 tons of cowpea, worth a total of around $85,700 (approximately 57 million FCFA). By creating linkages like this in the cowpea supply chain, producer organizations can generate more resources for future agricultural campaigns and sell their products in higher quantity and quality.

Three members of the Provincial Union of Cowpea Producers of Sanmatenga stand in front of their cowpea stock.

Karfo Sawadogo, president of Wendkonta of Nagbingou, a communal union of simplified cooperatives, took part in one of these workshops. “I really appreciated this workshop because it allowed the groups present to get to know us better, to trust us and to help us reach a contract for the delivery of 50 tons of cowpeas at a price of approximately 706,000 FCFA per ton,” he said. This is the equivalent of $1,100 per ton.

For many union members, the innovation platforms are their first experience collaborating with international organizations, who typically offer a better price than what is offered on the market. “Thanks to this connection, we were able to quickly obtain a loan from Caisse Populaire to meet our expenses and respond to the call for tenders,” Sawadogo said.

Sawadogo expressed his appreciation for the workshops and hopes to attend more innovation platform meetings to continue building fruitful relationships that can improve the local cowpea value chain. In addition to supporting the cowpea value chain, USAID Yidigiri supports innovation platforms for the poultry and small ruminant value chains, hosting workshops in the Boulsa, Fada and Kaya communities.

USAID Resilient Communities Program

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Overview:

The five-year, $23.75 million USAID Resilient Communities Program (2022-2027) is designed to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) along Georgia’s Administrative Boundary Line (ABL). Driven by private sector engagement, host-country collaboration and catalytic grant investments, the Program builds resilience against shocks, enhances inclusion of marginalized and at-risk communities, including women and youth, and stimulates sustainable socio-economic development.

Through previous USAID-funded projects in Georgia implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the Program has access to a strong network of private sector, donor, NGO and Government of Georgia partners, which it uses to strengthen resilient and inclusive market systems and facilitate the development of diverse value chains. This increases revenues, creates jobs and builds community capacity to address market constraints and make key decisions. The Program targets communities along the ABL and the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with the goal of integrating them into the broader Georgian economy.

Program Approach:

Collaboration, flexibility, scalability and sustainability are central components of the Program. The following approaches are incorporated to successfully build resilience to risks and shocks, enhance inclusion and stimulate sustainable socio-economic development:

  1. Engage the private sector: The USAID Resilient Communities Program enhances productivity, accelerates knowledge transfer and improves access to markets for rural communities along the ABL. It uses its connection to a variety of businesses throughout Georgia to provide links to enterprises, including USAID program graduates who are ready to invest back in the industry.
  2. Host country cooperation: To co-invest in development solutions, the Program facilitates productive, functional, trust-based working relationships with key Georgian government agencies including the Rural Development Agency (RDA), Enterprise Georgia and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA). These partnerships continue to be expanded and strengthened to benefit communities along the ABL.
  3. Investment in catalytic grants: The Program integrates matching grants designed to have longer and deeper impacts and strengthen market systems. It targets communities and market systems where investments will catalyze systemic improvements, build resilience and strengthen engagement, competitiveness and market access.

Partners:

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA): International agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives. We work with businesses, foundations, governments, and communities to build customized local and global partnerships that meet the world’s growing demand for food.

Solimar International: U.S. small business with rich tourism development experience in Georgia. This includes developing a national tourism strategy and a COVID-19 recovery plan at the request of the Georgian government. This included designing new tour packages, tourism infrastructure and support services, and assessing and developing Destination Management Organizations.

Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG): Georgian NGO with more than ten years of experience in community development, disaster risk reduction (DRR), economic development and empowering women, youth and other marginalized groups in the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) and throughout Georgia. RDFG assists vulnerable communities in gaining equal access to services and opportunities.

The Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG): Georgian consulting firm with a wealth of economic analysis experience, including conducting value chain and niche market analysis. PMCG provides consulting services to government and nongovernmental organizations in community development and planning, private sector development, value chain analyses, MSME development and organizational capacity development.

New Digital Solution Supports Smallholder Farmers and Savings Groups to Access Finance

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Access to finance is one of the major barriers to increasing agricultural productivity for smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Bank branches are often located far from farmers’ homes, making it difficult for them to access the financial services needed to support and scale up their businesses.

Mobile financial services and microfinance institutions (MFIs) like Duterimbere MFI and Umurimo Finance Ltd are well-placed to combat this by offering solutions that improve access to finance and address issues like the high cost of transactions, high cost of reaching farmers in rural areas and low rate of farmer transactions, which also impacts the availability of financial data for proper loan distribution and decision-making. Since 82 percent of Duterimbere and Umurimo’s clients are farmers, they partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity to improve farmers’ access to finance in the districts of Kayonza, Gatsibo and Nyamasheke.

Hinga Weze and its MFI partners teamed up with ADFinance Ltd, a Rwandan company specializing in the design and implementation of digital solutions for the financial sector, and local mobile network operators to develop a SMS-based software called ADMobile. The software enables farmers to conveniently deposit and withdraw funds from their bank accounts and complete mobile money transactions with ease. After its launch, ADFinance Ltd provided training to MFI staff on the service’s usage and MFI staff, in turn, educated their farmer clients on how to use the new mobile tool.

The new push-pull service works by integrating the MFIs’ core banking systems with mobile money services from network operators Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) and Airtel. Through this mobile service, individuals and savings groups can access their mobile money wallets and make payments online, without needing to travel to a physical bank branch. The new mobile financial service therefore makes it easier for farmers to save income since they no longer need to spend time and resources traveling back and forth to the bank.

The service’s simplified withdrawal and deposit transaction processes also facilitate loan repayments quicker and more efficiently than before. During COVID-19 lockdown periods when physical movement in the country was restricted, the mobile platform not only helped farmers continue using financial services, but it also helped them save time, increase transparency, improve the security of group savings and reduce conflicts among groups. Participating MFIs also saw an increase in the volume of client transactions, lowering the cost of their operations and supporting farmers to collect enough data to make improved lending decisions.

To enhance access to ADMobile and increase the number of farmers utilizing the platform’s mobile financial services, the activity and its partners developed campaigns showcasing the platform’s benefits. than 1,300 smallholder farmers have accessed over $328,000 in loans through the digital system. Beyond its support to individual farmers, 674 savings groups have used the digital financial service to connect with MFIs and access new sources of funding.

Recently, ADFinance Ltd also successfully piloted a new mobile-based service called “Mobile Lending,” which enables the automated disbursement of small loans to bank clients utilizing a defined criteria and machine learning technology. Moving forward, ADFinance Ltd aims to scale up their services, allowing them to reach more farmers in remote areas of Rwanda, to expand their technology into other countries and, most importantly, to quickly and efficiently facilitate improved access to loans for farmers.

Youth Engagement in Agriculture Improves Access to Digital Technology and Extension in Rwanda

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In Rwanda, only 3.18 million out of 7.75 million individuals of working-age are employed, and the number has declined by more than 13 percent since August 2020. The agriculture sector also lost upwards of 47,000 jobs while the unemployment rate stayed relatively high at 25.5 percent among the youth population (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda).

Linking youth to agriculture can significantly contribute to innovation, job creation and agriculture sector development. The USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity works to attract youth in agriculture by increasing agricultural productivity, employing youth through internships, improving access to finance and strengthening youth capacity in digital and private sector extension. Since 2017, the Activity has reached 733,000 individuals, of whom over 24 percent were youth.

To support the development of youth entrepreneurs, the Hinga Weze Activity provided internships to over 200 youth and awarded $92,647 in youth-specific grants for companies including Mahwi Tech, Carl Group, Zima Enterprise and KOTIB. Using the grant funds, Mahwi Tech was able to transform its M-LIMA platform, a youth-owned agricultural market information platform, into an online marketplace that can serve the dual purposes of providing market information and facilitating market linkages. Similarly, technology company BK TecHouse was able to expand its online Smart Nkunganire System to support over 200,000 new farmers, including 51,324 youth, by improving their agricultural input and information distribution and digitalizing their agrodealer operations through a Mobile Order Processing Application.

Hinga Weze’s activities also strengthened youth capacity in extension by including youth in digital extension programming, integrating youth in public and private extension services and providing youth-friendly approaches to extension and farming through the New Extensionist Learning Kit (NELK). Hinga Weze trained 133 youth on the use of digital extension, 15 youth on digital extension content creation and 21 youth on extension video dissemination. To date, these youth produced six videos on improved maize cultivation and helped train 4,000 farmers on maize production techniques using the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International’s (CABI) App—a mobile learning application focused on the production, harvest and post-harvest management of maize.

“Youth in Rwanda have quickly adopted information communication technology (ICT) tools and platforms. By using youth to customize and promote digital technologies, the Activity is supporting the advancement of ICT and transforming the way agricultural technologies are transferred to smallholder farmers,” highlighted Laurence Mukamana, Hinga Weze Chief of Party.

While Hinga Weze continued to utilize traditional extension methodologies to help farmers adopt climate-smart and other good agriculture practices, such as on-site coaching and Farmer Field Schools, the Activity also partnered with master trainers from the Rwanda Agriculture Board and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to help youth expand engagement, training and digital tools to extension agents and farmers through the Government of Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi national extension program. By leveraging existing government and private sector structures, Hinga Weze was able to create ownership and ensure the sustainability of promoted practices and methodologies beyond the life of the activity.

Improving Production and Livelihoods through the Manufacture and Sale of Poultry Feed

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Poultry farming is an important part of Burkina Faso’s rural economy. Unfortunately, it faces challenges, including the availability of low-cost feed, which is the most important and expensive input in poultry production. According to poultry producers, feed represents 60% to 75% of poultry production cost. Therefore, the availability of quality feed at affordable prices is essential for production to remain competitive on the market.

To remedy this, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity trained producers in improved poultry production techniques and in the manufacture of poultry feed using local ingredients. As a result, two members of the Béogoboumbou producer organization (PO) in Kaya, Burkina Faso, who benefited from this training are transforming their knowledge into a source of income for themselves and their PO.

During the training, producers learned that in order to have high output, regular productivity and optimal poultry growth, it is necessary to use balanced feed composed, among other things, of proteins, essential amino acids and minerals, which are found in locally available soya, corn, fish powder and calcined bone. Rasmata Sawadogo and Mouazou Kanazoe, both members of the Béogoboumbou PO, have successfully experimented with this feeding technique as a result of the training offered by USAID Yidgiri in 2021. Sawadogo and Kanazoe admitted that their chickens used to be small since they let them roam around looking for food and sometimes threw them handfuls of millet like so many farmers in the village. “I didn’t know that feeding my chickens a special diet could accelerate their growth, optimize their weight and earn a higher selling price,” says Kanazoe.

After the training and feed experiment the two conducted on their poultry, Sawadogo and Kanazoe trained the 17 members of their PO, including 6 men and 9 women, on these improved poultry production techniques. Now, in order to feed their poultry at a lower cost, the members collectively contribute money for feed production and pay for the necessary ingredients at wholesale prices.

Given the positive effect the feed had on their poultry and the frequent shortage of industrial poultry feed available on the market, the PO also decided to produce and sell their feed. Their products are sold to private individuals as well as to other POs, including Basnéré, Pissila and Kaya, who place group orders. A 50kg bag of poultry feed costs $25 (15,000 CFA) and the PO produces about one ton per month, depending on their orders. The PO puts 50% of profits earned in a fund and shares the remaining 50% with its members. The money in the fund can be borrowed by members who need a small loan to boost their activities.

Kanazoe, a 20-year-old youth member of the PO, says he likes this activity because “per month, I can earn between $16-42 (10,000 to 25,000 CFA). So far, I was able to purchase a bicycle and I am building a house of 20 sheets in the family yard. I dream of being a boss and of having a big poultry feed production company.” Sawadogo, a mother of two, adds that she earns an average of $33 (20,000 CFA) per month, which is additional income that she reinvests either in her chicken coop or on her family.

To help the PO increase its competitiveness and reduce dependence on their neighborhood mill for grinding ingredients, Lassané Kanazoé, the PO’s cluster lead, utilized his network of partners to help the PO access a nearby multi-function mill in December 2021 so that they could efficiently respond to orders. The mill has a grinding capacity of one ton per hour. The Songvensé cluster was formed under USAID Yidgiri’s predecessor, the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, and continues to have members, including the Béogoboumbou PO, take advantage of the mill to produce quality feed and help sell poultry at the right time and at preferential prices. In addition, the PO intends to offer its services to nongovernmental organizations to help their partners access poultry inputs.

Through its work with the Béogoboumbou PO, USAID Yidgiri is demonstrating that with strengthened capacity building, producers can improve their resilience and generate profitable economic opportunities for themselves and their communities.

Supporting Smallholder Farmers by Increasing Access to Affordable, Appropriate, and Effective Technology

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USAID Pakistan Agriculture Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA) was an Activity implemented by CNFA to assist Pakistani farmers transition from traditional to commercial farming, and increase smallholder farmers’ access to affordable, appropriate, and effective agriculture technologies.

Youth-Led Enterprise Accesses Finance to Scale-Up Soybean Production in Benue State

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Benue State is a major hub for soybean production in Nigeria, producing over 100 metric tons of beans each year– approximately 30% of the country’s total. But due to rising demand for oilseed, processors are turning to imports instead of relying on local production and Nigerian farmers, particularly smallholders, are facing pressure to maintain their market share by increasing their yields.

To support soybean farmers with meeting market demand and expanding their businesses, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), facilitated training and connections between producers and financial institutions to enhance agribusiness performance and improve access to finance.

The Activity partnered with youth-owned soybean farm, Agojo Farms Ltd, to strengthen their business development skills, teach soybean production best practices and secure financing for increased production. The Activity trained Agojo Farm representatives on microenterprise fundamentals, group dynamics and leadership while breaking down barriers to accessing finance for youth. In line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s requirements for their Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), the Activity also supported Agojo Farms to prepare a business plan, which enabled them to secure a loan in early 2021.

“The AGSMEIS loan supported us to expand our soybean farm from four acres to 11 acres,” said Angbiandoo Agojo, CEO of Agojo Farms Ltd. “After learning to procure improved seed varieties, we also anticipate an increased yield of 15 bags of soybeans for every two acres of land, compared to just 10 bags in previous seasons.”

By building the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to improve their business development and production, particularly for those owned and operated by youth, the Activity supports soybean producers to access finance, provide employment and efficiently scale up their operations, improving livelihoods and fulfilling the country’s growing demand for soybean.

Since December 2018, the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity has facilitated access to agricultural-related credit and investment worth over 35 billion Naira ($96 million) for over 11,000 MSMEs in Nigeria. Over the next two years, the Activity will continue working with a range of market actors and stakeholders, with a specific focus on youth and other marginalized business owners, to improve the enabling environment for agricultural sector growth, broaden access to agribusiness finance, facilitate investment for agribusiness expansion and sustainably enhance the performance of agribusinesses across Nigeria.

Access to Finance Supports Value Seeds Limited to Supply over 500,000 Farmers with Certified Seeds

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Value Seeds Limited, an agricultural seed company, works in northwest Nigeria to strengthen the reliability of the seed sector for staple crops such as cowpea, maize, rice and soybeans and to sustainably supply seeds to its network of more than 500,000 farmers. In addition to producing seeds on their farm in Kaduna State, Value Seeds Limited runs an out-grower scheme of over 4,000 farmers, providing education on good agronomic practices, supplies, inputs and monitoring agricultural productivity and quality for seed production and multiplication.

As they sought to expand their operations during the 2021 season, Value Seeds Limited partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), to apply for and secure credit worth 1 billion Naira ($2.63 million) from Sterling Bank Plc under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS).

The Activity worked with Value Seeds Limited to ensure that they could meet the risk criteria set by Sterling Bank Plc by conducting an audit and environmental impact assessment of the company’s operations. They then provided recommendations on ways the company could improve its processes and environmental impact in order to qualify for the loan.

“Since 2019, a key condition for securing bank loans has been the ability to present an environmental impact assessment report,” said George Zangir, Managing Director of Value Seeds Limited. “However, we were finding it difficult to get the right experts for the assessment at the cost that was expected.

“To address this challenge, the Activity supported us to conduct this assessment and obtain a positive report, enabling us to receive the loan we applied for in a timely manner and to bolster production while minimizing impact to the environment.”

The financing from the new loan allowed Value Seeds Limited to boost support to their out-grower farmers and increase the production of certified seeds produced, cleaned, processed, packaged and sold to smallholder farmers, large-scale farms, agro-input dealers, development organizations, producer associations, farmer cooperatives and government entities across Kaduna, Niger and Benue states.

With a projected yield of about 1 billion Naira ($2.63 million) in turnover, Value Seeds Limited can further its goal of producing quality seeds and supporting growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, ensuring greater food security for communities across the country.

The Activity will also continue its goal to strengthen access to agribusiness finance and investment for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) like Value Seeds Limited by building the capacity of financial institutions to fund agribusiness MSMEs, catalyzing access to credit and investments and supporting MSMEs across Nigeria’s agricultural sub-sectors to ensure they are investment ready.