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

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.”

A Champion Small Ruminant Trader Serves as A Role Model for Future Women Entrepreneurs

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Adiaratou Sangaré is a small ruminants’ trader from Yanfolila, Mali, who has been perfecting her practice for over 13 years. At age 37, the mother of six is also a member of the Association of Small Ruminants’ Traders of Yanfolila, a partner of the Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa Activity, which works to strengthen market systems, sustainably improve household incomes, and improve the nutritional status of women and children in the Sikasso sub-zone.

Over the years, Sangaré has established a climate of trust with local breeders who have agreed to sell her their animals and provide payment after the animal’s sale. Additionally, with Sangaré’s experience and through the investment of a close relative who grants her interest-free loans, she leads her business and ensures that she can afford healthcare, school and clothing fees for her children without having to turn to financial institutions for support.

To facilitate market opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs like Sangaré working across the Southern Zone of Mali, Sugu Yiriwa organized seven small ruminant fairs in line with the Tabaski holiday from June 25 – July 8, 2022. The fairs aimed at enhancing participants’ access to critical business linkages and breaking the cycle of middlemen who dominate the small ruminant market.

Adiaratou Sangaré awarded best buyer prize at Koumantou fair.

Sangaré attended the Sugu Yiriwa fair in Niena on June 25 before participating in the Koumantou fair, where she was awarded Sugu Yiriwa’s best buyer prize for purchasing 558 heads of sheep and goat worth $57,365 (36,756,500 FCFA). As the Tabaski holiday approached and the demand for sheep and goats grew higher, Sangaré benefitted from increased prices at the fair in her hometown of Yanfolila and sold 478 animals for $93,446 (59,875,792 FCFA). Here, she was again awarded a prize from Sugu Yiriwa, this time as the best seller in Yanfolila.

Sangaré serves as a role model for her community and is currently providing hands-on training in price negotiation and animal quality assessment to three women who shadowed her at the fairs. Sangaré has also created 10 permanent jobs for eight small re-sellers and two laborers, as well as temporary labor jobs during periods of intense activity. Additionally, at the community level, she provides sheep on credit for community events.

Reflecting on the fairs, Sangaré said, “Thanks to Sugu Yiriwa, I found all my needs for quality animals without having to travel far away, which led me to reduce my costs and maximize profits. I am also proud of myself for having received the biggest buyer prize in Koumantou. This grand gesture motivates me to participate in Sugu Yiriwa’s events in the upcoming year.”

USAID Yalwa Supports Nigerien Entrepreneur to Turn Volunteering into A Successful Business

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Rahila Ali, a 35-year-old mother of five, has been a participant of the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa Activity since 2019. A resident of the village of Kotaré in the Maradi region of Niger, Mrs. Ali took an interest in initiating income generating activities (IGAs) to support her community and help generate income for her family after her second pregnancy. In addition to her IGAs, Mrs. Ali has often volunteered to support projects in her locality. According to the chief of her village, “her patience and her developed interpersonal skills made her the ideal choice to support activities in our locality.” She has so far been an instructor for youth learning machine sewing and manual knitting, and a facilitator in awareness activities on sexual health for girls in her community.

Mrs. Ali, a participant of USAID Yalwa’s Women’s Self-Development and Empowerment training. Mrs. Ali has turned several of her volunteer activities into income-generating activities to further support herself and her family.

Mrs. Ali’s first IGA focused on weaving and selling children’s hats and outfits. She later invested in small ruminant breeding with one goat that she was able to buy with her savings. Benefiting from the diversity of her interventions with her peers, whose trust she had gained, Mrs. Ali invited her colleagues to set up a tontine- loan plan to support members and fund their initiatives. Mrs. Ali also helped create a cooperative with about 40 members, primarily women, called MISECO. The cooperative received training on millet, cowpea, sorghum and peanut production techniques and was provided seeds for cultivation. They produced crops for three years and participated in group sales, including to institutions such as the World Food Programme.

Mrs. Ali also participated in USAID Yalwa’s Women’s Self-Development and Empowerment training which allowed her to grow, share her experience and skills in farming and develop a personal action plan to strengthen her IGAs and increase her income. Mrs. Ali initially expanded her sheep and goat rearing activity, using the “Habanayé” model, where she rotated three goats to other women so that they could collect the kids. In this model, the first lamb is for the beneficiary women, and the second is reserved for Mrs. Ali, allowing the women to build up their herd while Mrs. Ali expands her own. She then invested in purchasing a grain mill which generated about $3 (2,000 FCFA) per day. The income from the activities developed with support from USAID Yalwa also allowed Mrs. Ali to strengthen her economic autonomy by diversifying her investments, such as developing her women and children’s clothing and accessory business with $72 (45,000 FCFA) of start-up capital, which she was able to increase to $643 (400,000 FCFA).

The profits from Mrs. Ali’s business also enabled her to buy a piece of land for $1,124 (700,000 FCFA) and to build a store with permanent materials for her goods for $1,044 (650,000 FCFA). Additionally, she highlighted that her IGAs helped her with “more ease to provide for the needs of my family, my parents and my community.” Indeed, Mrs. Ali recently financed the reconstruction of her father’s house with her funds and constructed a drinking water point that she made available to the neighboring women. Now, the women can get water for free, while Mrs. Ali collects used water and the bran from cereals and peanuts to feed her sheep—a sustainable solution for her business and for her community.

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.

Gender Action Learning System Approach Builds Stable Homes in Farming Communities

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The Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity uses the Gender Action Learning System to support couples to improve their relationships and livelihoods.

Although Rwanda has made tremendous progress in gender equality, low male engagement in domestic chores remains a challenge in many areas. Most affected by this phenomenon are rural communities across the country, including in Nyagisozi cell, Kageyo sector, in Gatsibo district where Illumine Gakuru resides.

Gakuru had been married to Donatien Munyandinda for the last five years, but without her husband’s support, Gakuru struggled to raise their two children and take care of their home garden and household.

Gakuru was not alone. She shared similar difficulties with other women in nearby farming communities, who also faced traditional gender dynamics that limited their equal access to incomes and other productive economic resources.

In 2018, Gakuru and her husband enrolled in a gender empowerment program managed by the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity, an activity funded by USAID and implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). Hinga Weze works in Gatsibo and nine other districts across Rwanda to sustainably increase farmers’ incomes, improve the nutritional status of women and children and increase the resilience of agriculture to the changing climate.

The new program, known as the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), uses a community-led gender empowerment methodology to addresses gender dynamics and ensure equitable decision-making within the household. GALS also enables couples to take action together and share control over household assets, reshaping income dynamics.

Gakuru and Munyandinda are among the 5,955 couples empowered through GALS to understand and prepare detailed household development plans and achieve a shared vision. As one of the first to attend the GALS program, Gakuru and Munyandinda were introduced to concepts such as participatory visioning and planning to help identify and resolve the issues that were holding them back from developing as a couple. With this approach, they were able to work through issues negatively affecting their communication and their ability to jointly manage household finances.

“Unlike before, we now have a joint bank account,” says Munyandinda. The couple also shares child rearing and household chores and jointly manages their finances and goals. “I always had misunderstandings with my husband because he would sell all our produce and use all the money without consulting me.  But now, we have learned a lot from this new approach and we have a happy home,” observed Gakuru with visible excitement.

Munyandinda has also become a male champion in his community of Kageyo. As a male champion, Munyandinda mobilizes other farmers to engage their spouses and take part in household chores and child-rearing activities.

By empowering 1,863 community-based volunteers, Hinga Weze trained 5,955 couples to develop household activity plans and created 83 male champion networks in ten districts of its operations in Rwanda, reaching 185,126 women. Through GALS, Hinga Weze is enabling more men to view their spouses as partners, not adversaries, with equitable decision-making power.

New Terraces Increase Crop Yields and Incomes for Farmers

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Farmers get better yields and generate income from terraced land in seven districts.

Nyabihu district is renowned for its scenic hills and steep terrain, with an elevation estimated at 2,445 meters above sea level. However, for farmers like Seraphine Nyirarubanza, a resident of Rurembo sector, it is a daunting task to cultivate on the steep slopes.

Seraphine Nyirarubanza, Farmer, Nyabihu district

In this region of Rwanda, crops and fertile topsoil are frequently washed downhill by rain, causing reduced soil fertility and a decline in crop productivity.  To support over 5,620 farmers growing crops across this region, including Nyirarubanza and the members of her cooperative, the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity constructed and rehabilitated approximately 818.85 ha of radical and progressive terraces. Funded by USAID and implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Hinga Weze aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and improve nutritional status of women and children.

Together, Nyirarubanza and 164 other cooperative members offered their paid labor to construct the terraces, a task that involved setting up a drainage system around the plots by establishing cut-off drains, waterways and dams. The cooperative also planted grasses, such as French Cameroun, to protect the drainage systems and embankments.

As part of Hinga Weze’s integration model, the planted grass was also used as livestock feed, with the residue turned into manure and added to artificial fertilizers to improve soil fertility. Additionally, producers were encouraged to re-use topsoil removed during the terrace development phase, to add in three tons of lime per ha every three years to cultivate healthy soil and to add 10 to 30 tons of organic manure per ha per season to reduce soil acidity and improve fertility.

Many farmers quickly reaped the fruits of their labor. For example, at the Muhanda site in the Ngororero district, farmers planted Irish potatoes on 40 ha and increased their yield four-fold from five tons to 21 tons per ha, worth approximately $167,000 (173,677,500 RWF).

Nyirarubanza’s hard work also proved beneficial. “I used to harvest only 200 kgs on my 20-acre plot,” she said. “But after learning to terrace and apply fertilizers and manure, I am now able to harvest 400 kg.”

With the completion of progressive and radical terraces, farmers like Nyirarubanza are assured of improved yields and higher quality crops of maize, high-iron beans, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and various other horticultural produce, some of the key commodities in the region. These yields also translate to higher income generation and improved food security.

Poultry Farming Through Care Group Model Transforms Rural Livelihoods

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Through the care group model, farmers have transformed their livelihoods

Nutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Rwanda, with 38% of children under five classified as stunted and 9% of children under five manifesting as underweight (RDHS 2014-2015). One significant contributor to stunting is a lack of dietary diversity among Rwandan children due to a lack of animal-source protein consumption, which can provide a variety of micronutrients that are difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from plant-source foods alone.

Dietary diversity is also a significant challenge in the ten target districts where the Feed the Future Rwandan Hinga Weze activity operates, including in Nyamagabe and Kayonza. To overcome this challenge, Hinga Weze adapted the care group model and mobilized households to join care groups as a conducive space for nutrition-sensitive agricultural education, peer learning, saving and chicken rearing to increase income and the consumption of nutritious foods for women and children.

Since 2018, Hinga Weze has worked with communities to strengthen the capacity of care groups through trainings and coaching, mostly in good agricultural practices, nutrition, food safety, savings, gender and poultry farming. In Kayonza and Nyamagabe districts, Hinga Weze also introduced the Small Livestock Program to improve the intake of animal-sourced foods by increasing the local availability of small livestock, mainly chickens. This, in turn, helped families generate household income to purchase nutritious foods, while increasing access to meat and eggs for consumption.

So far, 46 care groups have received 9,200 chickens through Hinga Weze’s Small Livestock Program. After receiving and rearing their chickens, care group members were able to pay back $400 (400,000 RWF) through a pay-back model and to fund a second chicken production cycle. Care groups have also been able to generate incomes from egg sales, distribute 15 eggs for consumption to each member per month and use organic chicken manure in crop production and home gardens.

“Due to lack of skills and knowledge related to nutrition-sensitive agriculture and nutrition, we were ignorant about what contributed to malnutrition in our area,” says Masengesho, the leader of Imbereheza care group in Kayonza district.

The care group trainings equipped communities with skills on chicken farming, feed formulation and chicken rearing. For example, many care groups were supported to raise one-day old chicks, while some have even become agents for Uzima Chicken, a local chicken supplier. Similarly, Wisigarinyuma care group was able to raise 1000 one-day-old chicks until 35 days and sell 840 chicks to farmers outside of their care group.

Hinga Weze’s Small Livestock Program also provided a full package for supply agents and farmers to care for their chickens, which included vaccines and specialized technical trainings on chicken maintenance, poultry house standards, feeds, transportation, marketing, business development and general health standards for poultry businesses. This made the Small Livestock Program a de-facto business-provider for farmers and a nutritional conduit for households.

In addition to the chickens distributed as part of the Small Livestock Program, Hinga Weze distributed 86,400 chickens to 14,400 households (six chickens per household) across eight districts, which has greatly contributed to improving nutrition and dietary diversity. Through their weekly savings and joint household budgeting, farmers have increased their incomes and improved their livelihoods at the household level.

Hinga Weze is a five-year project funded by the USAID that aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and improve the nutritional status of women and children.

Technology Adoption in Livestock and Dairy Sectors Lead to Better Animal Health and Increased Sales

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In Pakistan, approximately 65% of women work in the country’s agriculture sector—a majority of which are involved in livestock care and management activities such as calf rearing, cattle cleaning, milking and producing home-based dairy products like butter and yogurt. The USAID-funded Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA), implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), supports women smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs by working to increase their access to modern technologies and improve their management practices in high-value sectors like dairy and livestock.

Within these sectors, improved feed varieties and technologies play an important role in enhancing animal diets and health. Through its partnership with woman-owned agribusiness Farm Solutions, PATTA introduced improved feed varieties and feed formulation and nutrition practices to women farmers in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). By improving livestock nutrition, farmers were able to improve the quality of their meat and dairy products and subsequently increase their profits.

In early 2019, PATTA and Farm Solutions also held a series of women-centric awareness-raising sessions and demonstrations in villages across GB. Attended by a large number of women farmers, the events supported them to develop linkages with local dealers like Farm Solutions and motivated them to adopt modern, science-based feed for their cattle.

Farhat Bibi, woman dairy farmer, benefits from the adoption of improved feed technology for her cattle.

Farhat Bibi, a session participant and dairy farmer from the Barmas village in GB, learned the optimum amount of feed and timing needed to keep her cows healthy and productive. She also learned about and tried the improved ‘Barkat’ feed variety noting, “Its usage not only increased my yield of milk up to two liters per day, but also improved the health of my cattle. In addition to these benefits, the price of this feed is affordable for majority of dairy farmers.” Due to this increase in production, she now earns an additional 4,000 rupees per month in milk sales, which helps her improve her family’s livelihood and expand her business.

Reaching farmer communities across Pakistan with modern agricultural technologies, particularly in the most remote areas of the country, is vital for advancing agricultural productivity, increasing smallholder incomes and jobs and enhancing economic growth. While the current pace of technology adoption among farmers in Pakistan is slow, PATTA continues to promote enabling environments that allow smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs, particularly women, to invest resources in agricultural activities and increase technology uptake. By its end, PATTA anticipates that over 50,000 women will benefit from technology transfer, investments in agricultural technologies and awareness-raising initiatives.

Rice Mill Uses USAID Expertise to Improve Production Efficiency and Expand Operations

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Rice is an important regional and global food staple, eaten regularly by millions in Nigeria and around the world due to its affordability and availability. As national demand for rice rises, the Government of Nigeria is keen to increase local rice production, and reduce reliance on imports, by helping farmers access credit on appropriate terms to increase their scale of production and profitability.

AMMI Integrated Mill was established in 2018 in Argungu, Kebbi State, and has partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), over the past year to conduct an Organizational Performance Improvement Needs Assessment of their business and identify and remedy gaps hindering their production.

The assessment highlighted inefficiencies in the mill’s output, which was operating at 60% of its full capacity, mainly due to ill-defined staff roles on AMMI’s rice processing and packaging line. Armed with this knowledge, the Activity supported AMMI to clarify job roles, move excess staff to the drying line, and install a performance system to reward workers for the number of rice bags produced. These adaptations improved output efficiency to 90% and overall worker satisfaction by supporting workers to carry out their duties with efficiency, clarity, and confidence.

“I have running costs under control and a clear understanding of the best business process for us. I am excited about the future.” said Rahmatu Gulma, CEO of AMMI Integrated Mill.

The streamlined system also enabled the mill to sustainably expand its commercial operations as it further diversified into producing parboiled white rice and other products.

“I have leveraged the savings made from the Activity’s cost cutting measures to expand on other business areas. Besides now producing parboiled rice, I also recently started a greenhouse and poultry rearing operation. These new ventures are flourishing thanks to the lessons learned from the interventions done at the Mill.” Gulma concluded.

Rahmatu Gulma, CEO of AMMI Integrated Mill, in her greenhouse.

The Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity aims to strengthen the enabling environment for agribusiness finance and investment in Nigeria, with a focus on four interrelated components: improving the enabling environment for agricultural sector growth; broadening access to finance by mitigating the credit risks of agribusinesses; promoting and facilitating investment opportunities for agribusinesses to expand and scale up operations; and sustainably enhancing the performance of agricultural micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs). By 2023, the Activity aims to viably and sustainably link thousands of MSMEs and producer organizations like AMMI Integrated Mill with high-performing commercial actors in the rice, maize, soybean, aquaculture, and cowpea value chains.