Gender Action Learning System Approach Builds Stable Homes in Farming Communities

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.

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.

Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity

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Overview: 

Because improved technologies that are affordable, impactful and safe have not yet penetrated much of the smallholder market in Pakistan, producers continue to use outdated and less effective technologies, leading to stagnant or dwindling productivity and returns. This is particularly the case in the horticulture and livestock sub-sectors. To combat these challenges, the $8.2 million Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA) funded through USAID worked since April 2017 to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets and their overall development impact cost-effectiveness. By building on CNFA’s 10-year history of successful implementation in Pakistan, PATTA galvanized ongoing private-sector investment to commercialize the types of agricultural technologies that enable smallholders to increase their incomes, create jobs and enhance economic growth and stability. These technologies included seeds, fertilizers, water pumps, improved plant and animal breeds, precision agriculture and integrated soil fertility management, among others.

Approach:

CNFA collaborated with and built upon previous investments by USAID and similar development programs to improve the lives of smallholder farmers through the following three-pillared approach:

  1. Enabled Agricultural Technology-related Businesses to Expand, Adapt and Market their Products and Services to Meet Smallholder Farmers’ Needs: PATTA undertook initial and ongoing market and cost-benefit analyses of available agricultural technologies and facilitated outreach to key stakeholders based on the findings of these analyses. The Activity also oversaw a competitive process that led to detailed memorandums of understanding and comprehensive technical support and capacity building. In doing so, PATTA made the business case for sustained private-sector investments in technology transfer, adaptations, outreach and marketing such that profitable, inclusive output marketing opportunities for smallholders over the long term could be identified.
  2. Increased Smallholder Farmers’ Access to Affordable, Appropriate and Effective Agricultural Technologies: Sustained increased access to improves technologies adapted to smallholder needs required focused, strategic efforts by demand-side stakeholders who stood to profit from this outcome. These stakeholders included technology retailers like agrodealers and arthis– Pakistani agricultural agents who act as middlemen buying and selling inputs on commission and often making loans to smallholders– as well as microfinance institutions and banks that profit when they provide more loans and financial services to expanding agribusinesses and farmers’ associations. PATTA’s holistic approach of capacity-building technical support complemented the new marketing and outreach plans of technology companies and inspired sustained investments in the vast smallholder market.
  3. Scaled the Adoption and Use of Agricultural Technologies: PATTA supported the collective work of supply-and-demand side partners to launch and sustain demonstration activities that provided evidence of the value of improved technologies. These included the promotion of activities with a proven record of success, such as field days, demonstration plots and peer-to-peer education by champion farmers. Such demonstration activities leveraged various mediums, including radio broadcasts, video and mobile exhibits that reached women in purdah and other underserved groups.

Amalima

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Overview:

Amalima, the seven-year (2013-2020), $60 million USAID Development Food Aid Program (DFAP), worked with over 118,000 vulnerable households to sustainably improve household food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe’s districts of Bulilima, Gwanda, Mangwe (Matabeleland South), and Tsholotsho (Matabeleland North). 

Amalima draws its name from the Ndebele word for the social contract by which families come together to help each other engage in productive activities such as land cultivation, livestock tending and asset building. 

Approach:

  1. Improved Sustainable Access to and Availability of Food: Amalima promoted climate and conservation-sensitive agriculture practices and encouraged the adoption of improved agriculture and livestock production practices.
  2. Strengthened Community Resilience to Shocks: The program partnered with communities to improve livelihoods and build resilience by creating and strengthening disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees through cash for asset activities, household asset vouchers and village savings and lending (VS&L) groups that promoted income-generating activities and savings to build household resilience.
  3. Improved Nutrition and Health: To improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices, dietary diversity and micronutrient intake of pregnant and lactating women and children under two, Amalima distributed supplementary feeding rations and enhanced nutrition care practices with a combination of capacity building, mentioning and community-based messaging delivered through care groups and community health clubs.
  4. Promoted Gender Equality: Amalima empowered women to play a key role in food security and resiliency at the household and community levels through increased access to and control over incomes, which promoted men and women to take increasingly equal responsibilities for both productive and reproductive activities.

Partners:

 

Amalima Loko

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Overview:

Amalima, the Ndebele word for a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal, and Loko meaning “genuine” or “authentic” in Tonga join to form Amalima Loko – a five-year (2020-2025) USAID-funded Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance program designed to improve food security in Zimbabwe through increased food access and sustainable watershed management.

Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Amalima Loko builds on the legacy of its predecessor Amalima, a seven-year Resilience Food Security Activity also implemented by CNFA that worked to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable Zimbabwean households.

The $75 million Amalima Loko activity seeks to elevate the livelihoods of more than 67,000 vulnerable households across five districts of Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North: Binga, Hwagne, Lupane, Nkayi and Tsholotsho. To accomplish this, the program utilizes a unique Community Visioning approach designed to strengthen community and household-level resilience, promotes nutrition-sensitive initiatives including a blanket food distribution program and improves watershed infrastructure and practices that provide long-term foundations for improved resilience and agriculture-based livelihoods.

Program Approach:

  1. Enhance inclusive local ownership over food security, resilience planning and development through Community Visioning, which strengthens the ability of communities to identify their own priorities and define solutions to support social cohesion and resilience. As the foundation of the Amalima Loko approach, Community Visioning engages stakeholders in an inclusive planning process and mobilizes community action groups around development priorities, including gender and youth dynamics, social safety nets and disaster risk reduction.
  2. Advance health and availability of soil, water and plant resources within the watershed by working at the micro-catchment level and using an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach to improve community ownership, use and governance of watershed resources. This IWRM approach supports the restoration and protection of natural resources while improving access to water infrastructure for household and productive use. Amalima Loko also utilizes “cash for assets” programming to provide a cash infusion to vulnerable households, while building the community asset base through watershed infrastructure and conservation works such as dams, soil conservation, erosion control measures and rehabilitation of degraded areas.
  3. Improve human health and livelihoods by strengthening individual and household capacities to weather shocks and stresses, and thrive with good health, a sufficient and stable asset base and adequate, reliable income. The program also enhances nutrition and health for women of reproductive age and children under five by enhancing nutritional adequacy and healthy behaviors, implementing a blanket food distribution program using the “first 1,000 days” approach and promoting diverse livelihood strategies based on village savings and lending group participation, business skill building and asset accumulation to help households manage the risk and impact of shocks and stresses.

Partners: