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

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

 

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.

Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity Supports Social Enterprise to Increase Rice and Soybean Production for 500 Smallholder Farmers

Posted On: Filed Under:

Farm on Wheels is a social enterprise that works with smallholder farmers in hard-to-reach rural communities of Niger State, Nigeria. The enterprise provides agricultural input credits to smallholder farmers in the form of seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals, while also guaranteeing markets for farmers through a well-coordinated system.

To improve yield for farmers and ensure optimum supply of rice and soybean production, Farm on Wheels planned to disburse input loans worth over 24 million Naira ($58,151) to 500 smallholder farmers, including 100 youth during the 2021 wet and dry seasons, which fall between May 2021 to April 2022. To build staff capacity in preparation for the loan disbursements, the enterprise partnered with the five-year Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, a USAID-funded activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) that works to strengthen the enabling environment for agribusiness finance and investment in Nigeria.

In August 2021, the Activity facilitated a master training for ten Farm on Wheels staff and extension agents, strengthening their knowledge and capacity on good agronomic practices for rice and soybean production. The training covered critical topics for supporting smallholder farmers such as communications, ethical work practices, good agronomic practices, group dynamics, leadership strategies, data collection and environmental compliance.

Farm on Wheels’ field officer, Jennifer Ahnole, recalled her key takeaways after the training, noting, “The knowledge and skills I gained from this training will enable me to improve my field activities with farmers. I have resolved to take responsibility for my personal development and to keep improving my work.” She then highlighted how she has increased her environmental consciousness to ensure that possible negative environmental effects from farming activities are mitigated or eliminated.

Her colleague, William Bello, also a field officer, reinforced the group’s commitment to work as a team to achieve the goals and objectives of Farm on Wheels.

“My perception of work has changed,” he said. “I have improved communication with my team and can now engage better with the extension agents and farmers.”

The training enabled the Farm on Wheels staff and extension agents to cascade the information and skills they learned to 60 additional lead farmers in the Farm on Wheels out-grower network. The leads were then supported to deliver the training to the 500 smallholder farmers targeted for the enterprise’s 2021 wet and dry season input loans. The cascaded trainings are expected to introduce soybean and rice production best practices, enabling smallholders to obtain optimum yields and increased profits.

Over the next two years, the Activity will continue to support and improve the enabling environment and groups, such as Farm on Wheels, to deliver wholesome financial and business development support services to smallholder farmers in Nigeria, improving incomes, ensuring food security and tackling hunger.

Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity Supports Agriculture in Benue State, Nigeria

Posted On: Filed Under:

The Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity works in Benue State, Nigeria, to strengthen the enabling environment for agribusiness finance and investment. By improving the enabling environment for agricultural sector growth, broadening access to finance, promoting and facilitating investment opportunities for agribusinesses to expand and scale up operations, and sustainably enhancing the performance of agribusiness micro, small and medium enterprises, the Activity is increasing the depth, breadth, dynamism and competitiveness of Nigeria’s agribusiness sector for improved investment and food security.

 

Local Maize-Cob Model Reaps Benefits for Maize Growers

Posted On: Filed Under:

Through the USAID-supported maize-cob model, farmers have tripled their profits and are able to engage in profitable agribusiness development.

Typically, post-harvest handling processes for maize farmers in Rwanda are lengthy and done without adequate infrastructure. These inefficient post-harvest practices can lead to increased damage and post-harvest losses, particularly because of the presence of aflatoxins—a naturally occurring soil-borne fungus that contaminates many staple foods, especially maize and other cereals.

Aflatoxin contamination of foodstuffs is not only an issue in Rwanda. It impacts hundreds of millions of farmers across Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a recent study by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and funded by USAID. Although farmers in Rwanda have not been spared its devastating effects, collaborations with private sector stakeholders are now reaping a positive impact for farmers.

In Ngoma district, the Duteze Imbere Igihingwa cy’Ibigori (KODUIBI) cooperative is working to transform the lives of its 102 members, the majority of whom are women, by introducing post-harvest innovations that increase maize quality and improve production efficiency. Through their partnership with the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity, KODUIBI was introduced to the maize-cob model from Kumwe Harvest Ltd., which reduces the time needed to aggregate, thresh and dry grains for market. Since 2020, Kumwe has supported smallholder maize farmers across 10 Rwandan districts by providing access to more consistent, efficient and better-quality harvests.

The maize-cob model itself could not have been successful without the preliminary post-harvest practices implemented by farmers such as gusharika  (drying in the sun). During gusharika, harvested maize is tied up and placed face-down in a row with the dry leaves shielding the cob away from water. Maize is then placed in shelters which reduces contamination to manageable levels, usually reaching required moisture content by buyers at 13.5-16 percent, which traditionally took about 10 weeks. The maize cob model borrows from this tradition, reducing drying time to 3-8 days, greatly benefitting farmers and enabling them to supply high quality maize to local agribusinesses.

The Kumwe maize-cob model was developed with support from Hinga Weze, a USAID project that aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmer incomes, improve the nutritional status of Rwandan women and children and increase the resilience of agriculture and food systems to the changing climate. Hinga Weze also links farmers to maize market premium buyers like AIF, who signed a contract with KODUIBI in Season 2019 A to deliver high quality, Grade 1 maize with a low presence of aflatoxins. In total, KODUIBI sold 300 MT of their maize compared to 14 MT sold during the previous matching season.

‘’For the first time our cooperative members were able to save and buy small animals to improve family nutrition and diversify foods at household level and get other sources of income” stated Epiphanie Murerwa, KODUIBI president.

Hinga Weze also works with financial institutions to develop client-friendly products that strengthen the post-harvest handing supply chain. For the upcoming season, 2019 C, Hinga helped Kumwe secure a financing service loan of $100,000 (1 billion RWF) from KCB bank to purchase professional grade drying and processing machinery and to increase the amount of maize purchased from farmers. As a result of their support to post-harvest handling, farmers have been able to improve their products’ value, nutrition and productivity.

New Terraces Increase Crop Yields and Incomes for Farmers

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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.