Demonstrating New Techniques for Pollinating Pomegranate Flowers

Demonstrating New Techniques for Pollinating Pomegranate Flowers

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Although Azerbaijan has been a major supplier of fruits and vegetables to Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere in the region since the Soviet era, it is able to export very few agricultural products to modern markets. Due largely to an inability to provide sufficient volumes and consistent quality, most of the country’s fruits and vegetables are not internationally competitive. Azerbaijani pomegranates, however, have the potential to be a notable exception. The country already exports a variety of processed pomegranate products, including narsharab, a traditional Azerbaijani sauce. Unfortunately, farmers selling to processors are price-takers and are paid very little for their produce. Therefore, to help them increase their incomes, the USAID Agricultural Assistance to Azerbaijan Project (ASAP) is working with pomegranate growers to improve quality for both the export and premium domestic markets.

Mr. Eyvaz Samedov, who has a farm in the Goychay region of central Azerbaijan, is a good example of the kind of grower that ASAP is assisting. Around 6-7 years ago, he planted four different pomegranate varieties (of the over 20 grown in the country) on a 60-hectare orchard. Although his trees are in good physical condition, his lack of agronomic knowledge has prevented him from achieving the required production quantities and quality, forcing him to sell his entire harvest last year for the extremely low prices paid by domestic processors. An input dealer who has worked with Samedov in the past and was aware of his difficulties, referred ASAP to him in early 2015.

ASAP began by providing basic growing recommendations that Mr. Samedov committed to implementing on a dedicated three hectares of his orchard in order to compare the results of these new efforts with his existing yields and quality. Then, on ASAP’s recommendation, Samedov purchased a cultivator and chemical sprayer (at a total cost of 9300 AZN), and initiated the application of mineral fertilizers for the first time, buying six tons of triple 16 and four tons of urea (for 3080 AZN).

Besides providing technical assistance in pruning, weed control, irrigation and pest management, ASAP decided to introduce pollination of early pomegranate flowers to the farm. By purchasing bumblebees, placing the hive in the center of the demo plot, and ensuring that the bees were provided with plenty of water, pollination within 200 meters of the hive was facilitated. Pomegranate flowers that are pollinated earlier in the season typically produce larger, higher quality fruit. In the future, ASAP will work with Mr. Samedov on improving his harvesting techniques as well as improving his postharvest handling and storage capacity. With proper implementation, he will be soon able to sell his product to the much more lucrative fresh market, both domestically and to Russia, with the potential to eventually initiate exports to EU countries.

Promoting School Milk Days in Ethiopia

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The USAID-supported Agricultural Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) kicked off a series of events known as “School Milk Days” aimed to increase the awareness and knowledge of school age children, parents and teachers about milk in Ethiopia. The project organized these events as part of a campaign to stress the nutrition and benefits of milk to normal growth and development.

 

Watch this short video to learn more about this activity.

Improving Livelihoods and Nutrition through Dairy Production

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USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) in Ethiopia partnered with Project Mercy, a faith-based development and relief organization, to help improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of Ethiopians.

 

Watch this short video to learn more about this partnership.

Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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Overview:

CNFA returned to the birthplace of its widely respected agro-dealer model, first developed in Zimbabwe from 2000 to 2005 and since successfully implemented in Kenya, Malawi, Mali, and Tanzania. When CNFA closed out its program in Zimbabwe in 2005, it had built a network of 1,030 trained agro-dealers covering much of the country. The 18-month Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (ASP-Z) aimed to revitalize and create a more robust network of agro-dealers through which improved inputs and technology could flow to rural smallholder farmers, increasing agricultural production and improving rural livelihoods. ASP-Z laid the framework for a vibrant input supply sector, which created jobs, improved livelihoods, and brought food security to thousands of individuals, bolstering rural economies throughout the provinces of Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, and Midlands.

Program Approach:

  1. Provided training in business management, as well as technical training on new crop varieties, production technologies, and the safe use, handling, and storage of fertilizers and crop protection products;
  2. Worked with agro-dealers, input suppliers, and research institutions to stimulate demand for improved inputs and production practices through demonstration plots and farmer field days;
  3. Stimulated investment in agro-dealers and increased rural access to finance through guarantee and matching grants facilities;
  4. Created sustainable agro-dealer associations to advocate for member interests.

Tanzania Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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Overview:

Launched in 2007, the Tanzania Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (TASP), funded by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, has been successful in building and supporting a vibrant agro-dealer network capable of serving smallholder farmer demands for improved inputs, services, and marketing. Like CNFA’s other agro-dealer development programs, TASP focused on business and technical training as well as capacity building. Programming also focused on facilitating access to financial services, output marketing, processing, value adding services, and policy advocacy through association development.

TASP also designed and supported the Tanzanian government’s targeted subsidy program to link agro-dealers to the local seed industry and has been scaled up to foster the development of a nationwide rural market network. In 2010, TASP expanded into new districts, allowing CNFA to improve productivity and incomes for additional farm households in remote and underserved areas. Since 2007, TASP has certified over 2,600 agro-dealers, who are providing products and services to over 1.5 million smallholder farmers and improving the lives of nearly 8 million people.

Program Approach:

  • Built agro-dealer capacity to better serve farmers through a proven six-part technical training covering: managing working capital, managing stocks, selling and marketing, basic record keeping, costing and pricing, and managing business relationships;
  • Facilitated demand creation by establishing demonstration plots and farmer field days showcasing new agricultural inputs;
  • Promoted improved linkage to financial services for agro-dealers through forums and clinics focusing on licensing, completion of a business plan, and access to capital.

Seed Industry & Smart Input Subsidy Distribution: At the program’s outset, CNFA focused on the five Southern Highlands districts targeted by the Government of Tanzania (GoT) for its smart, targeted subsidy program (Fast Track Districts) and five districts in the Arusha, Meru, and Kilimanjaro regions in Northern Tanzania. In Year 2, TASP expanded into the seven other districts in Manyara and Morogoro regions. Around Arusha, CNFA integrated agro-dealer development efforts with initiatives to improve Tanzania’s local seed industry, including foundation seed enterprises and local seed companies. Early activities focused on the design of a smart input subsidy program for sustainably implementing government subsidies to targeted communities and on developing the network of agro-dealers necessary to implement this subsidy program.

Association Development: CNFA supported seven district associations that were fully registered and ten that were in nascent stages of development. One of the associations supported by CNFA was the Songea Agro-dealer Association (SADA). SADA offers a powerful example of the benefits that a well-run association can accrue for its members and the influence that can be exerted. For example:

  • SADA successfully advocated against the practice of Regional and District officials dictating prices at which inputs could be sold;
  • SADA also proposed the “master input subsidy” concept that CNFA later brought to the MAFC, which would be issued by district officials on presentation of numerous input subsidies by the agro-dealer;
  • Where individual group members (particularly startup agro-dealers) experienced difficulty in securing input supply credit, SADA managed to successfully negotiate for credit as an association;
  • SADA leased an office in Songea Town and hired a coordinator to administer their activities.

Strengthening the Agro-dealer Network: TASP encouraged the establishment of new agro-dealerships in remote, underserved areas through matching grants, a credit guarantee facility, and demand creation activity that gave the farmer an opportunity to physically witness the benefits of improved agronomic practices and inputs. In addition, technical trainings to strengthen agro-dealer capacity, agro-dealer association development, and linking agro-dealers to financial institutions were key parts of the approach.

The Business Management Training (BMT) raised agro-dealers’ business standards of management and acumen, allowing the MAFC to exclusively link the handling of the subsidy inputs to agro-dealers’ successful completion of BMT. CNFA trained an additional 849 agro-dealers in 24 districts beyond the 17 in the original TASP scope to pave the way for the National Agricultural Inputs Voucher Scheme.

Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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Overview:

The Agrodealer Strengthening Program, funded by the government of Sierra Leone through the Global Agricultural Food and Security Program, aimed to promote the transformation of the Sierra Leone’s fragmented and informal input distribution system into a more efficient, commercially-viable input supply infrastructure operated by the private sector. As part of an implementing consortium with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), CNFA developed an agrodealer network to provide a one-stop-shop for smallholder farmers to access improved inputs, services and output marketing. The program was implemented in the District of Bombali, and enhanced agricultural productivity, increased rural incomes and improved household food security.

Program Approach:

  • Develop a private network of agrodealers by establishing one-stop-shops;
  • Provide business management and technical training to agrodealers;
  • Build and strengthen private sector associations that supply agricultural inputs;
  • Improve access to finance through a credit guarantee facility and matching grants program;
  • Foster a commercialization enabling environment by advocating for agrodealer involvement in national agricultural sector strategies and implementations.

Agrodealer Strengthening Program for Mali

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Overview:

Partnering with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), CNFA implemented the three-year Agro-dealer Strengthening Program for Mali (ASP-M) to increase rural incomes and reduce poverty by transforming Mali’s underdeveloped input distribution practices into a more efficient, commercially viable input supply system. ASP-M strengthened Malian agro-dealers by providing training in business management and productive farming methods and increased farmer access to agro-dealers in remote areas, ultimately raising rural incomes and increasing household productivity. In order to transform Mali’s agro-dealer network sustainably, our team implemented a methodical four-step approach.

Program Approach:

  • Built Agro-dealer Capacity to Serve Farmers: ASP-M developed and implemented activities including business management training, training in product knowledge, and safe use of chemicals and fertilizers. The program also increased market demand for improved inputs through demonstration plots, exhibitions, and farmer field days.
  • Improved Rural Access to Finance: To complement stronger business and technical expertise of program trainees, CNFA worked to improve agro-dealers’ access to finance, creating guarantee facilities to stimulate access to trade credit and capital, developing agricultural lending training for commercial banks and microfinance institutions, building targeted agricultural lending products, and introducing competitive matching grants to spur private sector investment.
  • Connected Farmers to Markets: With better financing in place, the program focused on smallholder farmer access to larger markets for distribution of their products. CNFA worked with agro-dealers to develop and deliver basic output marketing training in order to increase farmer awareness of market opportunities and to help link them to existing market channels.
  • Advanced Agricultural Policy Advocacy: The last component of ASP-M focused on improving channels for a sustainable public-private policy dialogue. CNFA maintained a leadership role in the policy arena, shaping Malian agricultural policy to promote the interests of private sector growth and of the rural smallholder. CNFA also supported the growth of the Agro-dealers National Union in Mali (UNRIA-Mali), which received an endorsement from former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan after he visited the project in August 2010.

To ensure the successful operation of UNRIA, CNFA provided training on organizational management, member services, networking, and advocacy capacity building. This last component of ASP-M ensured that the program would be self-sustaining and bring increased business for agro-dealers and higher incomes for smallholder farmers.

Rural Agricultural Input Supply Expansion Project

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Overview:

With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), CNFA, through its Malawi affiliate the Rural Market Development Trust (RUMARK), developed a proven and flexible model for a rural-based, commercially-viable agro-dealer network that provides inputs and technology to smallholders on a sustainable basis. The model is tailored to address local needs, conditions, and available resources, and combines a trade credit guarantee to help local input retailers expand inventories and services for smallholder clients with business skills training needed to manage their operations profitably and sustainably.

RUMARK’s initial project, Rural Agricultural Input Supply Expansion (RAISE), focused on increasing the number of agro-dealers selling inputs to smallholder farmers by facilitating agro-dealer access to training in business, financial management, and product knowledge, use and safety from input supply companies, input supply companies willing to extend credit, group loans for working capital from financial institutions, and demonstrations of product and technologies supported by input supply companies to stimulate demand.

RAISE’s goal was to increase rural household incomes, agricultural productivity, and output marketing channels of smallholder farmers. CNFA achieved this goal by strengthening and expanding existing agro-dealer networks in Malawi, thereby increasing access to inputs, technical knowledge, and linkages to resources for farmers. CNFA also facilitated the creation of a commercial business skills training network to deliver business and financial management training to rural retailers, and enlisted almost all of Malawi’s major input distribution companies in private sector partnerships to develop production linkages with these retailers.

Program Approach:

  • Created an Umbrella Agricultural Inputs Traders Association (AITA) made up of the Seed Trade Association of Malawi (STAM), Croplife Malawi, and the new Fertilizer Association. CNFA helped create and serves as the secretariat for both AITA and the Fertilizer Association, and will continue to help the private industry use these associations as a platform for policy advocacy;
  • Developed broad technical training programs to include a range of important training topics for agro-dealers such as rural lending (by Malawi Rural Finance Company), the seed industry (by STAM), and pesticide regulations;
  • Introduced a new training module on Managing Business Relations that blends elements of technical training and business management training. Training was delivered jointly by both CNFA staff and input supply company staff to better strengthen business linkages between the input suppliers and the agro-dealers.

Malawi Agrodealer Strengthening Program

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Overview:

The three-year Malawi Agro-dealer Strengthening Program (MASP) improved the input supply and output marketing distribution channels available to smallholder farmers in the underserved, remote areas of Malawi by developing a commercially viable network of agro-dealers. Prior to MASP interventions, these small farm stores were located mainly in urban areas and were therefore inaccessible for many farmers. In partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), CNFA provided targeted training in business management and productive farming methods and increased smallholder access to agro-dealers in remote areas, thereby raising rural incomes and increasing household productivity.

Program Approach:

  • Conducted a detailed survey of the existing agro-dealer network to identify underserved areas where new startups could be created;
  • Worked with input suppliers to develop and deliver technical training to agro-dealers and promote the use of improved seed;
  • Improved rural access to finance, which is difficult to obtain in remote areas due to the high cost of agricultural financing and high perceived risk by lending institutions;
  • Facilitated smallholder farmer access to larger markets for sale of their improved products;
  • Shaped agricultural policy to promote the interests of private sector growth.
  • Business Management Training:CNFA and MASP worked through commercial trainers to identify and train rural retailers in a six-module business management training program that culminated in agro-dealer certification. The business management training included sessions on: managing working capital, managing stocks, costing and pricing, selling and marketing, record keeping, and managing business relationships. MASP succeeded in training and certifying over 1,500 agro-dealers in Malawi;
  • Credit and Financial Services:After certifying agro-dealers, the program provided access to working capital and trade credit by linking them with input suppliers and microfinance institutions. CNFA leveraged private sector investments and backed commercial credit with a 50% credit guarantee. Almost 300 agro-dealers benefited from MASP’s guarantee component. In addition to improving smallholder access to key value chains and trade in rural markets, CNFA supported capacity building programs and the development of agricultural-specific lending products for financial institutions in Malawi;
  • Technical Training:The program also helped input suppliers to develop and deliver technical training to agro-dealers in product knowledge, handling and safe use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and use of improved seed. Training was complemented by increased smallholder farmer awareness of, and demand for, improved inputs through demonstration plots and farmer field days. CNFA worked with stakeholders, including the Pesticides Control Board and other groups, to increase their institutional capacity to deliver technical knowledge to smallholder farmers;
  • Agricultural Policy Reform:CNFA worked to improve agricultural policy by increasing the role of the private sector in policy advocacy, decreasing the government’s role in the inputs market and minimizing market distorting subsidies and government interventions. In Malawi, CNFA helped to create the Agriculture Inputs Traders Association (AITA) and worked with AITA to develop a white paper on fertilizer subsidies that was presented to the government. This submission led to a change from direct government distribution of fertilizer to a farmer-held voucher-based system;
  • Output Marketing:CNFA strengthened the linkage between input and output distribution channels and used the rural retailer as a link back to cash markets for their farmer customers. In Malawi, agro-dealers frequently served as a point of market information, traded in outputs as well as inputs, and often engaged in primary processing, storage, or handling. To foster and strengthen capacity to fill this varied role, MASP provided agro-dealers with small matching grants to improve storage facilities, put in small processing facilities, and invest more deeply in equipment for farmer outputs. CNFA trained 217 agro-dealers in output marketing;
  • Animal Health and Veterinary Training:Many of the agro-dealers surveyed provided veterinary supplies and animal healthcare products for rural farmers. As such, technical experts provided training on how to approach veterinary service provision, stock veterinary supplies, feed supplements, and link with wholesale suppliers;
  • Association Development:Association development efforts resulted in a sustainable forum for advocacy on behalf of small business agro-dealers throughout Malawi. Through MASP, CNFA strengthened associations through trainings on organizational management, member services, networking, advocacy, and capacity building. Overall, MASP supported nine agricultural associations and 29 agro-dealer associations.