West Africa Cashew Project (PRO-Cashew)

West Africa Cashew Project (PRO-Cashew)

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Overview:

Cashews were introduced to West Africa in the 1960s to fight erosion and desertification. Over the past decade, increased demand, expansion of orchards, and increased government prioritization has caused raw cashew nut production to become a critical commercial activity for smallholder farmers, and a major revenue stream for governments. West African production is also growing faster than that of any other region—10 percent over the past decade, generating $1.5 billion in export sales for over 1.1 million farmers. Côte d’Ivoire is the world leader in cashew production, followed by Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana.

Cashew gains made by West African producers face several serious challenges: reduced yields due to aging cashew tree stocks, farmers’ limited technical and financial capacity to rehabilitate and renovate aging orchards, and an undeveloped nursery sector unable to provide timely and consistent high-performance seedlings to offset declines in productivity. This is complicated by trade policies that have boosted exports also pit countries against their neighbors, producing uncoordinated, regional policies that weaken public and private-sector support for cashew grower/seller advocacy efforts.

The five-year United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) PRO-Cashew project will work to boost the competitiveness of West African producers by improving efficiency and quality in production and trade, and by working to develop more coherent regional trade and investment policies. In doing so, the project will strengthen producer capacities as well as develop incentives to renovate and rehabilitate cashew farms, improve production and quality, and create a more competitive West African raw cashew nut for the international market.

Program Approach:

  1. Capacity Building: CNFA will build the capacity of farmers through selected farmer organizations and agro-food suppliers over the life of the project in the areas of business and orchard management, and service delivery. In collaboration with the Competitive Cashew Initiative (ComCashew) and the African Cashew Alliance (ACA), CNFA will work with local ministries of agriculture to review training curriculums, identify gaps and mentor extension teams in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), renovation and rehabilitation (R&R), and climate- resilience.
  2. In-Kind Grants for Equipment & Inputs: CNFA will leverage matching contributions of individual grant disbursements from private, public or farmer sources to catalyze private investment, increase stakeholder partners’ and farmers’ profitability, and build the capacity of cashew farmers to renovate and rehabilitate their farms.
  3. Develop Agrodealers & Input Suppliers: CNFA will support Tree Global to improve the efficiency and sustainability of seedling production systems through public-private partnerships, establishing cost-effective, high-performance tree seedlings at central nurseries and distribute seedlings close to farms through rural-based seedling retail businesses. CNFA will also facilitate signing agreements between research entities and the central nurseries to ensure long-term public-private partnerships. PRO-Cashew will coordinate with existing efforts of the governments, World Bank and research institutes.
  4. Develop an Integrated Data System: CNFA, through Development Gateway, will identify gaps in the enabling environment for cashew data collection, storage, usage and dissemination, and address them by building a multi-country cashew data management system (Cashew-IN) that meets policymaker, farmer and private sector needs.
  5. Disperse Improved Market Information: CNFA will strengthen existing data as well as fill significant gaps in data coverage and quality. The integrated Cashew- IN will be accessed and used by farmer organizations, policymakers and private sector investors to understand the national, regional and overseas cashew markets in terms   of supply and demand. It will also monitor the cashew supply chain, support traceability for quality control, and inform evidence-based policies to increase profitability and marketability of cashews in West Africa.
  6. Improve Policy & Regulatory Framework: CNFA will engage with national and regional policy makers, private sector stakeholders, and development agency partners to facilitate and improve regional trade policy cooperation. With the support of regional research centers, CNFA will conduct an analysis of trade policies currently deployed by West African cashew-producing countries and produce annual reports on both country and regional competitiveness, government policy analysis, and foreign direct investment, with quantitative and policy analysis.

Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity

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Overview: 

The five-year USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity aims to strengthen the enabling environment for agribusiness finance and investment. To achieve this goal, the Activity focuses 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 agribusiness micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs). In line with the U.S. and Nigerian governments’ commitment to growing the non-oil-based economy, these efforts will increase the depth, breadth, dynamism, and competitiveness of Nigeria’s agribusiness sector.

Beginning in December 2018 and closing in December 2023, the $15.7 million Agribusiness Investment Activity, with Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) as the prime implementing partner, aims to viably and sustainably link thousands of MSMEs and producer organizations with high-performing commercial actors in the rice, maize, soybean, aquaculture, and cowpea value chains. As a result of streamlined regulations, more effective policies, improved production and processing practices, and significantly increased finance and investment flows, the Activity will increase the competitiveness and returns of both large, medium and small-scale agricultural enterprises. The overall objective of the Activity is to measurably improve the agribusiness investment climate in Nigeria, which plays a pivotal role in attracting foreign direct and domestic investment, leading to food security and improved nutrition.

Click the link here to learn more about improving the agriculture enabling environment from our Policy and Learning Brief developed during our state summits.

Methodology

The Agribusiness Investment Activity’s four main components are:

  1. Improving the Agribusiness Enabling Environment: The policy, legal and regulatory burdens faced by agribusinesses – whether farmers, processors, or traders – constrain their productivity and growth. This initiative seeks to implement reforms to improve Nigeria’s agricultural and agribusiness enabling environment. This component focuses on making relevant policies, laws, and regulations less cumbersome, lowering the cost of compliance; reducing tariff and non-tariff barriers to promote more exports and import substitution; addressing infrastructure, land ownership, logistical constraints; minimizing the time it takes to perform statutory business functions; and limiting the scope for bureaucratic discretion.
  2. Broadening Access to Finance: The infrastructure and market reach of both formal and informal banking services remains inadequate in many regions, presenting a significant barrier for rural agricultural smallholder farmers (SHF) and MSMEs. The Agribusiness Investment Activity works to expand access to financial services across the value chains through informal, community-based savings plans; formal and informal credit; guarantee programs; insurance offerings, and more. Working with both lenders and borrowers, this component also supports initiatives that facilitate new and innovative funding approaches that expand access to capital and facilitate greater lending to the agriculture sector.
  3. Facilitating Investment: To catalyze new agribusiness investments, the Agribusiness Investment Activity works with both investors and investees to create commercially viable linkages. This includes building investors’ understanding and appetite to invest in the agribusiness sector as well as improving the investment readiness of agribusinesses and supporting enterprises desiring to scale-up operations. Through a demand-driven, private sector-led value chain approach, this component directly supports agribusinesses with technical assistance in areas such as identifying investment opportunities as well as helping firms meet investors’ selection criteria. By providing business development services and supporting strategic partnerships, the Activity strengthens market linkages and the competitiveness of smallholder farmers and agribusiness MSMEs to take advantage of emerging investment opportunities.
  4. Enhancing Agribusiness MSME Performance: Improving the performance of agribusinesses is a process that requires behavioral change. Most agribusinesses need direct technical assistance in adopting best practices as well as meeting the minimum assessment criteria of financial institutions (FIs) and investment groups. This component works directly with agribusinesses to improve financial, managerial and operational efficiency to enable them to become more competitive and able to access finance and investment opportunities.

Program Approach:

The Agribusiness Investment Activity employs a unique strategy by focusing on larger agribusinesses (called “Lead Firms”) as the central engine of its work. Through supporting the Lead Firms’ growth and expansion objectives, the Activity assists out-growers, financiers, investors, input suppliers, agrodealers, and service providers within their value chains. While the primary focus is on facilitating finance and investment, the Activity does not directly offer finance, investment, grants, or any other cash-based incentives. Rather, it identifies the best sources of financial and non-financial resources and supports it partners in accessing them. This includes identifying and advocating for the reform of the most pivotal legal and regulatory constraints.

The Agribusiness Investment Activity strictly focuses on the following five value chains: Rice, Maize, Soybean, Cowpea, and Aquaculture. Furthermore, it has a geographic concentration on the following seven states: Benue, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Kebbi, and Niger.

The Agribusiness Investment Activity strategy includes but is not limited to the following key pillars:

  1. Working with public and private sector partners, including agribusinesses, financial institutions, investment groups, and business development service providers to facilitate greater engagement with MSMEs and potential agro-entrepreneurs in their value chains.
  2. Connecting agribusiness MSMEs to business development services (e.g., business plans, loan applications) that support them from inception to the formation of profitable, sustainable enterprises. Special emphasis will be given to MSMEs that are women and youth-owned or have the potential to hire significant numbers of women and youth.
  3. Supporting the development of new financial products suitable for agribusiness MSMEs and building public awareness as to where and how to access existing financial facilities.
  4. Linking MSMEs with larger firms in the selected value chains to facilitate viable and sustainable business linkages.
  5. Addressing policies that restrict or constrain the ease of doing business, including registration, licensing, obtaining land, collateral restrictions, and access to finance and investment.

AMD Sector Overview Videos

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Response to Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

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Overview:

With $176 million in exports in 2015, the hazelnut is Georgia’s highest earning agricultural export and supports the livelihoods of over 40,000 families. However, the stability and profitability of the hazelnut sector, as well as the incomes of the smallholder farmers who depend upon it, are being threatened by the rapid growth of a pest known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

Originating in China, the BMSB is devastating the hazelnut sector by reducing the quality and quantity of hazelnut kernels. Left uncontrolled, the BMSB could set the country back years of agricultural growth and development in other sectors including apples, corn, grapes, peaches, and vegetables.

To address these challenges, the USAID Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) project received an additional $3 million to provide technical assistance and equipment to Georgia’s National Food Agency (NFA) between April 2017 and September 2018. By working closely with the Government of Georgia to develop a State Program with a focus on monitoring and managing the BMSB’s growth, REAP strengthened the capacity of local institutions to limit the agricultural losses caused by the pest. REAP’s efforts also helped the Government of Georgia better understand the BMSB’s biology to better inform management of the infestation.

Program Approach:

  1. State Program Development Support: In partnership with local and U.S.-based entomologists, REAP managed the design and oversight of the Government of Georgia’s action plan through its local Working Group, spearheaded by the NFA. The Working Group was used to develop an implementation strategy, define the monitored area, and calculate the budget of the State Program to combat the infestation;
  2. Communications and Outreach: Because the BMSB was new to Georgia, it was crucial to increase awareness and understanding amongst Georgian farmers, citizens, and extension agents before any monitoring and management strategies could be implemented. In cooperation with the NFA, REAP developed communications materials to educate citizens, District Task Force staff, and other public and private extension agents about BMSB management. A Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping platform augmented the approach, visualizing data for the NFA and general public to track BMSB and other pests;
  3. Training: To prepare Georgia’s Ministry of Agriculture for the monitoring and management the BMSB, REAP delivered a multi-faceted training program on BMSB identification, trap establishment and maintenance, and the safe use and application of pesticides;
  4. Local Capacity Building: Experience in the U.S. and Europe indicated that the invasive BMSB will be present in Georgia for an extended period of time. To ensure that the Government of Georgia is able to manage the BMSB in the present and future, REAP worked with the Ministry of Agriculture to outfit local NFA staff and entomologists with awareness, monitoring and management through local research and a capacity-building trip to the United States;
  5. Procurement Support: To equip the Ministry of Agriculture with the tools necessary to monitor and manage the BMSB, REAP worked with the NFA to procure the required equipment to implement the State Program, such as traps, lures, and spraying equipment.
  6. Private Sector Engagement: In order to manage the infestation, CNFA partnered with Trécé Inc, a US-based leading-edge research and development provide latest solutions in insect population monitoring and control.

Training Women in the Agro-Processing Workforce on Nutrition

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Despite their matching green uniforms, Alaa, Hajar and Mariam each have their own specific role at El Baiaho Agricultural Community Development Association pack house, located in the outskirts of Minya, Egypt. Alaa labels the dewy green grapes with a branded sticker. Hajar takes the grapes from the packaging line and makes sure they are ready for sale. And Mariam weighs the grapes before packaging.
“We wish to work. This job allows us to get our own money for private [education] lessons and we are also able to help our families,” said Hajar.

Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam are just three of the young women hired by El Baiaho to support their post-harvest operations which involves sorting, packaging and storing a variety of crops, including grapes, pomegranate, tomato, and garlic for export. All three women are still attending school during the day, after which they make the journey to work. During their holiday breaks, these women spend even longer hours to increase their income.

In early June, Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam temporarily hung up their green jackets along with their fellow female employees at El Baiaho to participate in a training focused on nutrition for women in the agro-processing workforce. Across Egypt, undernutrition and stunting rates for children remain high, which results in economic costs that hinder the development of the nation.

To address this issue, USAID’s Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project organized a three-day training aimed at building awareness on nutritional requirements for teenage girls and to promote the importance of investing their income in their own and their future children’s health and nutrition. The training was led by Dr. Amal Hassanein Abouelmajed, Agri-Nutrition team leader on the FAS project who has a postgraduate diploma in hospital dietetics and has extensive experience working in food and nutrition on projects across Egypt and has attended trainings internationally.

The hands-on training instilled participants with knowledge on the types of food that are critical for improving health and child development, such as identifying foods rich in iron, vitamins and proteins. The young women also received training in good hygienic practices, such as the importance of hand washing as well as practical methods to prevent food poisoning. “I learned a lot that I did not know before. I learned about how to organize food in the fridge to keep it fresh,” said Hajar.

“I learned about the food pyramid which helped me to know what types of food and how much to eat to stay healthy,” said Alaa.

The training did not stop at the doors of El Baiaho. All three young women spoke of sharing the knowledge and tools they had acquired through the training with their families back home. “The day I got the training, I went home and practiced what I learned with my family. I opened up the fridge and showed them what we should now do,” said Mariam.

This training was just one piece of what the FAS project aims to achieve to improve the nutritional status particularly of women and children. Over the coming two years, the FAS project plans to provide training to 300 community nutrition mobilizers, who in turn will conduct outreach on nutrition to 3,000 households. In addition to expanding nutrition trainings to women in the agro-processing workforce to additional companies, the FAS team is also in the early stages of sending out SMS text messages that focus on key nutrition topics through the digital extension service platform (DESP). Using this method, more women will be exposed to the essential knowledge on the link between nutrition and leading healthy, productive lives.

“This type of training is so good for us because when we grow up and have our own children, we will know better how to keep our family healthy,” said Hajar.

Linking Mango Farmers to New Markets in Egypt

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A turquoise blue pickup truck pulls into Al Obour Market, carrying crate on crate of ripe mangoes stacked in the truck bed. It’s the crack of dawn and the energy at Al Obour, one of the largest fruit and vegetable markets in Cairo, Egypt, begins to shift from the stillness that takes hold for only a few hours overnight to bustling activity at the first sight of light as farmers and buyers congregate to make deals on grapes, watermelon, tomatoes, or any other produce. Simultaneously, a group of nine farmers open the door of their white van and step on to the sidewalk of the market, sleep still at the corner of their eyes.

The FAS team leads a mango post-harvest training in Aswan, Egypt

These farmers made the 14-hour drive from Aswan with the support of the Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project, which aims to increase the incomes and improve food security for at least 14,000 Upper Egyptian smallholder farmers, to connect with buyers that could potentially offer higher prices than the local market in Aswan. This day did not occur in isolation but was instead the product of months of training and preparation for these farmers.

As one of the largest markets in Cairo, the buyers at Al Obour Market will not purchase just any mangoes. Instead, they seek out quality mango, perfectly ripe and free of bruising. The farmers in Aswan originally struggled with post-harvest losses and producing high-quality mangoes that could earn higher prices. Part of the problem came from lack of access to inputs, whereas others revolved around harvesting techniques, such as when farmers shook the trees until the mangoes fell to the ground. In order to address these issues, the FAS harvest and post-harvest team conducted on-farm training to 49 mango farmers in Aswan. The four-day training introduced participating farmers to new harvesting techniques in order to retain the quality and reduce damages of the mangoes during harvest. For example, the FAS team designed a new tool that enabled farmers to pick the mangoes directly from the tree, keeping the fruit fresh and free from bruising. Attending mango farmers also learned about the importance of sorting and packing the mango fruits in carton boxes, which helps retain the high-quality of the fruit, resulting in higher prices for farmers.

But the training didn’t just stop once the mangoes were properly picked and packed. The FAS project also aims to improve farmers and producer organizations’ marketing of agricultural crops, ultimately allowing farmers to reap higher profits. The Aswan mango farmers previously sold to middlemen before the fruit had matured for a low price in order to get fast cash to pay off agricultural expenses. The FAS marketing team conducted extensive training with farmers in marketing and negotiation to give farmers the knowledge and confidence to connect directly with buyers. The project also encouraged farmers to come together and sell with other farmers in order to gain bargaining power.

Usama Abdel Rahman, a FAS Marketing Officer from Aswan, played a key role in training farmers in the negotiation skills that would be utilized in Al Obour Market. “The trainings were very interactive. We would use scripts and role play to give farmers firsthand experience in negotiation,” he said.

So, when the day came for the farmers to meet with the buyers, they were well prepared. Farmers represented nine agriculture associations in Aswan and brought along with them a 1.5 ton sample of their mangoes. As a group, the farmers walked around the market and sat down more than a few times with buyers to talk logistics and numbers. Ultimately, all nine of the farmers made their sale to Haj Adly Abdel Gabbar of Al Itehad Company. Whereas these farmers on average sell their mangoes for LE 6 per kilo in Aswan market, this trader facilitated selling the mangoes at LE 11.5 per kilo, nearly doubling the price. Haj Abdel Gabbar was clear that the farmers aren’t the only ones that benefit, as he received 10% commission for facilitating such a purchase.

“I am also happy because I get to deal with the farmers directly and these mangoes here are very good quality. This will result in increasing the profit margin for farmers which will improve their economic status which reflects positively on the economic development of the country,” he said.

This day stood as a testament of the tangible knowledge and skills these farmers have acquired through the FAS project and their ability to utilize these skills to connect with new markets and sell their produce at higher prices. Although a small step, these farmers left Al Obour market making it known that Aswan has the potential to become a reliable source of quality mango.

Leveraging Digital Solutions to Improve Farmers’ Yields in Egypt

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Across Egypt, many farmers struggle with low productivity, poor quality of produce, and post-harvest losses, resulting in a significant loss in income. Even when crops are healthy, pests can destroy a large part of the harvest, incorrect harvesting techniques can bruise fruits and vegetables and packaging can impact the quality of the produce.

Shaaban Mohamed Ghallab, a farmer in Esna Village, Egypt, previously grew onions solely for his family’s consumption at home. Despite having an interest in expanding his production and selling beyond his home, he lacked the know-how in post-harvest handling to make the change.

The ICT platform sent daily text messages to farmers on agriculture best practices in Arabic

Shaaban is just one of 132 onion farmers participating in the Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project that received hands-on technical training to acquire the knowledge and skills on post-harvest handling techniques as well as daily SMS text messages that serve as a timely reminder to follow through on practices learned during training.

Over the course of four weeks, participants were trained on best practices for the harvesting, sorting, and packing of onions and tomatoes for local and export markets. Key messages included; ensuring good hygiene during harvest and handling, minimizing irrigation directly prior to harvest to ensure strong stalks and prevent new root germination, integrated pest management to minimize damage from rats and crows, and proper drying of onions post-harvest. Shaaban was selected as a lead farmer, meaning he applied the best practices from the training and provided advice to farmers both in the program as well as in the broader community. As a trusted voice, farmers often looked to Shaaban for recommendations and reassurance regarding agricultural practices. “Farmers would call me and say, ‘Do we add this amount of fertilizer? Or, do we follow this practice? Yes or no?’” he said.

The FAS project also developed an information and communications technology (ICT) platform with the support of Souktel Digital Solutions to send follow-up text messages to all participating farmers. These messages were sent to remind farmers of best practices to follow leading up to harvest time as well as during harvest time to prompt farmers on how to maintain quality produce and how to correctly package produce for the markets. “Since most everyone has a phone and we do not have the ability to visit each farmer in-person daily, because of the distance in rural areas, this is an easy way to reach the farmer with key knowledge,” said Mahmoud El-Rady, the FAS Post-harvest Coordinator responsible for queuing up the messages in the system. “The SMS messages are written step by step as if someone is sitting right by the farmers side in the field,” he said.

In Shaaban’s case, one of the important reminders he received was right at harvest time, when the onion was ripe and ready to be picked. “They sent messages about how to look at the fruit and understand whether it is the right time to pick it and what is the right amount of water to give it at a specific time around harvest so it is not damaged. This is sensitive timing when every minute counts and we can’t always wait for someone to come to the field,” said Shaaban. As a lead farmer, Shaaban also encouraged other farmers to open the messages since they contained helpful information.

Since the launch of the platform, more than 4,800 messages have been sent to participating farmers that produce tomatoes, onions, and grapes. Recently, the FAS project began creating content surrounding post-harvest best practices for the cultivation of mangos. Since the platform has proven to be an effective method for communicating with farmers, this tool is being expanded to send messages on agricultural best practices during production as well as to share lessons on nutrition, particularly with women in the agro-processing workforce.

In his first year of working with the FAS project and producing onions for market sale, Shaaban sold 45 tons of onion, making a profit of 27,000 Egyptian pounds (~1,511 USD). Since Shaaban and his family were living with two other families, he used the profit from his onion sales to help purchase a new home for his own family. “I was very happy because my first goal was to just get the training on onion [production]. I did not expect that I would also get this profit,” he said. Shaaban is now looking to take the skills he’s learned and expand his farm to plant other crops that reap high profits, such as hibiscus, in addition to continuing with the production of onion.

Pomegranates Grow into New Market Channels

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With the goal of expanding marketing channels and increasing sales revenues of smallholder pomegranate farmers, USAID’s Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project organized a farmers’ visit to Al Obour wholesale market. The goal of the visit was to successfully negotiate profitable sales agreements by applying sales negotiation best practices which they learned from the FAS project. Five farmers, representing the two largest agricultural associations in Assiut, participated in the visit on September 20th, 2018. Two of the five farmers came from Al Akal Al Bahary Association, which has 65 farmers who collectively own 130 feddans. They produce about 1,000 tons of pomegranate a year. The other three farmers came from Bader Association, which has a membership of 630 farmers who collectively own 750 feddans. They produce about 11,250 tons of pomegranate a year.

FAS production and marketing team train the farmers on negotiation skills

Two days before the visit, the five farmers received hands-on field training from the FAS marketing and post-harvest teams on collecting, sorting, and packing pomegranate to meet Al Obour wholesale market’s required specifications and can help farmers increase their sales opportunities and profit margins. The day before the visit, FAS production and marketing team members trained the farmers on negotiation skills so they could be better equipped to negotiate favorable deals with Al Obour market traders. The FAS team explained to farmers the importance of carefully collecting information on traders and crop prices in the market; the more market information farmers have, the better equipped they are to fetch favorable prices for their crops. FAS provided the farmers with handouts containing sample questions farmers can use to collect market information. In addition, the training covered the importance of identifying the specifications required by dealers and exporters, which will enable farmers to better adhere to specifications to increase possible market channels. The FAS project has identified Al Obour market as an optimal location for pomegranate sales compared to other markets because the market is well connected with pomegranate exporters.

Early in the morning on market day, the five farmers delivered 25 cartons, 5 kilos each, of their high-quality pomegranates to be displayed at Al Obour market. They then applied lessons from their previous days’ training by meeting with traders to collect marketing information. In addition, the Al Obour traders reinforced the importance of sorting, grading, and packing the pomegranates by providing an informal lesson to complement the training they received from the FAS technical team. Farmers then negotiated sales prices with the dealers; in general, buyers will buy the commodities according to the prevailing daily market price, while the dealer will receive a commission from the buyer for services rendered. This commission ranges between 5% to 15% of the purchase amount.

 

Haj Amro Abo Elela, a well-known trader at Al Obour market, agreed to display the 5 FAS farmers pomegranates at the market with the goal of selling them on the export market. Mr. Abo Elela agreed to an 8% sales commission for any successful export sales, on the condition that the farmers deliver the pomegranates according to the market’s grading, sorting, and packing standards. An eight percent sales commission is considered by farmers to be a favorable commission for export sales.

Haj Gamal Saad, another trader at Al Obour market, agreed to visit the 5 pomegranate farms to review the quality of the pomegranates and the farm facilities. During that visit, he expressed interest in facilitating the sale of their produce, in accordance with the best market price, and with a 5% commission (5%-15% is the current range of acceptable market commission rates).

 

The visit to Al Obour market allowed the farmers to learn about wholesale operations, sales processes, and to realize the great potential for increased profit margins that they can yield by engaging with traders who can sell their pomegranates for export. By exposing associations and cooperatives to new market channels for one crop, the USAID FAS project also helps member farmers tap into new market channels for other types of crops that they are growing by expanding their awareness of market opportunities.

Farmer Refaat Mohamed Hassan, representative of Al Akal Al Bahary Association explained that “the visit to Al Obour market was beneficial to us (farmers), because we collected a great database which we will use to compare the sales prices and to negotiate the best profitable deals.” Mr. Hassan practiced his new market analysis and negotiation skills by comparing the sales prices in different markets; he ended up selling 15 tons of pomegranate at the Soal wholesale market for EGP 56,250 compared to the EGP 45,000 that he could have sold them for at the local market, which resulted in a 25% income increase.

 

USAID Egypt Food Security & Agribusiness Support (FAS) Project Links Local Onion Farmers to an International Exporter

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The FAS project supported the Negoaa Mazen agriculture cooperative, based in Sohag governorate, to complete an export contract with ELI company, an Albanian exporter, in which the cooperative sold 45 Metric Tons of high quality onions to ELI. This was the first time an international exporter directly contracted a cooperative without its own packhouse facilities. This success demonstrates the potential a well-managed cooperative has for negotiating and organizing member farmers to deliver on contracts. The elimination of middlemen in this exchange both increased prices available to farmers, and improved information exchange by creating a direct link between farmers and an export market actor.

The onions were sold at a competitive price of LE 5000 per Metric Ton, amounting to a total transaction value of LE 225,000 that is about 10% higher than would otherwise have been available to the farmers for onions of similar quality.

This successful contract between Negoaa Mazen agriculture cooperative and ELI is part of the FAS project’s overall objective to increase smallholder farmer incomes by facilitating opportunities for farmers to sell horticultural crops to export markets. One strategy the project follows for achieving this is to build and encourage formation of new relationships through trade show participation. At the Fruit Logistica Trade Fair in Berlin in February 2019, FAS project had the opportunity to connect with numerous international exporters such as ELI and encourage them to connect with cooperatives and associations with whom the project works, such as Negoaa Mazen. By helping to forge relationships between the buyer and local supplier, the FAS project empowered the Negoaa Mazen Cooperative to negotiate sales terms, and to contract neighboring groups to help them meet buyer demand.

The Negoaa Mazen Cooperative was established in 1962 in Sohag Governorate.  It offers agriculture and marketing services to around 2,000 smallholder farmer members, who collectively own 2,000 feddans of land, about 200 feddans of which are owned by women. Crops include green beans, wheat, onion, sugar cane, and clover. The FAS project provided technical support and regular monitoring for cooperative members to help improve their crop yields and ensure that their product would meet export quality standards. Training and technical assistance included fertilization programs, irrigation, integrated pest management (IPM), and best practices for harvesting. The project also advised farmers on good input supplies to improve product quality and increase their productivity.

In addition to providing the cooperative with technical support on production, the FAS project built Negoaa Mazen Cooperative’s capacity to both maintain high standards of product quality in compliance with exporter requirements, as well as to negotiate suitable contract terms. The FAS project also worked with both parties to help them comply with domestic regulations and manage logistics such as connecting with a local shipping company to export the onions. “We gained experience dealing with the international market, became aware of international standards required by this exporter, and were trained on the proper handling of onion for export by the project,” said farmer Ahmed Saleh, Chairman of Negoaa Mazen Cooperative.