USAID Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support Project Triples Basil Production and Increases Farmer Incomes in Assuit

USAID Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support Project Triples Basil Production and Increases Farmer Incomes in Assuit

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Farmer Ayman Solhy

As we walked through Al Sawalem Al Bahareya village in Assuit, a city in Northern Egypt, a sweet scent emanated from the local basil plant. Basil, the village’s main crop, occupies 700 feddans or about one-third of the village’s total 2,160 feddans of cultivated land. Basil is a strategic crop for farmers in this region since it is easy to grow and affordable to produce. Additionally, basil harvesting can occur as often as once per month over five successive months. This means it acts as a steady source of income for farmers and employment for laborers during the harvesting season.

Decreases in Basil Production Due to the Downy Mildew Parasite

In 2015, farmers in Assuit experienced a sharp drop in production as a result of the downy mildew parasite that had begun to infect basil plants in the region. After several inconsistent harvesting seasons, many farmers decided to abandon their basil crops for more consistent crops. “The basil farmers were not able to identify the type of pest that affected their basil and damaged the crop, which made them decide to remove such a strategic crop from their lands,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor of Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project.

Farmer Abdel Mola Bakry, a board member of Al Sawalem Al Bahareya Agriculture Association, and owner of 20 feddans, including five feddans cultivated with basil, said, “In the last three years, the basil leaves became yellow, with dark dots on the back, and the stem dropped the leaves which decreased the production to 300 kg per feddan for the second and third harvest. We barely harvested three times, while we were used to harvest five times in the season in the last years. This was the reason why we decided to remove the basil crop from our lands and replace it with a more profitable crop.” Additionally, Ayman Solhy, farmer and owner of four feddans told FAS, “I used to produce an average of 4,750 kg of basil per season from the five periods of harvesting. When I faced the downy mildew three years ago, my average production decreased to 1,600 kg per year. I had no access to finance and was not able to hire enough workers for harvesting, land preparation, and transportation. I decided to remove the basil and replaced it with more profitable crops like wheat.”

On the marketing side, Hassan Thabet, a local trader, who makes a prior agreement with the farmers to buy their basil production in return for providing the farmers with advance payments, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides, advised that for the last two years the demand in the market for basil was weak. This resulted in the low selling price of basil and therefore lower incomes for farmers. “Farmers need to use organic spray in order to enable the export of basil, and we need to explore new market channels for basil,” said Hassan Thabet.

With the support of the FAS project which aims to increase the incomes of small holder farmers, the problem was identified, and the farmers were advised on the appropriate pesticide to face the downy mildew. “We did a lot of research to identify the main cause of the problem facing the basil, asked the herbs and spices experts, surfed the internet about the basil diseases, till we discovered the downy mildew. We provided farmers with the technical support to control the downy mildew, which resulted in raising the basil productivity to reach 700 kg per feddan for the second through the fifth harvests, and increased the harvest times back to five times per season instead of three,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor in FAS project.

Basil Market Constraints and the Way Forward

To combat this, FAS project interventions have been very instrumental in aiding qualifying farmers to produce high quality basil crops, in accordance with the required specifications of the local and export markets. Engineer Eslam Al-Adawy, FAS technical advisor explained, “We trained the farmers on identifying the targeted pest, the use of organic chemicals, the time of spraying, and the maximum residue levels in order to enable exports of the basil production and to generate higher incomes for farmers. The total production of basil per feddan reached 4700 kilos per feddan in the five rounds of harvest compared to 1600 kilos per feddan, with an average increase in sales of EGP 40,000 compared to EGP 14,400 per season, which resulted in a tremendous increase in the incomes of basil farmers in Assuit.”

Preparation of the dry basil

Changing Male Perception towards Domestic Duties

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Although Rwanda has registered remarkable improvements in gender equality, some men continue to shun domestic duties as reserved for women. Those that get involved in domestic chores often end up being ridiculed by fellow males as ‘inganzwa’ (a reference to a husband who is subservient to his wife), a tendency that discourages males from supporting their wives at home. However, one farmer has vowed to change this status quo.

Elaste Mbonimpaye, (35), resides in Kabusunzu village, Isangano cell, Ndego sector in Kayonza district. He supports his wife at home but is always dismayed by the attitude of fellow males towards domestic chores. Luckily, he was selected by his community to become a male gender champion. These are groups organized by HW to mobilize males to engage in gender and nutrition-related activities. Through current community volunteers – 150 male gender champions, 150 female role models, and 100 Youth for Change, HW is mobilizing communities to adopt dietary diversity and proper nutrition. The aim is to improve the nutritional status for women and children and to increase yield and incomes for 560,000 farmers.

Elaste joined a care group in September 2018 and received training on gender equality and female empowerment with focus on equitable decision – making regarding family incomes and equal division of labor. Leading by example, he showed how this has changed his own household. That is all he needed to mobilize and train 30 farmers in his group and their spouses, who are now able to take joint decisions and divide home chores.

His wife, Nakure Médiatrice, is evidence of how increased support with childcare enabled her to have enough spare time to engage in the activities of a women savings group. She invested 40,000 RWF of her savings into a small retail shop of fresh foods and vegetables.

“I’m now closer to my children while my wife is now generating income for the family,” observed Elaste.

From the savings, they were able to acquire three additional plots of land, paid for community health insurance for the whole family, and bought scholastic materials for their children.

The family is still counting their gains. The wife has since gained confidence to make decisions at home and that has opened many windows of opportunity. She now has spare time to educate other women on how to manage domestic affairs and also takes care of herself.

Support for Agro-Dealers improves business and access to farm input

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Agro-dealers are an essential part of the agricultural value chain system, but their business can be lucrative or daunting depending on which side of the coin you flip. Uwayisaba Pacifique (35), and mother of two, has experienced the downside of this. She has been an agro-dealer in Ngororero District for the last 9 years since 2009, and her business first registered growth, but later slowed down, making losses due to low profits and delays in the delivery of goods.

“I had to close 20 out of my 25 outlets to cut on losses and stay afloat. I used to stock 2,500 tons per year, now this has shrunk to 700 tons,” she explained. Her woes resulted from operating in a disorganized business environment with no clear guidelines to follow.

The introduction of (APTC), Agro Processing Trust Corporation, as a one distribution agency also meant that the 100Rwf per kilogram that Agro-Dealers gained had to reduce to 30 Rwf. The arrangement also had other side-effects. Agro-Dealers in a particular locality were required to wait for others to place their orders, making some run out of stock and fail to deliver on time what smallholder farmer what to buy in time for a particular season.

Pacifique Uwayisaba makes inventory of fertilizers before distribution

“My clients would find when I have run out of stock while waiting for other Agro-Dealers to make their order to have a single delivery. This was hurting my business and I lost many clients to my rivals,” Pacifique observed.

Not out of options, Pacifique joined Agro-Dealers being organized by Hinga Weze in ten districts of Gatsibo, Bugesera, Rutsiro, Nyabihu, Karongi, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe, Kayonza, Ngoma, and Ngororero. With funding from USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is mobilizing Agro-Dealers to provide affordable and easily accessible inputs as one of the mechanisms to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food to a changing climate.

The first step for Hinga Weze was to arrange for Agro-Dealers to get certified. Pacifique has been sensitized on the 2012 Organic Law governing agrochemicals as well as the Ministerial Order of 2016 regulating agrochemicals and is now sensitizing others. So far Hinga Weze has assisted 212 Agro-Dealers to comply with the agrochemical law out of 240 Agro-Dealers that operating in the 10 districts. Pacifique is among the 7 Agro-Dealers already certificated in April 2018 by the regulating body RALIS (Rwanda Agriculture Livestock Inspection and Certification Services).

To improve on profit margin, Hinga Weze carried out an assessment on the fertilizer subsidies and pricing impact that established losses Agro-Dealers incur in business. Lobbying on their behalf, profits on agro inputs have been revised, increasing the profit margin by 10Rwf per kg from 30Rwf francs to 40Rwf.  This includes 2Rwf for the farmer promoter.

“1 felt empowered when I was given the certificate, and this new profit margin means I can increase my annual stock up again to 1,000 tons,” observed Pacifique.

Hinga Weze is mobilizing Agro-Dealers to form cooperatives, building on 30 already registered countrywide. As head of Agro-Dealers in Ngororero, Pacifique is borrowing a leaf from Nyamagabe Agro-Dealers’ cooperative that now has distribution rights around the district. Her group is now requesting to have the same distribution rights, thereby increasing the profit margin by 3Rwf per kg allocated as distribution fee.  The sky is the limit for this enterprising woman.

USAID supports farmer education and community action to combat Fall Armyworm (FAW) in Rwanda

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Bugesera, Karongi, Nyabihu and Ngororero districts are among the hardest-hit areas of the deadly Fall Army Worm (FAW) pest attacking maize. FAW is an invasive pest that can cause significant yield losses if not well managed. It can reproduce multiple times each year and the moth can fly up to 100 km per night. However, the pest can be controlled through use of appropriate pesticides and early detection.

Over 760 hectares have been the most impacted by FAW across three districts of Bugesera, Ngororero, Nyabihu and Karongi and farmers are feeling the effects. FAW is expected to wreak havoc if farmers don’t aren’t prepared to combat it in time. Farmers need the knowledge about the early warnings of the pest markings before it multiplies. Last year alone, 2017 FAW infested an estimated 17,521ha of maize out of over 60,000 ha in season 2018 B. Farmers were thus more than alarmed about the potential losses to their crops.

To respond to this challenge, USAID through its Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity, which aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ income and nutritional status, rapidly moved to work with stakeholders on the ground and farmers to combat FAW to reduce its destruction of yields particularly for maize in season B 2018.

 

Hinga Weze’s agronomist helping farmers hand-pick the Fall Armywarm in Karongi district where Hinga Weze has activities

Hinga Weze worked hard to build the capacity of key players to fight FAW through trainings on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) delivered through Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Promoters reaching over 29,000 farmers. One of these farmers, Musabimana Pilipila, 35, is a smallholder farmer in Sangati Cell, Nyabivumu Sector in Karongi District. She was among those hit-hard by the FAW. She expected the yield from her 0.4 ha to benefit her family of four children. However, FAW attacked her plantations of maize. As a participant of Hinga Weze, Pilipila has been able to access pesticides and acquire new knowledge on effective pesticide application through a local agrodealer. Her prospects seem promising as she explained that ‘’I have been able to fight FAW massively through support by accessing appropriate pesticides and modern spraying equipment, thanks to Hinga Weze staff who have been with me throughout the process’’ she says

Hinga Weze bought and distributed spraying and protective equipment (pumps and protection equipment) to all 10 districts’ intervention areas and Hinga Weze district staff continue to train farmers on how to use safe pesticides to combat FAW. Also, Hinga Weze has linked hundreds of farmers with agro-dealers for access to the pesticides of their choice. So far, 245 agro-dealers are working with Hinga Weze to provide modern affordable spraying equipment and better seeds to farmers across the 10 target districts.

Since maize is a staple food for Rwandans, Hinga Weze district staff have been supporting farmers together with district stakeholders in targeted districts to fight FAW infestation. ‘’On many occasions I am personally involved picking FAW with farmers to demonstrate the urgency of intervention to fight FAW on time’’ says the Hinga Weze agronomist of Karongi district.

Scheme Offers Rural Farmers Access to Affordable Inputs on Credit

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While agro-dealers have potential to drive smallholder farming and transform agriculture, their business is often impeded by the limitations in purchasing power of their poor clientele because of low purchase power among, who are typically poor, rural farmers. The consequence has been dire on the quality of yield since most Most rural farmers are unable to access agro-chemicals and equipment, which negatively impacts the quality and size of their yields. To overcome this, agro-dealers are assisting farmers to access credit.

Kantarama Patricie is an agro-dealer who is changing improving farmers; experiences in Rurembo sector, Nyabihu district. To sustain her business, she needed to build client confidence among farmers and farmer promoters (FPs), who in turn support improved access to affordable products. Kantarama’s opportunity came when she was mobilized by HW to join an input credit scheme, a model that links farmers to agro-dealers for business on credit. The result has been promising. She has already registered enough profits where, this season alone, she has extended credit to 42 farmers (32 males and 10 females).

Kantarama is one of the agro-dealers being assisted by Hinga Weze to join the scheme. With funding USAID and Feed the Future, HW is supporting agro-dealers to use the input credit scheme model where farmers access products on credit to use on credit and are and they are able to repay the loan after harvest or sale of produce. The arrangement is part of the project’s wider mandate to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

Now with this possibility of accessing inputs on credit, farmers are reaping from improved yield and better the benefits of improved yields and productivity. Through the input credit scheme, a total of 1,346 farmers in four districts have accessed input with a credit value of 26.1 million RWF. In Kayonza alone, 260 farmers accessed credit worth 2.13 million RWF. In Rutsiro (KOABUNYA Cooperative farmers), 972 farmers accessed input worth 2.8 million, in RWF. In Ngororero, an aggregator. called Anias, provided input credit worth 20.6 Million RWF to 72 farmers, while an aggregator in Nyabihu, Patrice, provided with Patricie, 42 farmers were assisted to with 604,400 RWF worth of input credit.

Kantarama alone was able to supply on creditsupplied 204 KGg of maize seed, H629, 500KGkg of DAP, Urea (289.5KGkg), NPK (140KGkg), Dethane (15KGkg), Ridomil (1KGg) and Rocket (five5 liters equivalent to Rwf 604,400 RWF to farmers on credit.

“I decided to provide inputs on credit to these farmers because HW built their capacity through training on financial literacy,” stated Patricie said. One of her clients, Sebageni Tharcisse, a farmer in Rurembo sector, says he was able to acquire products on credit ranging from NPK (90 KG), Urea (45KG), Dethane (10 KG), Ridomil (KG) and Rocket – two2 bottles) worth 110,000 RWF.

“I’m happy that I don’t have to sell off my sheep to be able to pay the agro-dealer, I can now pay back after harvest,” observed a visibly excited Sebageni.  With easy access to agro-inputs, farmers are set to improve their yield while agro-dealers gain vital clients and market for agrochemicals.

Access to Finance Opens Opportunities for Women in Agribusinesses

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Rwanda has registered commendable expansion in the financial sector in the recent past, enabling players in the sector to grow as well. Despite this positive trend, most women continue to miss out, are excluded or underserved. Their worst ordeal is the existence of non-financial barriers like operating in rural settings, low financial literacy and bias towards women as not being bankable enough But there is now hope for women venturing in .

Phoebe Nyirafeza proudly stands at the entrance of her business shop in Karongi

Like most women, Phoebe Nyirafeza (49), a resident of Karongi District, has faced the lows and highs of succeeding ins usually reserved for men. Faced with the pressure of fending for the family after her husband retired in 2011, Phoebe started a small factory called DAZI that processed maize flour locally known as Kawunga. Maize is abundantly produced in Karongi and this seemed an opportunity to add value to a commodity that was readily available and had market locally She produces a mixture of porridge products, of mixed cereals and cracked corn to feed domestic animals.

However, all was not smooth since her business depended on the quality of yield and seasonal hazards, and this made high quality maize scarce. Being credit-shy worsened her situation, making it hard to raise enough capital to maintain keep her business afloat Suddenly her prominence as a shrewd business woman around Rubengera Sector where she resides started to fade as business went decreased.

“This business has been challenging because I needed money to pay suppliers and to buy the best maize grades, yet prices have shot up,” Nyirafeza says with a frown on her face. The hard fact of seeing her business worth 28 million in capita lgo down was a rude awakening, Opportunity came when Hinga Weze assessed her business, offered training on record keeping, and linked her to INKUNGA Micro- Finance that provided credit worth 106,000,000 million RWF in September2018. “From the first installment of 20 million RWF, I managed to restock raw materials and repair machines. Production has already improved.”

As a USAID/Feed the Future-funded project, HW facilitates farmers to access finance, linking them to financial service providers. This is part of its wider goal of sustainably increasing smallholder farmers’ income, improving the nutritional status of women and children, and increasing the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate. Hinga Weze intends to transform 560,000 smallholder farmers in ten districts.

Phoebe Nyirafeza proudly displays her improved stock in the rented warehouse

By providing technical assistance to lenders to develop farmer-friendly loan products and build capacity for Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), Hinga Weze has enabled agribusinesses to thrive. In Karongi alone, 155 women have been assisted to receive loans worth 127,417,000 RWF. Like Phoebe, they are encouraging other women in agribusiness to improve on business record keeping, apply for credit and make their businesses thrive.

Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity

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Overview: 

Because improved technologies that are affordable, impactful, and safe have not yet penetrated the vast smallholder market in Pakistan, smallholders continue to use outdated and less effective technologies, leading to stagnant or dwindling productivity and returns, particularly in the horticulture and livestock sub-sectors.

To combat these challenges, the $8.2 million Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA) funded through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working since April 2017 to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets, alongside their overall development impact and cost-effectiveness. By building on CNFA’s 10-year history of successful implementation in Pakistan, PATTA is galvanizing 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 include seeds, fertilizers, water pumps, improved plant and animal breeds, precision agriculture, and integrated soil fertility management, amongst others.

By the completion of project activities in April 2021, PATTA will have created new, strong, and sustainable private-sector relationships that meet the evolving needs of smallholder farmers and drive increased productivity and economic growth across Pakistan.

Program Approach:

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

  1. Enable agricultural technology-related businesses to expand, adapt, and market their products and services to meet smallholder farmers’ needs.
    CNFA is undertaking the initial and ongoing market and cost-benefit analyses, as well as outreach to key stakeholders based on the findings of these analyses. In addition, CNFA is overseeing a competitive process leading to detailed memorandums of understanding and technical support, and comprehensive technical support and capacity building. In doing so, PATTA is making 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 can be identified.
  2. Increase smallholder farmers’ access to affordable, appropriate, and effective agricultural technologies.
    Sustaining increased access to improved technologies that are adapted to smallholder needs requires focused, strategic efforts by demand-side stakeholders who stand to profit from this outcome. These stakeholders include 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 and technical support complements the new marketing and outreach plans of technology companies to inspire sustained investments in the vast smallholder market.
  3. Scale the adoption and use of agricultural technologies.
    PATTA is supporting the collective work of supply- and demand-side partners to launch and sustain demonstration activities that provide evidence of the value of improved technologies. These include 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 leverage various mediums, including radio broadcasts, videos, and mobile exhibits that reach women in purdah and other underserved groups.

USAID Agriculture Program

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Overview:

The USAID Agriculture Program is a five-year program (2018-2023) that accelerates the growth of agricultural sub-sectors that show strong potential to create jobs, grow incomes, and increase micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) revenues.

Program Approach:

  1. Increase Productivity and Productive Capacity;
  2. Maximize the Benefits of Cost-share Grants and Address Value Chain Gaps through processing, storage, and other techniques;
  3. Provide Technical Assistance to Meet International Standards and Certifications;
  4. Strengthen Linkages within Agricultural Value Chains and to New Markets;
  5. Strengthen Capacity of Cooperatives, Extensions, and Other Service Providers and Associations by providing cost-share grants and demand-driven technical assistance to grant beneficiaries.

Partners:

  1. South-East Europe Development (SEEDEV)
  2. World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO)

Farmer-to-Farmer: Southern Africa

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Overview:

The USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program (2018-2023) is implemented by CNFA in Southern Africa (Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and the Eastern European country of Moldova. CNFA’s current F2F program aims to connect 420 mid-to senior-level U.S. volunteer experts with farmer groups, agribusinesses, trade associations, agricultural finance providers, and other agriculture sector institutions to facilitate sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production, and marketing.

The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program was initially authorized in the 1985 Farm Bill with the primary goal of generating sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector through voluntary technical assistance. A secondary goal is to increase the U.S. public’s understanding of international development issues and programs as well as international understanding of U.S.-sponsored development programs. For more information on the activities of the program worldwide, please visit https://farmer-to-farmer.org.

Volunteers:

CNFA recruits highly trained, exceptionally qualified volunteers — with years of experience in their respective fields — who offer their time and energy to provide technical assistance to farmers and entrepreneurs.

Volunteers should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. See our Volunteer Page for more information on how to become a volunteer.

Program Approach:

CNFA’s approach builds on continuous learning from the F2F program since its 1985 inception and decades of experience in F2F implementation. In each country, focal value chains are analyzed to identify critical leverage points for widespread improvements in incomes and food security through our volunteer technical assignments.

  1. Increase Agricultural Sector Market-Driven Productivity and Profitability: CNFA promotes the adoption of innovative agricultural techniques and technologies, and supports improved marketing and business skills.
  2. Improve Conservation and Sustainable Use of Environmental and Natural Resources: The program leverages conservation agriculture and other practices to produce higher and more stable yields while reducing environmental degradation. It also focuses on efforts to control Fall Armyworm, a significant pest of diverse crops in Africa, and to mitigate aflatoxin.
  3. Expand Agricultural Sector Access to Financial Services: CNFA’s efforts strengthen financial management and business-planning skills of farmer organizations and agribusinesses.
  4. Private Sector Engagement: CNFA also supports organizational development by building local markets and networks, and partners with government and private sector stakeholders.