USAID Yalwa Supports Nigerien Entrepreneur to Turn Volunteering into A Successful Business

USAID Yalwa Supports Nigerien Entrepreneur to Turn Volunteering into A Successful Business

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Rahila Ali, a 35-year-old mother of five, has been a participant of the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa Activity since 2019. A resident of the village of Kotaré in the Maradi region of Niger, Mrs. Ali took an interest in initiating income generating activities (IGAs) to support her community and help generate income for her family after her second pregnancy. In addition to her IGAs, Mrs. Ali has often volunteered to support projects in her locality. According to the chief of her village, “her patience and her developed interpersonal skills made her the ideal choice to support activities in our locality.” She has so far been an instructor for youth learning machine sewing and manual knitting, and a facilitator in awareness activities on sexual health for girls in her community.

Mrs. Ali, a participant of USAID Yalwa’s Women’s Self-Development and Empowerment training. Mrs. Ali has turned several of her volunteer activities into income-generating activities to further support herself and her family.

Mrs. Ali’s first IGA focused on weaving and selling children’s hats and outfits. She later invested in small ruminant breeding with one goat that she was able to buy with her savings. Benefiting from the diversity of her interventions with her peers, whose trust she had gained, Mrs. Ali invited her colleagues to set up a tontine- loan plan to support members and fund their initiatives. Mrs. Ali also helped create a cooperative with about 40 members, primarily women, called MISECO. The cooperative received training on millet, cowpea, sorghum and peanut production techniques and was provided seeds for cultivation. They produced crops for three years and participated in group sales, including to institutions such as the World Food Programme.

Mrs. Ali also participated in USAID Yalwa’s Women’s Self-Development and Empowerment training which allowed her to grow, share her experience and skills in farming and develop a personal action plan to strengthen her IGAs and increase her income. Mrs. Ali initially expanded her sheep and goat rearing activity, using the “Habanayé” model, where she rotated three goats to other women so that they could collect the kids. In this model, the first lamb is for the beneficiary women, and the second is reserved for Mrs. Ali, allowing the women to build up their herd while Mrs. Ali expands her own. She then invested in purchasing a grain mill which generated about $3 (2,000 FCFA) per day. The income from the activities developed with support from USAID Yalwa also allowed Mrs. Ali to strengthen her economic autonomy by diversifying her investments, such as developing her women and children’s clothing and accessory business with $72 (45,000 FCFA) of start-up capital, which she was able to increase to $643 (400,000 FCFA).

The profits from Mrs. Ali’s business also enabled her to buy a piece of land for $1,124 (700,000 FCFA) and to build a store with permanent materials for her goods for $1,044 (650,000 FCFA). Additionally, she highlighted that her IGAs helped her with “more ease to provide for the needs of my family, my parents and my community.” Indeed, Mrs. Ali recently financed the reconstruction of her father’s house with her funds and constructed a drinking water point that she made available to the neighboring women. Now, the women can get water for free, while Mrs. Ali collects used water and the bran from cereals and peanuts to feed her sheep—a sustainable solution for her business and for her community.

Women-Run Literacy Center Provides Skills for Entrepreneurs in Karazomé, Maradi

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The Karazomé Literacy Center was founded in 2021 by 40 women from Maradi, Niger, to improve the literacy and numeracy skills of women entrepreneurs in the region. The co-founders, who also represent eight local poultry producer organizations (POs), learned about the importance of literacy in strengthening their agribusiness management after attending a functional literacy program hosted by the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa activity in 2021.

The women of the Karazomé Literacy Center first partnered with USAID Yalwa through their poultry POs, which were supported by the activity to strengthen their production and marketing in order to improve producers’ incomes and livelihoods. USAID Yalwa’s support included training in improved animal feed production using local ingredients, improving animal healthcare and husbandry through a local network of private veterinarians, developing business plans for income generating activities and supporting PO members to establish business linkages with other market actors.

Encouraged by the progress they made during these trainings, the women came together to establish a literacy center with the goal of running it without the activity’s support.

A literacy learning session in Karazomé, Maradi.

They established good management practices early on by mobilizing internal resources and generating additional income, which supported the development of the center. These practices ranged from collecting weekly contributions from learners to expanding business activities from herding to ‘habbanayi,’ a traditional system of ‘re-constituting livestock’, which allowed each learner to raise an animal and use their products and by-products for marketing. These mechanisms for mobilizing internal resources reduced the Karazomé Literacy Center’s dependence on technical and financial support from USAID Yalwa and allowed the women to sustainably cover the costs of running the center.

Based on the income they generated during their 2022 campaign, the learners at the Karazomé Literacy Center can now cover the costs for their teacher’s monthly salary and for the equipment and supplies (notebooks, pens, chalk, etc.) needed to operate the center.

Thanks to the training provided by the activity, the women were also able to improve their household incomes and increase support to their families.

“Because of the functional literacy program, I can read and calculate my revenue, which has improved the management of my businesses.  I have also applied these skills within my household, which has improved my relationship with my husband and allowed me to support my children’s studies,” said Ilya Loubabatou, a 22-year-old learner at the center. “The knowledge I have acquired with regard to hygiene and nutrition has also greatly benefitted my family,” added Loubabatou.

Collaboration with Local Credit Union Federation Improves Access to Credit for Producers in the Feed the Future RISE II Zone

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Access to finance is a major obstacle for rural producers who wish to invest in and strengthen their agribusinesses. Often, financial institutions consider agricultural sector financing to be highly risky and, as a result, offer few financial products to support smallholder producers.

To improve access to financing for cowpea, small ruminant and poultry value chain actors in the Centre-Nord, Est and Sahel regions of Burkina Faso, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity signed a partnership protocol with the Network of Popular Credit Unions of Burkina (RCPB) in November 2020. The partnership with RCPB, which is present in each of the Activity’s target regions and has many offices throughout the country, aims to build stronger relationships with producer organizations and ensure that farmers have improved access to credit.

In addition to strengthening access to finance, USAID Yidgiri collaborated with the USAID CATALYZE project’s financial facilitators to build the capacity of producers to apply for and receive funding. Together, they helped producer organizations develop and submit over 90 support plans, enabling them to negotiate their financing with the credit union network. To date, 14 cooperatives have received loans worth around $34,000 (approximately 18.75 million FCFA) to support their activities and grow their businesses.

The President of the Communal Union of Small Ruminant Producers of Boulsa, Sibdou Kabore, directing the animals to the sheepfold.

The communal union of small ruminant producers of Boulsa, chaired by Sibdou Kabore, was among those that received a credit loan. The union’s 12 women producers received around $7,500 (approximately 4.9 million FCFA) to conduct small ruminant fattening activities, which enabled them to acquire 96 sheep and feed for their livestock. With their first wave of fattened animals, they sold 34 sheep to local traders and delicatessens for a total of around $4,000 (approximately 2.6 million FCFA). With their second wave of fattened animals, they were able to sell 50 fattened sheep during the Tabaski celebration for a total of around $8,000 (approximately 5.3 million FCFA). Through these sales, the women will repay their loan on time and already plan to sell a third wave of fattened sheep  during other national holidays and end of year celebrations.

Sibdou Kaboré, one of the union’s producers, described her appreciation for the Activity and its support, enabling them to sustainably boost their business ventures. “Without the support of The Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity, my cooperative could not have accessed such a large loan amount,” she said. “Thanks to the training received from USAID Yidgiri on small ruminant production techniques and the manufacture of livestock feed, we are able to carry out this lucrative activity properly.”

Increased access to finance is essential for producers like Kaboré to boost their agribusinesses and participate in key markets. By supporting initiatives that break down the barriers restricting producers, the local economy benefits—through the likes of new inputs, technology and businesses linkages—and the market system grows more resilient.

 

USAID Yidgiri Facilitates Cowpea Farmers’ Access to New Markets

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To increase access to markets for cowpea producers, platforms are needed to build linkages between stakeholders across the cowpea value chain. With greater access to a range of inputs, the production process is made smoother, enabling producers to generate more profit from their goods as a result of higher quality and quantities. In Burkina Faso, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity supported the establishment of innovation platforms to help producers access new markets.

Innovation platforms are consultation frameworks that bring together stakeholders, such as cowpea producers, union leaders, input distributors and microfinance institutions to develop value chains, facilitating access to inputs and marketing. These are especially successful in connecting local producers with buyers.

Through an innovation platform meeting organized with the support of USAID Yidgiri in May 2022, the Provincial Union of Cooperatives of Cowpea Producers of Sanmatenga connected with Catholic Relief Services and agreed to deliver 84 tons of cowpea, worth a total of around $85,700 (approximately 57 million FCFA). By creating linkages like this in the cowpea supply chain, producer organizations can generate more resources for future agricultural campaigns and sell their products in higher quantity and quality.

Three members of the Provincial Union of Cowpea Producers of Sanmatenga stand in front of their cowpea stock.

Karfo Sawadogo, president of Wendkonta of Nagbingou, a communal union of simplified cooperatives, took part in one of these workshops. “I really appreciated this workshop because it allowed the groups present to get to know us better, to trust us and to help us reach a contract for the delivery of 50 tons of cowpeas at a price of approximately 706,000 FCFA per ton,” he said. This is the equivalent of $1,100 per ton.

For many union members, the innovation platforms are their first experience collaborating with international organizations, who typically offer a better price than what is offered on the market. “Thanks to this connection, we were able to quickly obtain a loan from Caisse Populaire to meet our expenses and respond to the call for tenders,” Sawadogo said.

Sawadogo expressed his appreciation for the workshops and hopes to attend more innovation platform meetings to continue building fruitful relationships that can improve the local cowpea value chain. In addition to supporting the cowpea value chain, USAID Yidigiri supports innovation platforms for the poultry and small ruminant value chains, hosting workshops in the Boulsa, Fada and Kaya communities.

USAID Resilient Communities Program

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Overview:

The five-year, $23.75 million USAID Resilient Communities Program (2022-2027) is designed to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) along Georgia’s Administrative Boundary Line (ABL). Driven by private sector engagement, host-country collaboration and catalytic grant investments, the Program builds resilience against shocks, enhances inclusion of marginalized and at-risk communities, including women and youth, and stimulates sustainable socio-economic development.

Through previous USAID-funded projects in Georgia implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the Program has access to a strong network of private sector, donor, NGO and Government of Georgia partners, which it uses to strengthen resilient and inclusive market systems and facilitate the development of diverse value chains. This increases revenues, creates jobs and builds community capacity to address market constraints and make key decisions. The Program targets communities along the ABL and the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with the goal of integrating them into the broader Georgian economy.

Program Approach:

Collaboration, flexibility, scalability and sustainability are central components of the Program. The following approaches are incorporated to successfully build resilience to risks and shocks, enhance inclusion and stimulate sustainable socio-economic development:

  1. Engage the private sector: The USAID Resilient Communities Program enhances productivity, accelerates knowledge transfer and improves access to markets for rural communities along the ABL. It uses its connection to a variety of businesses throughout Georgia to provide links to enterprises, including USAID program graduates who are ready to invest back in the industry.
  2. Host country cooperation: To co-invest in development solutions, the Program facilitates productive, functional, trust-based working relationships with key Georgian government agencies including the Rural Development Agency (RDA), Enterprise Georgia and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA). These partnerships continue to be expanded and strengthened to benefit communities along the ABL.
  3. Investment in catalytic grants: The Program integrates matching grants designed to have longer and deeper impacts and strengthen market systems. It targets communities and market systems where investments will catalyze systemic improvements, build resilience and strengthen engagement, competitiveness and market access.

Partners:

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA): International agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives. We work with businesses, foundations, governments, and communities to build customized local and global partnerships that meet the world’s growing demand for food.

Solimar International: U.S. small business with rich tourism development experience in Georgia. This includes developing a national tourism strategy and a COVID-19 recovery plan at the request of the Georgian government. This included designing new tour packages, tourism infrastructure and support services, and assessing and developing Destination Management Organizations.

Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG): Georgian NGO with more than ten years of experience in community development, disaster risk reduction (DRR), economic development and empowering women, youth and other marginalized groups in the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) and throughout Georgia. RDFG assists vulnerable communities in gaining equal access to services and opportunities.

The Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG): Georgian consulting firm with a wealth of economic analysis experience, including conducting value chain and niche market analysis. PMCG provides consulting services to government and nongovernmental organizations in community development and planning, private sector development, value chain analyses, MSME development and organizational capacity development.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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.