Cultivating Young Changemakers for Agricultural Innovation

Cultivating Young Changemakers for Agricultural Innovation

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Young Osama Shahid joined his family-owned Punjab-based agricultural manufacturing business ‘Soby Ag Engineers’ in 2016 with a clear mission: to tackle Pakistani small farmers’ challenges and improve their productivity through innovation in the agriculture sector. “Our business scope was limited, and we performed functions on a seasonal basis at harvesting and land preparation time only and manufactured a small range of seasonal agricultural machinery. In 2018, we were headed towards a downfall due to Pakistan’s stifling economic climate, political instability, and core manufacturing challenges but I was passionate about bringing change,” explained 26-year old Osama.

Osama’s trajectory took a new direction when he stumbled upon USAID Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity’s (PATTA) call for partnership on a local recruitment website. The four-year technical assistance project is dedicated to investing in agri-preneurs, innovators, and leaders including farmers, dealers, and owners of private sector agribusinesses to collectively revitalize agriculture and transfer game-changing innovations across Pakistan.

In January 2019, Osama signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with PATTA and began attending the project-facilitated agricultural technology demonstrations sessions across Pakistan. With PATTA, Osama explored new fruit and vegetable markets in Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Gilgit-Baltistan and met diverse local farmer groups. “Based on my direct interaction with small farmers mobilized by PATTA, I quickly learned about their struggles. I realized that the average landholding size of small farmers in Pakistan is less than five acres and in order to reduce their overhead costs for better economic returns, I had to somehow introduce affordable and small agricultural tools and equipment,” said Osama.

As a result of this new learning, Osama imported small two-wheel tractors, three-wheel tractors, and handy tools such as brush cutters, hand push seeders, and other multipurpose tools priced at an affordable range of PKR 10,000-20,000. Osama believed that by adopting these small agricultural tools, farmers could reap more benefits and plant a diverse range of vegetables and crops including maize, peas, peanut, sunflower, wheat, and rice. He collaborated with PATTA and demonstrated these technologies at the project’s agricultural demonstrations in districts Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Mardan, Peshawar, Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Tando Jam, and Hunza, among others. “I was able to grow my portfolio from eight to 100 agricultural products and tools for small farmers in a span of one year with PATTA’s facilitation. I have now bid farewell to the days of ‘seasonal’ working,” he added.

PATTA also helps its private-sector partners develop new, targeted solutions to respond to the needs of Pakistani smallholders. For example, as Osama came closer to accomplishing some of his goals, he used PATTA’s guidance and facilitation in Research and Development (R&D) to develop wheat harvesting and land preparation machinery. “Wheat is the largest crop in Pakistan and involves intense labor including harvesting, binding, and threshing. PATTA supported me in my efforts to design, re-engineer, and manufacture mini tractors and reaper binders. We successfully performed reverse engineering of these machines which allow farmers to save time, reduce fuel consumption and increase production,” Osama said. In September 2019, PATTA mobilized 500 farmers and facilitated Osama in launching and promoting these new innovations in Kala Shah Kaku, District Sheikhupura in Punjab province in collaboration with the Rice Research Institute (RRI), Government of Pakistan. To date, PATTA’s support has led Osama to sell 35 mini tractors and 94 reaper binders priced at PKR 300,000 and PKR 750,000 respectively.

Following his collaboration with PATTA, Osama was recently shortlisted for a sustainable small farming start-up idea at the National Incubation Centre at Lahore University of Management Sciences. “I owe my success to USAID PATTA since the project has helped me create new solutions for local manufacturing. In Pakistan, we will have to focus on local manufacturing to make agriculture sustainable. Many investors are now keen to invest in my business for expansion,” he explained. This is just one example of how PATTA has successfully collaborated with the private sector and empowered the youth to build linkages with farmers and make a difference by improving productivity and enhancing competitiveness.

Post-Harvest Handling Practices Change Fortunes for Carrot Farmers

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Situated in the Western Province of Rwanda, Nyabihu district has a very conducive climate for vegetable growing. One of the key vegetable crops grown in Nyabihu is carrots for sale to urban areas across Rwanda. However, farmers continually incur losses due to the perishable nature of carrots –  most of the carrots rot before reaching the market, becoming inedible and leading to significant losses for farmers.

Nyabihu farmer Mukasine Mariza (46) faced this challenge many times. In previous seasons, she would harvest an average crop but then lose a large proportion to spoilage due to poor post-harvest handling practices. Adding to her woes, Mukasine would be forced to sell off her produce at a “give-away-price”, fearing additional losses since carrots are very perishable. Like most farmers, she would be at the mercy of aggregators who would take advantage of the perishability of carrots to pay less, forcing the farmers to accept poor returns on their labor and investment. The lack of proper post-harvest handling skills and equipment made vegetable farming an unprofitable venture for many farmers in Nyabihu district.

Mukasine’s fortunes changed when USAID, through Hinga Weze, offered a 6,243,597 RWF ($6,456) investment to set up a cold room with a cool bot and to construct a Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC) for her cooperative, KOGIMUIN. The cold room stores up to 300 crates, each carrying 15 kg of carrots, and, to-date, 3,600 MT of carrots have been handled by the facility. The cooperative of 55 members also received 150 crates and one weight scale.

Using the facilities provided, Mukasine and others can weigh their produce, ensuring that it is stored upon harvest to keep fresh, and it is safely transported to the market without overexposure to heat. This support is in line with Hinga Weze’s goals as a USAID-funded Feed the Future program 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.

From Hinga Weze’s training on good agricultural practices and post-harvest handling, Mukasine increased her yield from 3 tons per hectare to over 4.5 tons per hectare. Most remarkably, she also managed to increase earnings per yield from 375,000 RWF (about $398) to 562,500 RWF (about $597). Her earnings also improved after Hinga Weze linked the farmers to a cooperative of aggregators where their selling power is stronger, and they can negotiate better prices.

“I almost gave up farming, but now I no longer make losses. I save enough money for my children,” she happily observed. To Mukasine and her cooperative members, carrot farming is no longer a burden as they continue to utilize the skills and facilities to reduce losses and earn more from farming.

USAID/FAS Project Supports Establishment of Collection Tents to facilitate Access to Export Markets

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Approximately 1,700 smallholder tomato, onion, pomegranate, and fennel farmers competitively sold and exported their crops through collection tents established in Assiut, Sohag, and Qena governorates in Upper Egypt with the support of the USAID Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project. The collection tents – centralized locations where buyers and exporters can collect crops in lieu of traveling inefficiently to a variety of fields – were established on a cost-share basis between FAS and farmer associations in the three governorates.

The FAS-supported collection tents help farmer associations support their members by facilitating linkages between buyers and exporters, leading to sales contracts with farmers. To ensure national quality standards of the crops, the project also facilitated proper coding of the crops aggregated in the collection tents to meet the requirements of the National Food Safety Authority (NFSA).

Through the project’s support, farmers reduced the time and labor spent collecting crops, maintained an adequate quality of crops, and increased their sales volume and selling prices from the previous season, resulting in increased incomes for smallholder horticulture farmers. Pomegranate farmers using the collection tents sold 1,200 tons of pomegranates to three exporters in the 2019 season for EGP 4,800,000 ($305,565), over twice the volume and three times the revenue from the previous season when farmers only sold 500 tons of pomegranate at EGP 1,500,000 ($95,489).

This season, FAS expects that farmers will sell 300 tons of onion at EGP 900,000 ($57,293), compared to last season’s EGP 600,000 ($38,195), and that farmers will sell 50 tons of thyme at EGP 550,000 ($35,012) compared to EGP 500,000 ($31,829).

Agri-Management Group of Georgia LLC

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AMGG property before the project implementation – August, 2019

AMGG property – January, 2020

Hazelnut Husking, Drying and Storage Facility in Village Eniseli, Kvareli Municipality, Kakheti Region.

Agri-Management Group of Georgia (AMGG) LLC, established in December 2018, is located in Eniseli village, Kvareli municipality, Kakheti region. The area is well known for growing hazelnuts due to its fertile soil and amenable climate. Currently, total hazelnut orchard area in these villages exceeds 4,000 hectares and average yield equals more than 4,000 tons, almost the 7% of the country’s total production.

Mr. Dimitri Aleqsidze, Director of AMGG LLC, graduated from Tbilisi State University and Paris University, is an economist and Jurisprudence specialist, and has more than 6 years of experience in hazelnut sector.

The total cost of the project is $340,000 and is jointly financed by the Agricultural and Rural Development Agency (ARDA), covering 50% of project costs,  AgriGeorgia/Ferrero, with the grant of EUR 50,000, USAID/G-HIP with the grant of USD 50,000 and partner and is good example and showcase of cooperation of Georgian Government,  Donor Program and private sectors.

Existence of this facility is very important to secure the quality of hazelnuts and consequently incomes of smallholder growers. Farmers can approach AMGG LLC and procure fee based drying and/or storage services to reduce post-harvest losses and improve the quality of their harvest.  This HDS facility is capable of drying 1,000 tons and storing up to 500 tons hazelnut per year.

  • Program Investment of $50,000 – Procurement of 95 hp tractor and 2 t/h capacity hazelnut cleaning machine, procurement of electric pallet stacker, and procurement of safety equipment.
  • AgriGeorgia/Ferrero investment of $ 55,500 – Construction of the HDS Facility.
  • Partner Co-Investment of $234,500 – Procurement of construction materials, construction of 750 square meters building, and procurement of drying equipment. 

 

Feed the Future Nigeria and Nestle Maize Quality Improvement Partnership

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Overview:

The $1.3 million Feed the Future Nigeria and Nestlé Maize Quality Improvement Partnership (M-QIP) (2017-2020) enhanced the quality and safety of maize and soybeans available to Nestlé’s food processing factories while supporting USAID’s goals of revitalizing Nigeria’s agriculture sector and improving nutrition along these cereal value chains. The partnership utilized a “whole-of-supply-chain” approach to enhance the quality, safety and transparency of the Nestlé supply chain. 

Approach:

  1. Strengthened the Capacity of Smallholder Farmer Suppliers: To catalyze better conduct and performance in the maize and soybean value chains in Kaduna State,M-QIP’s activities focused on the three main stakeholder groups within the supply chains: smallholder farmers, intermediaries and input retailers.
  2. Strengthened Capacity of Local Organizations: With the support of the Nigeria Youth Service Corps program and local extension agents, M-QIP cataloged and mapped the many associations and cooperatives that played a role in improving the yield and product quality of smallholder farmers in the maize and soybean growing regions and along market routes, specifically near Nestlé’s current sourcing areas and storage networks. Through this process, CNFA kick-started and sustained engagement through the M-QIP program with all stakeholders, including Nestlé corporate employees, farmers’ associations, government extension service providers and community leaders.

Partners:

Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth

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Overview:

The five-year (2015-2020), USAID Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program was designed to increase the incomes of vulnerable households by improving the performance and inclusiveness of the cowpea, poultry and small ruminant value chains. Implemented in Niger and Burkina Faso, the $34.3 million program was one of many operating under USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) initiative, supported by a consortium of partners and led by CNFA.

Approach:

  1. Strengthened Resilience to Environmental, Security and Economic Shocks: The program aimed to improve community resistance to shocks by sustainably rehabilitating markets, facilitating village-savings programs and improving access to shared and household assets along three value chains: cowpea, poultry and small ruminants.
  2. Facilitated and Catalyzed Market Systems: REGIS-AG used a “facilitation approach” that aimed to improve the function of markets and create sustainable change without becoming embedded in the system. REGIS-AG also aimed to identify opportunities through value chain and end-market analysis and to strengthen relationships across its value chains.
  3. Strengthened Input SUpply and IMproved Smallholder and Agro-Pastoralist Access to Interconnected Markets:CNFA concentrated on improving delivery of and access to veterinary services and feed provision centers for poultry and small ruminants and strengthening the supply of agricultural inputs for cowpeas with a specific emphasis on Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) bags for improved storage practices.
  4. Increased Access to Finance, Innovation and Private Sector Investments: REGIS-AG worked with private-sector investments to design and market financial products that will expand access to services, particularly for women. It also aimed to improve the enabling environment for local and regional private-sector investment by building trust between value chain actors and increasing their voice at the policy level.
  5. Focused on Gender and Women’s Empowerment REGIS-AG employed a comprehensive approach to engage both men and women in overcoming structural biases and barriers in the three target value chains through education and integration into the formal market economy.

Partners:

  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
  • Association Nigérienne pour la Dynamisation des Initiatives Locales (Karkara)
  • Association for Catalyzing Pastoral Development in Niger (AREN),
  • Association Nodde Nooto (A2N)
  • The Association pour la Gestion de l’Environnement et le Développement (AGED).

Establishing Effective Partnerships to Control the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)

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In Georgia, hazelnuts and other crops are under threat by the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). Since 2016, USAID and CNFA have worked together to support the BMSB efforts of the Government of Georgia through the Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Program (REAP), and today continue working together through the USAID Agriculture Program and the Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project (G-HIP).

 

View video on partnership here.

Leveraging Public-Private Sector Partnerships to Protect Georgian Hazelnut Crop

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In Georgia, CNFA works with Trécé Inc. – a U.S. company based in Oklahoma that produces pheromone traps and lures – and other public and private sector partners through its USAID Agriculture Program and Georgia Hazelnut Improvement Project to help monitor the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) pest which threatens hazelnut and other crops across the country.

 

View video on partnership here.

USAID Agriculture Program Promotes Public-Private Partnerships, Supporting Local Supply Chains

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In collaboration with McDonald’s Georgia, our USAID Agriculture Program is promoting public-private partnerships to empower farmers and improve supply chains in Georgia. The USAID Agriculture Program supports farmers and agribusinesses by assisting the implementation of internationally recognized food safety standards and practices, promoting various agricultural producers and food processors to enhance their operations, and improving the safety and quality of Georgian-produced products contributing to increased demand on local and international markets.

 

View documentary on partnership here.