Amalima Loko

Amalima Loko

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Overview:

Amalima, the Ndebele word for a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal, and Loko meaning “genuine” or “authentic” in Tonga join to form Amalima Loko – a five-year (2020-2025) USAID-funded Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance program designed to improve food security in Zimbabwe through increased food access and sustainable watershed management.

Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Amalima Loko builds on the legacy of its predecessor Amalima, a seven-year Resilience Food Security Activity also implemented by CNFA that worked to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable Zimbabwean households.

The $75 million Amalima Loko program seeks to elevate the livelihoods of more than 67,000 vulnerable households across five districts of Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North: Binga, Hwagne, Lupane, Nkayi, and Tsholotsho. To accomplish this, the program utilizes a unique Community Visioning approach designed to strengthen community and household-level resilience, promotes nutrition-sensitive initiatives including a blanket food distribution program, and improves watershed infrastructure and practices that provide long-term foundations for improved resilience and agriculture-based livelihoods.

Program Approach:

  1. Enhance inclusive local ownership over food security and resilience planning and development through Community Visioning which strengthens the ability of communities to identify their own priorities and define solutions to support social cohesion and resilience. As the foundation of the Amalima Loko approach, Community Visioning engages stakeholders in an inclusive planning process and mobilizes community action groups around development priorities, including gender and youth dynamics, social safety nets and disaster risk reduction.
  2. Advance health and availability of soil, water and plant resources within the watershed by working at the micro-catchment level and using an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach to improve community ownership, use and governance of watershed resources. This IWRM approach supports the restoration and protection of natural resources while improving access to water infrastructure for household and productive use. Amalima Loko also utilizes “cash for assets” programming to provide a cash infusion to vulnerable households, while building the community asset base through watershed infrastructure and conservation works such as dams, soil conservation and erosion control measures, and rehabilitation of degraded areas.
  3. Improve human health and livelihoods by strengthening individual and household capacities to weather shocks and stresses, and thrive with good health, a sufficient and stable asset base, and adequate and reliable income. The program also enhances nutrition and health for women of reproductive age and children under five by enhancing nutritional adequacy and healthy behaviors, implementing a blanket food distribution program using the “first 1,000 days” approach, and promoting diverse livelihood strategies based on village savings and lending group participation, business skill building, and asset accumulation to help households manage the risk and impact of shocks and stresses.

Partners: 

Input Credit Scheme Links Agro-Dealers to Farmers

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Agricultural productivity depends on the affordability and accessibility of agriculture inputs including seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers that are essential for improving yield and raising incomes (AGRA, 2013). Unfortunately, farmers in Rwanda must incur significant up-front investment in agro-inputs before they can generate revenues to recoup these pre-seasonal expenses. Without access to finance, poor farmers are exposed to perpetual sub-optimal yield and low revenues due to their inability to invest in appropriate inputs. As a result, production levels of key crops in Rwanda including maize, potato, and vegetables, are relatively low.

Hinga Weze set up a pilot input-credit scheme in two districts to bridge the gaps in the financing of agro-input supplies for farmers and later scaled it up to link more agro-dealers to farmers to boost their production and incomes. This is in line with part of Hinga Weze’s goal to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems.

Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze has now enrolled 318 agro-dealers across its 10 targeted districts of Rwanda, into the scaled-up input-credit scheme to gain technical knowledge on agrochemical regulation, climate-smart agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and product knowledge in pesticides, fertilizers, and lime. They were also provided with training and skills in business record-keeping, warehouse management, and marketing strategies to give good services and products to farmers who were able to double their harvest.

Through Hinga Weze’s model and support, the agro-dealers were also linked to financial institutions that to date have provided 79 agro-dealers with loans worth over $277,242. For example, 11 agro-dealers from Karongi were assisted to access loans from banks and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) worth $21,019 (19,800,000 RWF) and were, therefore, able to provide agro-inputs on credit directly to farmers, who, in turn, were able to repay the loan upon harvesting. In the last three months, the scheme has assisted 1,838 farmers to access inputs worth $38,419.

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.

Participatory Cooking Demonstrations and Nutrition Education Empower and Improve Farmer Communities and their Knowledge

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The Hinga Weze Care Group (CG) model is a conduit for improved nutrition for farmer communities. Comprised of household members, the CG brings together community members for the purpose of nutrition education and cooking demonstrations so participants can learn how to prepare nutritious foods for themselves and their families. CGs are typically comprised of 50-75 households or approximately 100-150 people. CGs are facilitated by trained community-based volunteers (CBVs) to disseminate basic nutrition concepts, good nutrition practices, and food safety best practices to fight against all forms of malnutrition for women of reproductive age and children under 2. Additionally, the CBVs promote other healthy and essential practices such as water, sanitation, and hygiene best practices, gender education and empowerment, methods for improving savings culture, promotion of family-centered conflict resolution, and enhancement of community-centered development.

Feed the Future Hinga Weze Activity (Hinga Weze) introduced this model in the Gatsibo District, one of its 10 target districts in Rwanda. The Tuzamurane Twita ku Mirire Myiza (“Develop ourselves with a focus on better nutrition”) CG was one of the first beneficiaries of Hinga Weze, comprised of 73 households. This CG had difficulties raising money to purchase nutritious foods for its members, coupled with a general lack of knowledge on hygiene and food safety practices.

The leader of the CG, Mukazuza, noted that through support from Hinga Weze, the CG members, both men, and women, successfully acquired and applied knowledge on the components of a well-balanced diet and how to prepare nutritious meals from locally available foods or items grown in home gardens. CG members also received training on how to establish and maintain home gardens, which serve as a source of additional fruits and vegetables. Demonstrations on home gardening and nutritious cooking were held for the CG to participate in. Mukazuza credits the community nutrition transformation and improved gender equity to Hinga Weze’s presence in the district. She noted that, on a personal level, her own health and that of her grandchild has improved considerably due to improved knowledge acquired through her CG.

Since its inception in mid-2017, Hinga Weze aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ incomes through increased productivity, improved nutritional status of Rwandan women and children, and increased resilience toward the changing climate. Hinga Weze has supported 66,562 households with 14,009 cooking demonstrations taking place in communities across its 10 target districts in Rwanda, transforming nutritional practices, stabilizing gender norms, and empowering farmer communities.

USAID Yalwa

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Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Niger

Overview:

The five-year USAID Yalwa activity strengthens the capacities of farmers, producer organizations, agribusinesses and rural households in the Maradi, Tillabéri and Zinder regions of Niger to meet the growing demand for affordable, safe and nutritious food.

Yalwa, means “fulfillment” or “blossoming” in the Hausa language. USAID Yalwa supports USAID’s regional Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) program, which works with the Government of Niger to help citizens escape poverty and build resilience to natural, economic, and other shocks. USAID Yalwa includes a ground-breaking component on food market systems and follows five years of progress generated by the USAID-funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, also implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).

Program Approach:

USAID Yalwa’s market systems facilitation approach is based on collaboration with catalytic local actors and networks. Yalwa will work primarily through unions to provide services to producer groups (access to agro-inputs, finance, skills development, etc.), while building their capacity to provide services without project  support. The approach leverages commercial investments to build long-term linkages between buyers and sellers, ensure delivery of inputs and services, and supply nutritious food. It also builds the skills of farmers, traders, and processors so they can earn a profit from their businesses, seek out nutritious foods, and become self-reliant.

Yalwa targets 105,000 farmers in over 195 villages, and 160 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by fulfilling the following purposes:

  1. Enhance performance of market systems in the cowpea, small ruminant and poultry value chains.
  2. Increase the use of high-quality inputs and services such as seeds, fertilizers, and livestock and poultry feed, improving food production and storage, and supporting improved marketing, production, and access to finance and climate information.
  3. Increase local consumption of nutritious, safe and affordable foods by promoting demand and helping market actors to supply the food to targeted populations.
  4. Promote inclusive markets for women and youth by identifying barriers to market participation, and working with communities to encourage youth and women’s entrepreneurship and leadership.

Partners: 

USAID Yidgiri

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Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Burkina Faso

Overview:

The five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Yidgiri activity is designed to strengthen market systems, sustainably increase household incomes, and improve the nutritional status of women and children in Burkina Faso.

Aptly named Yidgiri, or “grow” in the Mòoré language, USAID Yidgiri is part of the second phase of the USAID Regional Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) project, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso to prepare for and effectively manage recurrent crises, and to pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty. By 2025, USAID Yidgiri aims to improve the resilience of market systems by establishing profitable linkages between producers and buyers in the Centre Nord, Sahel, and Est regions of Burkina Faso, and facilitate access to local and regional markets.

Program Approach:

USAID Yidgiri is strengthening the resilience of market systems by building individual and institutional capacities among agricultural market actors in Burkina Faso. USAID Yidgiri has three focus areas:

  1. Enhance performance of commodity market systems by establishing profitable market linkages between producers and buyers, improving livestock market system structure and governance, and improving the capacity of market system actors, including farmers, producer organizations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to access financial services and products.
  2. Increase use of quality inputs and services by developing business clusters, organizing seasonal commodity fairs, facilitating partnerships between producer organizations and industrial and institutional buyers, and leveraging financial services. USAID Yidgiri works at the systems level to decrease costs, improve quality, and educate farmers on the most efficient and effective use of available inputs and services.
  3. Increase consumption of nutritious, safe and affordable foods by increasing demand for and facilitating the market-driven development of diverse sources of such food, and employing social behavior change (SBC) interventions to ensure that all activities resonate with targeted rural markets, especially women and youth.

Partners: 

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.

Transforming women and children welfare through care groups

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Although Rwanda has registered strides in improving nutritional intake for women and children, numerous challenges still abound. According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability analysis (2015), about 20% of households nationwide are considered food insecure. In Gatsibo alone, the study found that about 3% of households are severely food insecure.

One Gatsibo resident who has experienced this challenge is Denyse Nyirabakunzi, a resident of Kageyo Sector, Gituza Cell, Kabacuzi Village. It was worrying not being able to properly feed her six children. But something more worrying caught Denyse’s attention.  This was a case of two malnourished children in her neighborhood who appeared sickly and underweight. They did not have enough to eat. Denyse wanted to help but was hampered by limited knowledge of nutrition.

‘’We didn’t know how to prepare diversified diets because of limited knowledge on nutrition, “observed Denyse.

An opportunity arrived when Denyse was recruited by community health workers to join one of the care groups usually made up of 20 to 30 members. Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is utilizing care groups disseminate nutrition messages, encourage members to save and improve hygiene. Hinga Weze mainly aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food to a changing climate.

Care group members harvest beetroot from a garden belonging to one of the members

Through her group, Denyse and fellow members are able to receive messages on nutrition and to conduct cooking demonstrations. Her group is one of the 1,219 new ones Hinga Weze has established in 10 districts, consisting of more than 34,000 households that are coached by community health workers and farmer promoters. In Gatsibo alone, Hinga Weze set up 2,000 households.

With help from fellow care group members care group, Denyse was able to provide nutritious foods for the two malnourished children, but also taught their families how to diversify and prepare diets and maintain hygiene to fight against germs.  And there is more.  Her care group has been able to save 51,000Rwf part of which is used to acquire nutritious foods for cooking demonstrations.

“I have learned to prepare a balanced and diversified diet and how to preserve vegetables to be used during dry seasons,” Denyse observed as she emphasized the importance of peer learning.

She has set up a kitchen garden near her home to serve as a model for other community members and also to provide vegetables for her own family. Using the demonstration garden, Denyse has so far 53 neighboring households who, in turn, set up their own kitchen gardens. Denyse is preparing for the larger mission of ensuring that her village is food secure and free of malnourished children.

USAID support to farmers in Bugesera promotes nutrition sensitive agriculture

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Didacienne Mukandaruhutse (60) a farmer, widow and mother of five (4 daughters and a son) has faced her fair share of difficulties having lived in a region of the eastern province of Rwanda that faces constant drought. Putting enough food on the table for her family, balanced and diversified, is difficult and ensuring that her children have the required nutrients for healthy growth and strength to support in cultivating her small land is a constant challenge.

Didacienne’s ray of hope came when she was mobilized together with other farmers in Bugesera District, Rukumberi Sector to attend trainings on adopting good agriculture practices to improve nutrition for women and children and adopting practices resilient to harsh climate change.

“Acquiring knowledge by practice about Maternal Infant and Young child nutrition was a life-time eye opener for me and my community as well as my children, we now know that, it is possible to ensure proper nutrition for a smallholder farmer with limited production’’ Didacienne said with a smile.

Whenever she needed nutritious vegetables, she would have to buy from the market not knowing it could easily be done in her compound. “Establishing a home garden was made simple because the community trainers who trained us did it practically with us- so we learnt by doing,’ ’she narrated.

The technical knowledge provided to Didacienne together with other farmers in 10 districts of Rwanda was made possible through the Feed the Future program of Hinga Weze which aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve nutritional status of Rwandan women and children. The practical trainings focus on helping farmers acquire skills and implement initiatives that transform their perceptions on nutrition-sensitive activities.

Mothers in Nyabihu district feed their babies after cooking sessions with nutritious food prepared by community health workers

Hinga Weze operates its activities in 10 districts and the nutrition activity has trained farmers in essential nutrition concepts, maternal feeding practices, optimal complementary feeding practices, cooking practices and the establishment of kitchen or home gardens to diversify diet at the household level, including basic budgeting principles to increase consumption of nutrition foods.  Hinga Weze aims to reach a 40% increase in the percentage of children 6-23 months receiving a minimum acceptable diet (MAD), and a 40% increase in the prevalence of women of reproductive age (15-49) consuming targeted nutrient-rich value chain crops.

In the last three months, Hinga Weze has trained 17,912 households on nutrition sensitive agriculture through Farmer Field School (FFS) and Community Farmer promoters (FPs). In addition, 1,484 home gardens were established and Hinga Weze distributed vegetable seeds (carrots, beetroots, red and yellow onions, cabbages, amaranths, spinach) and fruit seeds (watermelon) as part of the support to the household level benefitting 200 farmers who received improved seeds. One of the beneficiaries for this support was Didacienne.

“I look forward to saving money which I used to buy vegetables for my family as well as having the dietary requirements from my home garden which I planted after acquiring knowledge on proper nutrition,” she shared.