Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth

Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth

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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.


  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.


  • 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).


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Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Niger


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 102,700 farmers in over 387 villages, and 442 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 these foods 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.


USAID Yidgiri

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Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Burkina Faso


The five-year Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity (2020-2025) is designed to strengthen market systems for the agriculture sector, sustainably improve household incomes and enhance the nutritional status of women and children in Burkina Faso. By February 2025, USAID Yidgiri will improve the performance and resilience of these market systems by establishing profitable linkages between agriculture producers and buyers and facilitating access to local and regional markets, specifically in the cowpea, poultry and small ruminant value chains.

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) initiative, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso to effectively prepare for and manage recurrent crises and pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty. The Activity is implemented in the Centre-North, East and Sahel regions of Burkina Faso by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in consortium with the Association Nodde Nooto (A2N) and the Research and Action for Development Group (GRAD).

Program Approach:

USAID Yidgiri strengthens the resilience of food market systems around cowpea, livestock and poultry value chains by building individual and institutional capacities among producers and agricultural market actors in Burkina Faso through three focus objectives:

  1. Enhanced performance of commodity market systems by establishing profitable market linkages between producers and buyers, improving livestock market system structure and governance and enhancing access to affordable financial products and services for market system actors, including farmers, producer organizations and micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).
  2. Increased utilization of quality inputs and services by supporting business clusters, organizing seasonal commodity fairs, facilitating partnerships between producer organizations and industrial and institutional buyers and facilitating access to financial services. USAID Yidgiri also works at the systems level to improve affordability and access to quality inputs, while educating farmers on the most efficient and effective use of available inputs and services for improved productivity in each of the three target value chains.
  3. Increased local consumption of nutritious, safe and affordable foods by supporting producers, processors and other market actors to increase supply and meet rising consumer demand, respond to consumer needs and preferences and improve safety standards. USAID Yidgiri’s social marketing approach is complimented by social behavior change (SBC) interventions that increase consumer demand and raise nutritional awareness at the community and household levels. Special emphasis is placed on building the technical capacity of processors and traders to supply and market healthy products and increasing the incomes of producers to be able to afford them.


Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support

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CNFA implemented the five-year (2015-2020), $22,9 million USAID Feed the Future Egypt Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project to increase incomes and improve food security for at least 14,000 Upper Egyptian smallholder farmers across seven focal governorates – including Assiut, Aswan, Beni-Suef, Luxor, Minya, Qena and Sohag. Over five years, the project improved health and educational opportunities for women and youth and increased household purchasing power.


Egypt FAS used an agricultural value chain approach to improve horticulture productivity, access to markets, value-adding activities and commercial linkages with input and service suppliers.

  1. Improved Market Systems: FAS supported improved on-farm production, more efficient post-harvest processes and improved marketing of agriculture crops and products.
  2. Improved Nutritional Status of Women and Children: FAS integrated nutrition-sensitive agriculture by increasing income opportunities and nutrition education in its target regions.
  3. Incorporated Gender Inclusivity and Sensitivity: Gender was a cross-cutting issue in the FAS project and was considered throughout the program.
  4. Improved Agricultural Inputs and Services: FAS strengthened input suppliers, agriculture processors and support services and leveraged proven ICT capabilities to bring interventions to scale.
  5. Improved Governance and Private Sector Engagement: The project created a policy-enabling environment and instilled an understanding of the role of value chain governance and the importance of inter-firm relationships and stakeholder participation.
  1. Winrock International
  2. Arizona State University
  3. World Food Logistics Organization

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, a farmer, widow and mother of five, lives in a region of eastern Rwanda that faces constant drought. As a result, putting enough healthy, balanced and diversified food on the table to ensure her children had the required nutrients for healthy growth was difficult, as was supporting her family to cultivate their small plot of land.

To help improve her family’s nutrition intake, Mukandaruhutse joined together with other farmers in Bugesera District, Rukumberi Sector to attend trainings on good agriculture practices organized by the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity, which aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ income and improve the nutritional status of Rwandan women and children.

The practical trainings focused on helping farmers acquire skills to implement nutrition-sensitive agriculture initiatives that build resilience to the harsh effects of climate change.

“Acquiring knowledge by practice about maternal infant and young child nutrition was a life-changing and eye-opening experience for me, my community and even my children. We now know that it is possible to ensure proper nutrition for a smallholder farmer with limited production’’ Mukandaruhutse said with a smile.

In the past, when Mukandaruhutse needed nutritious vegetables, she would buy them from the market not knowing they could easily be produced in her own garden. “Establishing a home garden was simple because the community trainers who supported us offered practical skills so that we could learn by doing,” she explained.

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

Hinga Weze operates its nutrition-sensitive agriculture activities in 10 districts, training 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. Trainings also introduced basic budgeting principles to increase household savings for the purchase and 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 first three months of their nutrition activities, Hinga Weze trained 17,912 households on nutrition-sensitive agriculture through Farmer Field Schoosl and Community Farmer promoters. In addition, 1,484 home gardens were established and Hinga Weze distributed fruit vegetable seeds (watermelon, carrots, beetroots, red and yellow onions, cabbages, amaranths, spinach) to 200 farmers, including Mukandaruhutse, as part of their support to households.

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

Rwanda Families Empowered to Curb Malnutrition and Stunting

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Although Rwanda has recorded improvements, stunting and malnutrition remains a challenge especially among children and women. It is recorded at 38% among children under five and only 18% meet the Minimum Acceptable Diet (MAD). Young mothers are hit hard and Nirere Alphonsine (34 years) has not been spared. Her ordeal dates way back to a severed childhood when Alphonsine did not have enough to feed on causing deficiencies in vital nutrients. Now at 34 years of age, she is a mother of two who were born with mild signs of cognitive impairment due to poor feeding by their mother during pregnancy.

“Whenever I was pregnant, I would feel weak, unable to walk or do my chores. I did not know I was malnourished and this affected my babies,” It is a miracle that my first born is alive because I nearly lost my own life when I was pregnant,” Nirere says with a sigh!

Alphonsine is a resident of Nyabihu District, one of the districts with a high stunting rate of 59% (DHS 2015 Report). Her own sector of Rurembo has recorded many children and pregnant mothers who continue to lack enough nutritious diets. This directly adds to the rate of morbidity and mortality of mothers and infants. The community needed to be mobilized and rescued from poverty.

Nirere tends to her young daughter

A lifeline for Nirere came in 2017 when she was enrolled into a care group. These are some of the activities organised by Hinga Weze, a USAID/Feed the Future funded program that aims to improve the nutritional status of women and children. This is part of its core mission to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of Rwandan women and children, and increase the resilience of agriculture and food systems to the changing climate.

Hinga Weze uses Care Groups model (CGs) and Community-Based Volunteers (CBVs) to reach families and these are then encouraged to form or join clusters. Through these groups members are receive messages on behavioral change and are encouraged to adopt better nutritional practices. Beneficiaries are also coached how to provide care for children from 0-5 years old and adopt non-gendered roles in the households. Together with her husband, Nirere is taking the lead to encourage her cluster group called DUHASHYE BWACYI (Let’s fight against malnutrition and stunting) to grow set up home gardens of nutritious vegetables.

“We now have home gardens with vegetables for our families. Through training, we know how to prepare nutritious meals especially for pregnant women and children,” Nirere says happily. My husband too comes along and we have been taught to budget together,  He has learnt to be involved in our domestic management as well as supporting me in preparing home gardens and family meals. Nirere’s family is among the 34,000 most vulnerable households supported by Hinga Weze to improve food security in 2018.  Through CBV, the households were supported to establish 2,530 home gardens. and 21,510 benefited from integrated approaches, demonstrations and trainings on nutrition and adoption of new low-cost technologies in ten districts of Karongi, Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Nyabihu, Ngororero, Nyamagabe, Gatsibo, Kayonza, Ngoma and Bugesera. The future is bright for Nirere.

Nirere Alphonsine preparing vegetables together with her husband and child

Sifisimpilwenhle Community Health Club Raises Funds to Improve their Health

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Date: April 2018

Place: Ward 17, Gwanda

In western Zimbabwe, a group of dedicated community members from Gohole Village are working to improve their health with the support of the USAID-funded Amalima program. The members belong to Sifisimpilwenhle Community Health Club (CHC), named from the Ndebele word meaning, “we wish for a better life.” The CHC promotes improved health and hygiene behaviors and has inspired other community members to improve their own nutrition and health.

Five members hold goats which the whole group raises as their income generating activity to raise funds for building hygiene facilities in the members’ homestead

As part of USAID’s efforts to improve nutrition and health, the Amalima program works with communities to establish CHCs, like this one, in Amalima’s four districts of Bulilima, Mangwe, Gwanda and Tsholotsho. Since the program started in 2013, 415 CHCs have been established. Amalima provides a participatory health and hygiene education curriculum to train CHCs on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and on other Participatory Health and Hygiene curriculums. After members graduate, Amalima encourages CHC alumni groups to pursue income generating activities to keep the groups together, maintain momentum for practicing good WASH behaviors, and enable groups to fund the construction and establishment of hygiene enabling facilities, such as “tippy taps” handwashing stations, pot racks, and latrines. The CHCs support behavior changes in their communities around WASH practices. For groups that want to start an income generating activity, Amalima will first provide Village Saving and Lending training on group formation, constitution development, group fund development, loans and loan appraisal, and recordkeeping, so the groups the can build savings to fund their activity. Amalima will then provide a Selection, Planning and Management training on starting an income generating activity and provide ongoing support on the specific activity. Sifisimpilwenhle CHC was formed in 2014, and then members graduated from the Participatory Health and Hygiene curriculum in 2015. After graduating, 11 of the 33 club members formed a village saving and lending group to fund an income generating activity breeding goats. Amalima provides targeted, ongoing support to the group by training them on goat management, including nutrition, breeding, health, housing, and goat marketing. Members started by each donating two goats (for a total of 22 goats) and have since expanded the groups’ herd to over 60 goats. As most of their breeders will be kidding from April to May; they expect to increase their herd to over 100 goats.

Sifisimpilwenhle uses a portion of their Village Saving & Lending funds to support their income generating activities and uses the proceeds to fund hygiene enabling facilities in their homes. Members make regular contributions to their Village Saving and Lending fund to purchase supplementary feed, construct goat pens, and purchased a Boer buck from ICRISAT3 to improve their herd. Using money earned through the sale of their goats, all the members of the group have constructed latrines and set up other hygiene enabling facilities4 in their homes. As the group continues to sell their herd they also hope to use proceeds to support other community members. One group member Mr Hupulang Nyathi echoed that “as a group we are prepared to drill our own borehole if we manage to raise funds; so that we improve our health and hygiene practices. This will be an advantage to us and the surrounding community who don’t have access to adequate and clean water”.

Group member inside one of the goat pens which protects the groups’ herd

Sifisimpilwenhle is has also influenced other members of the community. Success from their goat project has inspired four other groups form their own income generating activities and village saving and lending projects and further support nutrition and health in the area.