Extending Animal Health in the Department of Takeita, Zinder Region

Extending Animal Health in the Department of Takeita, Zinder Region

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Aichatou Ali Mamadou is a shining example of what one can achieve with passion, hard work and support from the right sources. Born and raised in the city of Zinder in Niger, she had always dreamt of pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

After completing her primary and secondary studies, she enrolled in the prestigious Inter-State School of Veterinary Sciences and Medicine (EISMV) in Dakar, Senegal, where she excelled and graduated with honors. Then, after defending her thesis, Mamadou returned to her hometown and started working as an assistant veterinarian to gain experience and work toward fulfilling her dream of opening a veterinary clinic. However, with a lack of financial and material resources, she found herself struggling to start her own business.

After considering a bank loan, Mamadou became aware of the USAID Yalwa activity’s call for local private veterinary service (LPVS) providers, as part of its plans to finance five new LPVSs and increase the number of local livestock assistants from 343 to 400.Although LPVS networks already existed in Yalwa’s other areas of intervention, they did not yet exist in the department of Takieta where USAID Yalwa supported 12 small ruminant producer organizations, bringing together 526 members distributed as follows: 221 men, 305 women and 227 youth.

USAID Yalwa’s support to LPVSs centers around three areas: 1) preliminary direct support—which supports LPVSs to obtain the authorization and documentation needed to practice and meet health service mandates as well as to establish a simple operating system for montioring profit; 2) direct support for clinic installation—which drives investment for start-up activities, construction and equipment acquisition (cold chain, means of transport, etc.); and 3) technical support to clinicians–which serves to strengthen the capacities of veterinarians and their assistants, both through managerial and technical training.

“It was an unexpected opportunity for me to learn about Yalwa’s grant because it was exactly what I needed and was looking for,’’ said Mamadou when remembering reading the call for application the first time.

Through this support, Mamadou was finally able to start her business in 2022 with all the necessary equipment, medicine and surgical materials, including cold chain storage units for vaccines and medications. She also recruited 34 individuals to work under her supervision, ensuring better animal health services could be provided throughout the Takieta department.

Her business’ success was shown in February 2023, when she accumulated around $1,300 (700,000 FCFA) in sales. This number will only continue to grow, with awareness on the importance of livestock vaccination becoming more prominent in local communities and with farmers being offered more affordable prices to receive private veterinary services.

Today, Mamadou continues to provide top-notch veterinary services and advice to farmers in her region. Through her strong expertise, dedication and commitment to animal health and leadership, she has also inspired the community around her, especially considering the rarity of women-owned veterinary clinics in Niger. Mamadou’s story is a shining example of the potential one can achieve when provided with the right tools to succeed.

Harnessing Innovative Technologies and Business Linkages to Increase Food Security in Niger

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Agriculture technologies, farmer-to-farmer connections and access to markets are important determinants in ensuring that families and communities have access to a reliable source of quality food that is affordable. Business-to-business events strengthen linkages between market systems actors across locations, including input and technology suppliers, microfinance institutions, and farmers’ producer organizations. With the aim of increasing these important linkages, from June 6-8, 2023, USAID Yalwa facilitated the Technology and Innovation Market in Maradi, Niger to scale emerging innovative technologies to new potential users and to create business opportunities for market system actors, particularly youth, women entrepreneurs and people living with disabilities.

The Market showcased 26 producer organizations, 22 private enterprises, three NGOs (Catholic Relief Services, CARE International and ONG Niger Développement (N-DEV)) and the University of Maradi from the Dosso, Niamey, Maradi, and Zinder regions. Exhibitors promoted technologies related to food processing, animal production (e.g., small ruminants, poultry, livestock feed, poultry feed, technical inputs) and agricultural inputs (fertilizers such as locally produced natural rock phosphate). With over 207 exhibitors, USAID Yalwa’s collaboration with the Government of Niger and other USAID implementing partners (Sahel Collaboration and Communication, Livestock System Innovation Lab, and Youth Connect) contributed to the Market’s success. For example, N-DEV strengthened business relationships with individual buyers through the marketing of poultry incubators, dryers and mills and solar-powered irrigation pumps. Further, forty-six young entrepreneurs who were selected through Yalwa’s Marketplace Entrepreneurship and Youth Entrepreneurship for Rural Innovation in-kind grant funds established business relationships with exhibitors and increased their knowledge about innovative technologies.

Ali Sayabou, an entrepreneurial farmer from Yalwa’s grant program in the Maradi Region, was interested in the Market to see different incubator technologies for his chicken coop expansion.

“I was really impressed with Technology/Innovation fair this year. Exhibitors showcased an incredible array of advanced agricultural technologies. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration of the solar-powered irrigation pumps and the large incubators. The company representatives were very knowledgeable and ready to answer all my questions,” he said. “I would have liked to see more affordable specialized machines for small farms, but overall, it was a rewarding experience and I came away with lots of ideas to modernize my operation.”

To address the needs of farmer like Sayabou, USAID Yalwa has two funding programs for youth and women entrepreneurs, namely the Market Entrepreneurship Program and the Youth and Rural Innovation Entrepreneurship Program. These programs aim to provide farmers with equipment, agricultural processing products and training in several areas such as equipment maintenance, management, etc.

The Market exhibitors sold products and materials worth $6,743.90 (4,135,000 FCFA) over the course of the three-day event. Balami sheep and natural rock phosphate fertilizer were the most frequently purchased items by producer organizations, pointing to the strength of Yalwa’s partnerships with the University of Maradi and SOFIA S.A. As next steps, USAID Yalwa will monitor after-sale services and develop a joint plan with other implementing partners and stakeholders to scale the accessibility of technologies across partner projects’ intervention areas. The Technology and Innovation Market was such a success that many participants requested it be an annual event to continue the momentum of creating linkages across markets, businesses, and technologies.

Increasing Access to Agriculture Machinery to Improve Productivity of Administrative Boundary Line Farmers

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Low productivity is a persistent problem in Imereti, a landlocked administrative region in western Georgia, bordered by the Russian occupied territory of Samachablo (South Ossetia) and therefore considered an Administrative Boundary Line territory (ABL). Very few farmers in the Imereti region have access to machinery and equipment in the ABL, especially due to the privatization of assets by the state-owned Mekanizatori LTD. To address this market failure, in 2023 the USAID-funded Resilient Communities Program invested in five private sector companies to de-risk investments and open Farm Service Centers (FSCs) along the ABL. 

Outside view of the Alva Ltd. Farm Service Center.

One notable success story regards Alva Ltd., a FSC located in the Sachkhere municipality of the Imereti region that caters to four ABL communities. With the Program’s support, Alva Ltd. acquired modern, high-capacity agricultural machinery and integrated much needed mechanization technologies into their services. Soon after receiving support from the Program, Alva Ltd. began providing machinery services to 50 ABL farmers for cultivation, tilling, pressing, and harvesting. These farmers are expected to improve their productivity, and increase the amount of land they can cultivate. Alva Ltd. also plans to start offering services to 500 additional farmers along the ABL in Sachkhere municipality, resulting in a significant transformation of this region’s agricultural landscape. 

Adaptive Management in Practice: Glola Natural Disaster

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The devastating landslide that struck the Shovi Resort on August 3, 2023, had an acute impact on the ABL (Administrative Boundary Line) community of Glola. Nearly all 110 households in the area were financially impacted by the disaster, as the village is reliant on tourists that vacation at the resort. Additionally, many tourism accommodation providers had previously taken out loans which could not be repaid due to the landslide’s impact on the tourism economy. 

The USAID Resilient Communities Program took quick action to support the continuation of businesses in the community, to maintain incomes and livelihoods and prevent the outmigration of disheartened residents of Glola. Within less than six weeks of the disaster’s occurrence, the Program designed and began implementing disaster response efforts. Specifically, the Program supported the local municipality to repair a water pipe headway in Glola that was destroyed during the landslide. It was urgent to repair the headway before winter, to prevent the village’s sole water source from freezing.  

The Program also rapidly designed a Request for Applications (RFA) to support the community’s tourism sector. This RFA will provide grants to guesthouses and local food and agricultural businesses that supply food to tourists (bakeries, restaurants and other suppliers of food). To develop the RFA, the Program first visited Glola to assess the needs of local businesses. During this visit, the Program determined that many potential grantees would struggle with submitting a grant proposal. In response, the Program adjusted its approach and simplified the grant application form. The program also adjusted content presented at the grant information session to allow potential applicants to discuss their ideas and gain a good understanding of what the Program can and cannot fund. 

Lastly, the Program reached out to TBC bank, which had collected donations from the public for response efforts in Glola. The bank committed $20,000 to the Glola RFA. Additionally, the Program has allocated around $100,000 to support Glola’s businesses and strengthen the resilience of their local economy. 

Nigerien Producers and Businesses Participate in Technology and Innovation Market

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On a hot sunny day in early June, 2023, hundreds of local producers, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, a local university and government officials gathered in Maradi, Niger, to participate in the inaugural Technology and Innovation Market, facilitated by the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa activity. Featuring more than 207 different exhibits showcasing emerging agricultural technologies and innovations, the event aimed to create a space for groups to identify opportunities to work with and learn from each other to increase yields, improve product quality and boost sales, enhancing Niger’s agriculture sector.  

Events like these are critical to USAID Yalwa’s approach of strengthening market systems, with farmers and entrepreneurs like Ali Sayabou from Maradi being able to connect with people—many coming from other regions like Dosso, Niamey, and Zinder—that can help drive their operations to next level. Exhibitors promoted a variety of technologies related to food processing, agricultural inputs and animal and animal feed production, with Balami sheep, processed products, seeds and fertilizers recorded as the most sought-after items. For Sayabou, this was a great opportunity for him to connect with input and technology suppliers and learn how to use incubator technologies to expand his chicken coop.  

“I was really impressed with the Technology/Innovation fair this year,” he said. “Exhibitors showcased an incredible array of advanced agricultural technologies. I particularly enjoyed the demonstration of the solar-powered irrigation pumps and the large incubators. The company representatives were very knowledgeable and ready to answer all my questions. Overall, it was a rewarding experience, and I came away with lots of ideas to modernize my operation.” 

Reaching a total of approximately $7,000 (4,135,050 FCFA) in sales and fostering 134 new business relationships, the market was a success. This coming together of different market actor allowed groups like N-DEV, a Nigerien nongovernmental organization, to sell poultry incubators, dryers, mills and solar-powered irrigation pumps in mass to buyers, generating significant profits. Furthermore, 46 youth entrepreneurs who were recipients of USAID Yalwa’s Marketplace Entrepreneurship and Youth Entrepreneurship for Rural Innovation grants established business relationships with exhibitors and increased their familiarity with the innovative technologies presented at the event.  

With a lot of positive feedback, many participants requested that the Technology and Innovation Market become an annual event to continue fostering important linkages across markets, businesses, and technology providers. Following the event, USAID Yalwa has begun monitoring the relationships built and business deals made at the fair, with the goal of developing a joint plan with other implementing partners and stakeholders to scale the accessibility of technologies more broadly across ­­the activity’s areas of intervention.  

By helping businesses meet and partner with other businesses, the USAID Yalwa activity is working to build more sustainable livelihoods, promote knowledge exchange between market players and increase agricultural producers’ access to new markets and technologies. This is particularly important when it comes to affordable quality food, with strengthened linkages contributing to greater access for rural families and communities. 

Accelerating Investments When Access to Commercial Finance Is Constrained

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One example of how the USAID Resilient Communities Program adds value to Georgia’s market system is by sharing in the risk of investments. While there is a thriving banking sector in Georgia and the cost of agricultural loans are reasonable due to a government-subsidized loan scheme, access to finance remains the most significant constraint to small and medium enterprise (SME) growth. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average interest rate charged to SMEs in Georgia is high and Georgian SMEs are dependent on the banking sector for meeting financing needs. The overall share of SME lending remains low and access to finance is still considered a key obstacle to SME development. Therefore, one of the priorities of Georgia’s 2021-2025 SME Development Strategy is to improve access to finance.

Factors such as low diversity of financial products to meet the needs of businesses, a dominance of assets-based lending, and traditionally underserved rural clients lead to businesses postponing investments needed for business growth. Through the USAID Resilient Communities Program’s grants component, Georgian companies have been able to realize investments earlier and accelerate their growth.  

NutsGe Ltd is one of the few hazelnut processing companies in Georgia that produces value-added products, including sorted shelled and in-shell hazelnuts, roasted and blanched hazelnuts and hazelnut paste and powder. Their processing facility in Zugdidi sources raw materials from around 200 local suppliers from Zugdidi and Tsalenjikha municipalities. The Program co-invested with NutsGe Ltd to introduce a new packing line and increase its drying capacity. This investment will enable the company to assist more farmers and enter both local and international retail markets with its own brand and under private labels. When applying for the USAID Resilient Communities Program grant, NutsGe Ltd’s assets were fully collateralized against outstanding loans, making it impossible for the company to secure additional funding from commercial banks. However, as a result of the Program’s support, the company restructured $800,000 in existing loans and received a credit line of $1 million from the Bank of Georgia. 

Another grantee, SP Luka Bekauri—a family-owned business consisting of siblings Luka (22) and Sopo (24)—renovated their historical family house in Gudamakari community, Dusheti municipality in 2019 to transform it into a guesthouse. After opening their guesthouse in 2021, Luka and Sopo realized additional tourist activities, which were lacking in Dusheti municipality, would increase guests’ length of stay. The family considered offering an outdoor education camp but, like other small-scale seasonal businesses in Georgia’s tourism sector, banks considered their business high-risk and would not provide a loan with an affordable interest rate and low collateral requirements. Additionally, SP Luka Bekauri had already taken out a consumer loan with a 17% interest rate from a commercial bank to renovate the guesthouse and could not afford another costly loan to expand their business. Fortunately, a USAID Resilient Communities Program grant enabled Luka and Sopo to obtain the equipment they needed for an outdoor education camp, which will increase the resilience of their business over the long-term, allowing them to more easily secure business loans. 

Microfinancing and Technical Trainings Help Benin Farmer Get Ahead

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For the past 32 years, Marc Tasso, a cashew producer from the village of Gararou in northeastern Benin, has carefully worked to maintain his orchard. Over time, this task has become more arduous with difficulties in pruning the branches and weeding the floor affecting the quality and sustainability of his orchard, resulting in lower yields. His orchard soon became overgrown, limiting room for branches to fruit effectively and for crews to collect fallen nuts. To add to complications, any time or money put into rehabilitation and renovation initiatives—which are needed—would put serious strain on his livelihood since cashew production is his main source of income.

To support cashew producers in similar situations to Tasso, the USDA Food for Progress West Africa PRO-Cashew Project helps build capacity to rehabilitate and renovate their orchards. Through training sessions hosted by the Project, Tasso and other members from his community were able to learn about enhanced pruning techniques, how to identify aged cashew trees in need of replacement, proper spacing for planting, how to apply fertilizers most effectively and general maintenance and weeding best practices to facilitate the harvesting of fallen nuts. They also received financial skill building sessions focused on available financial services in their localities, personal financial management, financial management for agricultural domains, long-term financial planning, management of credit, risk management and insurance plans, knowledge of mobile money systems, e-security, financial security, networking and marketing, contractualization with cashew industry processors and gender dynamics in the cashew nut industry.

“My harvest was getting smaller and smaller as the trees got older,” Tasso said. “The trees were no longer producing at an ideal level. It was very difficult financially because the sale of cashew nuts brought me very little money, which made it even more difficult maintain my plantation and take care of my other needs.”

After consulting a Fédération Nationale des Producteurs d’Anacarde du Bénin (FENAPAB) agricultural adviser, working in partnership with the PRO-Cashew Project, Tasso was made aware of a plantation maintenance loan option available to him through PADME (Promotion et l’Appui au Développement des Micro-Entreprises), a microfinance institution in his village.

Marc Tasso on his cashew orchard.

From here, the adviser helped him file for the loan, and he was able to obtain $320 (200,000 FCFA) in credit. This allowed Tasso to hire professional service providers (PSP) trained by PRO-Cashew to help renovate his plantation. Among improvements, Tasso has spaced out his trees in the orchard to maximize production and rehabilitated older trees which are pruning to produce new yields. For others needing replacement, PRO-Cashew helped Tasso take advantage of a popular and successful program from the Government of Benin organized by their Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries called Programme National de Développement de la Filière Anacarde (PNDFA).  This program subsidizes close to 80% of the price per tree from approved nurseries sourcing high-quality plants with favorable traits that are climate resilient, have larger nuts and are known to be easier to transform. With PRO-Cashew having identified multiple of the government-approved nurseries in the region, the project subsidized close to $212 (132,000 FCFA) worth of trees, Tasso was able to obtain 220 grafted seedlings for only $35 (22,000 FCFA).

While waiting for his replacement cashew tress to produce their first harvest, Tasso intercropped his orchard with soybeans so that nitrogen fixation, a process designed to enrich the soil that supports the development of young cashew trees, could take place. This has already led to decent soy and cashew harvests which Tasso has been able to profit from—recovering a bit from last year’s financial hit due to weak yields.

“I’ve already harvested my soybeans and cashew nuts and I’ve repaid the loan and interest rate on time, thanks in large to the skills on cashew production I learned during the training course,” Tasso said. “My 7-hectare orchard, which used to produce barely a ton and a half of cashew nuts, has doubled its production thanks to the application of good agricultural practices such as weeding, pruning and, above all, the thinning that the PSP carried out in my field.”

As next steps, Tasso plans to increase his orchard’s production to five tons in the coming years, especially once all trees are fully productive. With more developments on the horizon still, Tasso’s income has already increased, making over $725 in sales (451,490 FCFA)—double the amount of his loan.

Once his new grafted seedlings start producing cashew nuts, Tasso will almost certainly be able to reach his production goals. With PRO-Cashew grafted seedlings taking three years to provide their first harvest—two years less than with conventional cashew seeds—these results are expected to happen sooner than later. Tasso is also working with Korosho, a PRO-Cashew grantee, to obtain agriculture certifications that will enable him to reach higher price points and reach international markets while upholding stronger standards of sustainability.

Empowering Agriculture and MSMEs: The Impact of the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity in Ebonyi State

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In Ebonyi State, southeastern Nigeria, a groundbreaking partnership between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Ministry of Business Development and the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity has sparked a remarkable transformation. Dr. Stephen Odo, the pioneer Honorable Commissioner for the Ministry of Business Development, spearheaded this collaboration, recognizing the crucial connection between agriculture and micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) development, and helped develop a digital portal in 2021. This portal serves as a central hub for information, processing loans, grant applications and even handling fund disbursement. By digitizing registration processes, the Ministry enabled cooperative societies to register online, and has since streamlined processes, reduced administrative bottlenecks and facilitated seamless updates and changes for registration of cooperative societies.

“The portal provides a comprehensive database accessible to farmers, cooperatives and MSMEs, with over 14,000 registered cooperative societies in Ebonyi State,” Odo said.

The impact of the portal in the last two years and the partnership with the Activity has been substantial. The portal further created ease of disbursement of funds to MSMEs by the Ebonyi State government’s NG-CARES program because all relevant information was already available through the portal, further bolstering support for agricultural businesses and ensuring financial accessibility and accountability.

The Impact of Technology and Collaboration in One Woman’s Farming Journey

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Over the years, Winifred Ifoma Elom, a farmer in Ebonyi State, Southeast Nigeria, has achieved tremendous success in rice production with the help of modern farming techniques. She started farming one to two hectares of land due to the limitations of manual labor. However, through a partnership with Hello Tractor, a company under the HIFAD umbrella, with support from USAID, she acquired a tractor. Through the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, she was connected to Hello Tractor and provided training opportunities. The partnership with USAID and Hello Tractor helped modernize her farming practices, bridging the gap between traditional and mechanized agriculture.

With the introduction of the tractor, Elom expanded her farming operations from two hectares to an impressive 100 hectares of rice fields. Rice production has significantly increased, resulting in a surplus of rice and generating excess income for farmers. The impact on women in the Afikpo community in Ebonyi State has been particularly notable; they can now hire the tractor to ease their work. After supporting their family’s farm work, women can now quickly plant crops on their own farms using the tractor. What used to take them weeks can now be done more efficiently and effectively. The tractor has given women the chance to expand their farms and increase their income.

Elom believes that agriculture is the number one priority of life since food is essential for survival. “The money you seek is in agriculture,” she said. “And running away from it would be a waste of time.”

The demand for tractor services is high, and Elom’s company, Dumure Teketeke Global Ventures, caters to individuals, farm owners, small farmers, cooperatives and nearby villagers. They even serve clients outside their town, extending their reach to other states such as Cross River and Anambra.

“Because the tractor is primarily used during the farming season, there are peak times when the machine is in high demand, such as during land preparation, planting and harvest season,” Elom said.

She notes the need for additional machinery like rice harvesters to ensure timely and efficient harvesting, preventing the loss of mature rice.