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

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.

Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Wunguke Activity

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Overview

Rwanda has seen significant improvement in agricultural production over the past 10 years. However, challenges due to the limited use of improved seeds, fertilizers and other inputs, lack of market information and environmental constraints such as land size and soil health persist. The sector also faces challenges such as food insecurity and malnutrition among vulnerable households, with 20.6% of the Rwandan population experiencing food insecurity, 18.8% experiencing moderate food insecurity and 1.8% experiencing severe food insecurity. About 32.4 percent of under five years children are chronically malnourished (2021 Rwanda CFSVA). Recurring extreme weather shocks and global climate change also pose serious challenges to the continued growth of the sector. Modernizing the agriculture sector offers the potential to boost productivity and create additional economic opportunities, while improving food security and nutrition outcomes for rural households.

The five-year Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Wunguke Activity aims to increase incomes and improve nutrition in Rwanda by sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and strengthening the domestic consumption and market for high-value and nutritious agricultural products. Hinga Wunguke, which translates to “grow profitable” in Kinyarwanda, utilizes a market systems approach, engaging and working through existing public and private market actors and structures to facilitate inclusive, locally driven and sustainable change.

By 2028, Hinga Wunguke will significantly improve Rwanda’s agricultural productivity, strengthen resilience to climate change, increase profitability for farmers and enhance nutrition and food security outcomes by enhancing access to improved inputs, knowledge, technologies, practices, finance and markets. It will also support policies that enable and incentivize private-sector investment and growth.

Approach

  1. Increase Agricultural Productivity: Hinga Wunguke focuses on improving agricultural practices by facilitating farmers’ access to knowledge, information and improved inputs and technologies. This approach aims to increase productivity, while promoting sustainable agriculture and strengthening resilience to shocks, such as the environmental and economic impacts of climate change.
  2. Facilitate Access to Finance for Farmers and Agribusinesses: Hinga Wunguke facilitates access to finance and improves financial literacy skills of farmers and agribusiness so that they can obtain and manage funding needed to boost their production and incomes. Hinga Wunguke also prioritizes engagement with the private sector to increase value chain financing and farm and agribusiness investment opportunities.
  3. Improve Market Availability and Demand for Nutritious Foods: Hinga Wunguke expands farmers’ access to markets while increasing the availability and consumption of safe and nutritious food for Rwandan consumers. The Activity will accomplish this by using a market systems approach to support the private sector in developing and promoting nutritious products. It then helps generate demand by educating consumers on the benefits of nutritious products.
  4. Strengthen the Enabling Environment for Market-Driven Agriculture: Hinga Wunguke works closely with other USAID/Rwanda implementing partners to strengthen the enabling environment for the development and implementation of policies that strengthen the Government of Rwanda’s (GOR) role as an enabler and the private sector’s role as a main driver of agricultural growth. The Activity will facilitate improved public-private dialogue so that the GOR can better support the private sector to invest in and lead systemic changes that modernize the agriculture sector and drive inclusive growth.

Partners

  • MarketShare Associates (MSA):A global firm of creative facilitators, strategists, economists and experienced research and implementation experts who believe that both public and private institutions should contribute to social transformation. Having already a great deal of experience in Rwanda, MSA’s mission is to bring actionable insights to market development.
  • Rwandan market systems actors: A key part of the Hinga Wunguke market-oriented approach will be its Catalytic Service Provider Fund and its Market Systems Opportunity Grants, which together total over USD 5.3 million. These resources will allow Hinga Wunguke to engage, innovate, disengage, adapt, and scale with a large number of Rwandan market systems actors whenever needed. Hinga Wunguke will also use “Pitch Fairs” and an approach of “aggressive facilitation” to identify entrepreneurs and change makers and bring in new expertise where it is most appropriate to achieve desired results. Hinga Wunguke will continually seek participant feedback on the use of these resources, including through annual surveys, impact assessments, and quarterly focus group discussions with participants throughout the relevant implementation areas of Rwanda.

Cashew Nut Purchasing Network: Improving Incomes and Smallholder Farmer Guarantees

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The cashew industry is expanding rapidly in Côte d’Ivoire, one of the world’s top cashew producing countries, however its potential for quality production, processing and domestic and export trade has yet to be fully realized. To help farmers receive a quality-based price increase on cashew sales, Sonata Côte d’Ivoire (CI) formerly known as Huxley Cote d’Ivoire—a company specialized in the processing and export of raw cashew nut (RCN)—is partnering with the USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew Project. Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), PRO-Cashew aims to increase the incomes of farmers in the West African cashew sector by improving crop quality, supporting value chain linkages between farmers and agribusinesses and strengthening efficiency and quality in production and trade.

As part of the PRO-Cashew Agricultural Extension Grant program to establish stronger supply chain linkages between producers and processors, Sonata CI was selected to receive a three-year $200,000 grant to invest in a Supply Chain Program to offer training on good agricultural practices and post-harvest handling to more than 10,000 cashew producers.

At the start of the 2020/2021 cashew season, PRO-Cashew supported Sonata CI to train 30 Lead Farmers and Sonata CI staff on good agricultural practices. These Lead Farmers then trained an additional 2,581 producers across five regions where the company’s collection centers are located. Supported by PRO-Cashew, Sonata CI also facilitated the organization of cashew producer groups in each locality, establishing a high-quality RCN supply network. By offering competitive prices to farmers and supporting quality production through training, Sonata CI is improving agricultural practices and incomes for cashew producers across Côte d’Ivoire and helping farmers invest their profits back into their production.

Sameer Kohinkar, the procurement manager of Sonata CI.

“The project has given a tremendous boost to the implementation of our procurement strategy,” said Sameer Kohinkar, Procurement Manager of Sonata CI since 2018. “The training of trainers and producers led by PRO-Cashew and the establishment of producer groups in the villages have enabled us to build a reliable network of producers and cooperatives in the major cashew producing regions of Côte d’Ivoire,” he added. “Now, thanks to our purchasing network, in less than two years, we have developed a strong supply system. In return, we pay cash at a price set by the state trade regulation authority, and we offer price-based incentives to encourage farmers to produce good quality nuts, which results in a higher price for the farmer,” Kohinkar explains.

The Sonata CI Supply Chain Program has only been active for a year and a half, but the preliminary results are promising. The volume of cashews purchased directly from farmers by Sonata CI, without intermediaries, increased by 59.9% from 1,614 tons to 2,581 tons from May 2020 to May 2021. Aiming to incentivize quality RCN production, Sonata CI developed an agreement with farmers to increase the minimum price of 305,000 FCFA/MT, approximately $505/MT, set by the Government of Cote d’Ivoire, by 10,000 FCFA/MT or an additional $16. Sonata CI’s higher purchasing price encourages producers to adopt quality production methods. It also improves farmer access to more profitable markets while improving supply chain efficiencies (i.e., developing a dependable and quality RCN supply).

Improved Farming Practices Increase Fish Yields in Zambia

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Esther Siazilo and her family have been living in the Nazilongo area of Kalomo district in the Southern Province of Zambia for 37 years. They produce maize, sunflowers and groundnuts and have a vegetable garden where they grow kale, tomatoes, onions and cabbage. In addition to producing crops, the family is also involved in fish farming, which they started in 2014 with the construction of a fishpond measuring 15 m x 10 m.

At the time the pond was constructed, Siazilo and her family did not have any knowledge of farming fish for consumption, but they were inspired to launch this business after Siazilo’s husband, Jones, discussed the idea with a fish farmer in Kalomo town.

By 2021, the Siazilo family had solidified their fish farming business and joined the Nabuyani Fish Farmers Cooperative. Through the cooperative’s collaboration with the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program implemented in Southern Africa and Moldova by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Siazilo received technical support from two paired assignments involving U.S.-based volunteers virtually collaborating with local volunteers working on the ground.

The first assignment, in April 2021, focused on improving feed formulation. With support from local volunteer Abraham Muluku, head of the Nutrition Task Force at Zambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock headquartered in Lusaka, and New Jersey-based volunteer Dr. Juli-Anne Royes, an aquaculture consultant with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Siazilo learned how to formulate feed from local ingredients in addition to implementing recommended methods for fish feeding, applying feeding rates and keeping records.

The Siazilo family with their harvest.

The second assignment, in September 2021, was in pond construction and management. This time, local volunteer Twaambo Buumba and West Virginia-based volunteer Dr. Dan Miller taught Siazilo how to select sites, identify water sources and monitor water quality. They also recommended pond sizes and techniques for improving weed management, stocking density and pond fertilization. Both trainings included theoretical and practical information on fish farming.

After the first assignment, Muluku observed, “I was impressed by the commitment shown by Mrs. Siazilo as she was the one encouraging women in the community to participate in the practical aspects of formulating feed.”

It was therefore not surprising that the Siazilo family quickly put into practice what they had learned from the two assignments by implementing recommendations to improve feed quality, feeding rates, feeding methods, site selection, pond maintenance and record keeping. They also quickly saw the benefits of these changes.

During the August 2022 harvest, the family reaped over 300 kg of fish from one pond which had been stocked with 1,500 fingerlings. They sold the fish for $2.84 (ZMW45) per kg, which earned them approximately $794 (ZMW12,600). They then used their earnings to buy 3,500 fingerlings, which allowed them to stock two ponds with tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)—filling one pond with 2,000 fingerlings and the other with 1,500 fingerlings.

Reflecting on the impact that the training had on her family’s fish harvest as a result of using improved inputs and management practices, Siazilo said, “I remember how disappointed I was when we started and only managed to harvest 75 kg of fish after stocking the pond with 1,500 fingerlings and rearing the fish for close to a year. At harvest, the fish were less than 100 g and we could not even sell them, so we just consumed them as a family. At the time I told my husband that I was not interested in fish farming anymore because I did not see the benefit.”

She then explained how she has inspired other women in her community to take up fish farming by sharing her knowledge and, with the help of her husband, training local women to farm. Together, 25 of these women have even formed a fish farming group and 10 of them have already constructed fishponds to start their farms. “I am so proud of my wife, especially the passion she has of encouraging other women to engage in fish farming,” said Jones Siazilo. “You can tell that she is happy with her achievements and willing to show others that they can do it as well.”

With the knowledge and skills they gained through F2F, the Siazilo family now has six fish ponds—four ponds measuring 25 m x 15 m, one pond measuring 15 m x 10 m and another measuring 10 m x 12 m. To ensure that they have a continuous supply of fish to satisfy their customers’ needs, they purchased quality fingerlings from professional hatcheries and commercial feed from a fish feed manufacturing company, which they alternate with the feed they produce themselves. With their earnings from fish sales, they also now have enough money to buy quality inputs for their crop production.

USAID Supports Kaduna Grain Aggregator to Access Finance and Boost Global Food Security

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As the world faces unprecedented challenges and worsening food crises, the demand for grain has skyrocketed and, with it, its cost. In Nigeria, producers and marketers like Kaduna-based grain aggregator Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd have the opportunity to help meet growing local and international demand by producing more grain and seizing a larger chunk of the global grain market.

Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd specializes in the cultivation and processing of grains such as maize, sorghum, millet and soybeans for local and international buyers. To help ensure the consistent supply of grain, they work with companies in North-West Nigeria who produce fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), such as Cadbury PLC, Nestle PLC, Flour Mills Ltd, Guinness Nigeria and other specialized feed and food processing companies.

In an effort to scale up operations, Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity to receive support in accessing finance valued at over $4,705,882 (1.5 billion Naira) from financial institutions across the country. The Activity provided training on good agronomic practices to 348 lead farmers in the company’s outgrower network during the 2021 wet season, which qualified the farmers to receive input loans worth $4.2 million (1.6 billion Naira). They also helped improve farmers’ knowledge on cultivation best practices, which increased their productivity and incomes, and in turn, improved Adefunke Desh’s production and supply.

Adefunke Desh representative displays communication collateral developed during Activity workshop.

Simultaneously, the Activity supported the agribusiness to develop a planting management database, which helps them manage their farmers’ progress and track input distribution, farming and harvesting information. They also facilitated an organizational performance improvement intervention which helped the firm strengthen their operations and engage in an environmental and social impact assessment. This support enabled Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd to access an additional $2,910,621 (1.3 billion Naira) in finance through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, distributed by Sterling Bank PLC.

“We were able to easily access finance because our organizational performance improved with support from the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity and the environmental and social compliance they helped us to obtain. We are excited at what lies ahead of us,” said Adeoluwa Adeshola, Adefunke Desh’s managing director.

The ongoing support provided by the Activity continues to help Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd achieve their expansion, drive their competitiveness and increase the incomes of smallholder farmers within their network. With a solid reputation for producing and supplying top-quality grains to FMCG companies, Adefunke Desh Nigeria Ltd is well on its way to becoming a market leader among grain aggregators in Nigeria’s agricultural sector. Additionally, by maintaining a consistent and reliable supply chain for grain cultivation, aggregation and processing in Nigeria, the firm, and by extension, the Activity, is boosting food security across the country and around the globe.

Commodity Association Applies New Knowledge to Increase Farm Yields and Unlock Access to Finance

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Maize is an important staple food in Nigeria with the country producing over 33 million tons in 2018, making it  the largest producer of maize in Africa[1]. Not only is maize the most consumed staple food in Nigeria, but a recent study also reported that 50 – 70% of the country’s maize is used to manufacture poultry feed, another key product for farmers[2]. Therefore, to properly support this industry, it is no surprise that the successful cultivation of maize, like any other crop, depends on the correct application of inputs and best practices to enhance efficiency and boost productivity for farmers.

Conscious of how insufficient practices have impeded their productivity in previous years, the Ebonyi State chapter of the Maize Growers and Processors Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN) partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity to arm themselves with new knowledge and apply improved maize cultivation practices in seed distribution, fertilizer application and soil tillage. Supporting their commitment to commercialize maize production and meet growing demand, the USAID Activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture facilitated trainings on good agronomic practices for 350 MAGPAMAN lead farmers in the state. The lead farmers then went on to cascade the training to 910 additional farmers.

Members of MAGPAMMAN meet with CNFA and USAID during a visit to Ebonyi State.

According to MAGPAMAN’s State Chairman, Chief Ebere Orji, the training provided by the Activity in July 2020 helped farmers learn maize production best practices, which unlocked Eco Bank input loans for the 2020 wet season worth $415,000 (171.4 million Naira) through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Program. He added that the farmers also successfully applied these practices during the 2021 planting season, earning input loans worth $367 (157,461 Naira) for each of the 1,260 trained farmers.

“We were able to put our knowledge from the Activity’s good agricultural practices training into good use. In 2021, I harvested about 210 bags (21 tons) of maize on my 300ha farm because I applied the information I learned from their training”, Chief Orji said. He added that as a result of their increased yields, his members could also repay their loans to Eco Bank.

Today, farmers can boast of their improved yields and access new funding opportunities that expand their farm productivity, improve their incomes and sustain their livelihoods. Additionally, the Activity’s continued support to MAGPAMAN will help the commodity association position themselves well enough to take advantage of the opportunity to produce maize on a commercial scale. The Activity will keep supporting the commodity association to strengthen their knowledge on enterprise fundamentals and enhance their leadership skills, enabling them to stand out as commercial maize producers in Ebonyi State.

[1] https://www.iita.org/cropsnew/maize/#1620923190234-4da3b54a-b683

[2] https://babbangona.com/maize-farming-in-nigeria-exciting-facts-you-should-know/

Musgola Fish Farms to Double Production through Access to Finance

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Nigeria’s annual fish production currently stands at 0.8 million metric tons per year, which is 2.7 million tons short of the local demand. To help increase domestic production and meet local demand for one of the country’s most consumed proteins, fish production firms like Musgola Farms Ltd need all the support they can get to improve their output, quality and capacity.

Since 2021, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity has provided technical support to Musgola Farms Ltd, a fish production firm based in Minna, Niger State, by helping them structure a business plan proposal to access $56,470 (24 million Naira) in finance through Sterling Bank’s Women and Youth in Agriculture Finance (SWAY-AGFin) product.

The firm received the payment in two disbursements of $28,235 (12 million Naira), each over a six-month moratorium period and with a standing agreement to keep receiving funds on a rolling basis. They received the first disbursement in October 2021, which they quickly paid back, and received another $28,235 (12 million Naira) in June 2022. With the funds from the first disbursement, the company turned over a profit of $9,827 (5 million Naira).

“We completed the first production cycle with the $28,235 (12 million Naira) we received, and we sold about $38,062 (17 million Naira) worth of fish,” said Umar Musa, CEO of Musgola Farms Ltd. He added that the firm will continue to access $28,235 (12 million Naira) or more on a rolling basis as they adhere to the repayment window per cycle over the next two years.

Musgola Farms Ltd representatives during a field monitoring visit to Minna, Niger State.

Highlighting how the funding helped his business increase its production capacity and produce more fish, Musa, who is also the founder and head of a fish cluster in Minna, said, “The money we received from Sterling Bank helped us to increase our fingerling stocking capacity from 100,000 per annum to 130,000.” He noted that the firm was also able to increase their fish feed production to provide feed,  not just for his farm, but for the rest of his 300-member fish cluster which owns over 2,500 ponds, each with a stocking capacity of at least 5,000 fingerlings.

Musa expressed confidence that the firm will sustain their relationship with the bank in order to access more funding but noted that the firm needs more working capital to meet the growing demand for fish products, especially in nearby Abuja where demand for catfish products is high.

“Our cluster controls the fish market in Minna, but we want to acquire a market share in Abuja where we know demand is very high,” he said.

With an annual product shortage of 1.9 million metric tons of fish, much support is still needed to optimize production to cover this gap. The Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity will continue to support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the aquaculture value chain to enhance their performance and strengthen access to finance, enabling them to expand their businesses and optimize their growth.

Champion Small Ruminant Trader Serves as a Role Model for Future Women Entrepreneurs

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Adiaratou Sangaré is a small ruminant trader from Yanfolila, Mali, who has been perfecting her practice for over 13 years. At age 37, the mother of six is also a member of the Association of Small Ruminants Traders of Yanfolila, a partner of the Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa Activity, which works to strengthen market systems, sustainably improve household incomes, and improve the nutritional status of women and children in the Sikasso sub-zone.

Over the years, Sangaré has established a climate of trust with local breeders who have agreed to sell her their animals and provide payment after the animals’ sale. Additionally, with Sangaré’s experience and through the investment of a close relative who grants her interest-free loans, she leads her business and ensures that she can afford healthcare, school and clothing fees for her children without having to turn to financial institutions for support.

To facilitate market opportunities for farmers and entrepreneurs like Sangaré working across the Southern Zone of Mali, Sugu Yiriwa organized seven small ruminant fairs in line with the Tabaski holiday from June 25 – July 8, 2022. The fairs aimed at enhancing participants’ access to critical business linkages and breaking the cycle of middlemen who dominate the small ruminant market.

Adiaratou Sangaré awarded best buyer prize at Koumantou fair.

Sangaré attended the Sugu Yiriwa fair in Niena on June 25 before participating in the Koumantou fair, where she was awarded Sugu Yiriwa’s best buyer prize for purchasing 558 heads of sheep and goat worth $57,365 (36,756,500 FCFA). As the Tabaski holiday approached and the demand for sheep and goats grew higher, Sangaré benefitted from increased prices at the fair in her hometown of Yanfolila and sold 478 animals for $93,446 (59,875,792 FCFA). Here, she was again awarded a prize from Sugu Yiriwa, this time as the best seller in Yanfolila.

Sangaré serves as a role model for her community and is currently providing hands-on training in price negotiation and animal quality assessment to three women who shadowed her at the fairs. Sangaré has also created 10 permanent jobs for eight small re-sellers and two laborers, as well as temporary labor jobs during periods of intense activity. Additionally, at the community level, she provides sheep on credit for community events.

Reflecting on the fairs, Sangaré said, “Thanks to Sugu Yiriwa, I found all my needs for quality animals without having to travel far away, which led me to reduce my costs and maximize profits. I am also proud of myself for having received the biggest buyer prize in Koumantou. This grand gesture motivates me to participate in Sugu Yiriwa’s events in the upcoming year.”