Building Resilience: Malian Farmers Lead Their Own Development

Building Resilience: Malian Farmers Lead Their Own Development

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Timothy Coulibaly is a maize, millet, and peanut producer in Farakala, Mali. In 2021, when Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa began to collaborate with his village, Coulibaly was selected to work as a community focal point, helping Sugu Yiriwa provide technical support to local farmers, producers, and entrepreneurs.

So far, Sugu Yiriwa has trained over 200 development leaders like Coulibaly to assist their communities in exchanging agricultural best practices in the Sikasso region. Through their training, these community champions elevate local voices, share knowledge with agricultural stakeholders, ensure that context-specific needs are addressed, and help develop locally-driven solutions.

In June 2022, Sugu Yiriwa hosted a training in Sikasso on conservation, cereal storage, and good sanitation practices for producing and handling dry cereals like millet, sorghum, rice, maize, cowpea, and by-products. The training highlighted the serious consequences that post-harvest losses can have across the grain supply chain, such as increased market prices, fewer livelihood opportunities, and negative health impacts. During this training, Coulibaly was introduced to multifunctional threshing machines and was able to see the equipment in action.

Given the poor capacity of threshing machines in Farakala and surrounding villages, Coulibaly realized that buying an axial thresher would be a great business opportunity that would fill a gap in his area by increasing productivity, revenue, and community resilience.

Reflecting on the machine’s potential, Coulibaly said: “In the past, 30 percent of our harvest was lost due to the lack of machines that could thresh the crops in a timely and efficient way. During the harvest season, producers were obliged to wait their turn for threshing and the results were not ideal. This exposed produce to animals and rain. If the produce was not stored well before threshing, farmers were at the mercy of mold and parasites that, in addition to being vectors of disease, have a negative impact on health and agricultural yields.”

At the end of the training, Coulibaly reached out to Sugu Yiriwa to help him buy a threshing machine for his community. “Sugu Yiriwa put us in touch with SOCAFON, a company based in Niono that manufactures agricultural equipment. Sugu Yiriwa field agents accompanied me throughout the process and helped me get a price reduction. Sugu Yiriwa also helped facilitate access to a loan of 2.5 million FCFA ($3,700), which covered both the purchase price and on-site training with the manufacturer’s technicians.”

Cereal crops are central to agriculture in the Farakala area and the new thresher provides great value-added for farmers, with a capacity of up to two tons of grain per hour. “In a single working day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., we can now thresh ten tons of grain, or 100 bags of 100 kg each,” Coulibaly said. “We provide threshing services for rice, maize, and sorghum farmers, and we have not stopped working since the arrival of the machine. Our work will continue until January, which is the end of the harvest season. I am currently working with my younger brother who is passionate and helps a lot.”

Operating the threshing machine costs between 7,500 FCFA ($11) and 10,000 FCFA ($15) per ton of maize, and between 12,500 FCFA ($19) and 15,000 FCFA ($22) per ton of rice. It operates at higher capacity and lower cost than the only other, old threshing machine in the area. Demand for Coulibaly’s threshing services is unrelenting. With the extra income he is now earning, he plans to repay his loan and buy another machine of the same type.

Sugu Yiriwa not only facilitates the acquisition of agricultural equipment, but also supports producers by offering training and advice to better manage their business and increase their profits. So far this year, two new threshing machines are up and running in Sikasso region thanks to Sugu Yiriwa and there are more to come.

Climate change has drastically reduced crop yields, lowered the nutritional quality of major cereals, and decreased livestock productivity in Sikasso. To cope with these impacts, Sugu Yiriwa promotes climate change adaptation initiatives designed to positively impact agricultural productivity in the grain sector, improve food security, and increase incomes and community resilience. This includes assisting local stakeholders, like Coulibaly, with the tools they need for more efficient harvesting and better storage, resulting in reduced effort and fewer products going to waste.

Collaboration with Local Credit Union Federation Improves Access to Credit for Producers in the Feed the Future RISE II Zone

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Access to finance is a major obstacle for rural producers who wish to invest in and strengthen their agribusinesses. Often, financial institutions consider agricultural sector financing to be highly risky and, as a result, offer few financial products to support smallholder producers.

To improve access to financing for cowpea, small ruminant and poultry value chain actors in the Centre-Nord, Est and Sahel regions of Burkina Faso, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity signed a partnership protocol with the Network of Popular Credit Unions of Burkina (RCPB) in November 2020. The partnership with RCPB, which is present in each of the Activity’s target regions and has many offices throughout the country, aims to build stronger relationships with producer organizations and ensure that farmers have improved access to credit.

In addition to strengthening access to finance, USAID Yidgiri collaborated with the USAID CATALYZE project’s financial facilitators to build the capacity of producers to apply for and receive funding. Together, they helped producer organizations develop and submit over 90 support plans, enabling them to negotiate their financing with the credit union network. To date, 14 cooperatives have received loans worth around $34,000 (approximately 18.75 million FCFA) to support their activities and grow their businesses.

The President of the Communal Union of Small Ruminant Producers of Boulsa, Sibdou Kabore, directing the animals to the sheepfold.

The communal union of small ruminant producers of Boulsa, chaired by Sibdou Kabore, was among those that received a credit loan. The union’s 12 women producers received around $7,500 (approximately 4.9 million FCFA) to conduct small ruminant fattening activities, which enabled them to acquire 96 sheep and feed for their livestock. With their first wave of fattened animals, they sold 34 sheep to local traders and delicatessens for a total of around $4,000 (approximately 2.6 million FCFA). With their second wave of fattened animals, they were able to sell 50 fattened sheep during the Tabaski celebration for a total of around $8,000 (approximately 5.3 million FCFA). Through these sales, the women will repay their loan on time and already plan to sell a third wave of fattened sheep  during other national holidays and end of year celebrations.

Sibdou Kaboré, one of the union’s producers, described her appreciation for the Activity and its support, enabling them to sustainably boost their business ventures. “Without the support of The Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri Activity, my cooperative could not have accessed such a large loan amount,” she said. “Thanks to the training received from USAID Yidgiri on small ruminant production techniques and the manufacture of livestock feed, we are able to carry out this lucrative activity properly.”

Increased access to finance is essential for producers like Kaboré to boost their agribusinesses and participate in key markets. By supporting initiatives that break down the barriers restricting producers, the local economy benefits—through the likes of new inputs, technology and businesses linkages—and the market system grows more resilient.


USAID Resilient Communities Program

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The five-year, $23.75 million USAID Resilient Communities Program (2022-2027) is designed to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) along Georgia’s Administrative Boundary Line (ABL). Driven by private sector engagement, host-country collaboration and catalytic grant investments, the Program builds resilience against shocks, enhances inclusion of marginalized and at-risk communities, including women and youth, and stimulates sustainable socio-economic development.

Through previous USAID-funded projects in Georgia implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the Program has access to a strong network of private sector, donor, NGO and Government of Georgia partners, which it uses to strengthen resilient and inclusive market systems and facilitate the development of diverse value chains. This increases revenues, creates jobs and builds community capacity to address market constraints and make key decisions. The Program targets communities along the ABL and the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with the goal of integrating them into the broader Georgian economy.

Program Approach:

Collaboration, flexibility, scalability and sustainability are central components of the Program. The following approaches are incorporated to successfully build resilience to risks and shocks, enhance inclusion and stimulate sustainable socio-economic development:

  1. Engage the private sector: The USAID Resilient Communities Program enhances productivity, accelerates knowledge transfer and improves access to markets for rural communities along the ABL. It uses its connection to a variety of businesses throughout Georgia to provide links to enterprises, including USAID program graduates who are ready to invest back in the industry.
  2. Host country cooperation: To co-invest in development solutions, the Program facilitates productive, functional, trust-based working relationships with key Georgian government agencies including the Rural Development Agency (RDA), Enterprise Georgia and Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA). These partnerships continue to be expanded and strengthened to benefit communities along the ABL.
  3. Investment in catalytic grants: The Program integrates matching grants designed to have longer and deeper impacts and strengthen market systems. It targets communities and market systems where investments will catalyze systemic improvements, build resilience and strengthen engagement, competitiveness and market access.


Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA): International agricultural development organization that specializes in the design and implementation of sustainable, enterprise-based agricultural initiatives. We work with businesses, foundations, governments, and communities to build customized local and global partnerships that meet the world’s growing demand for food.

Solimar International: U.S. small business with rich tourism development experience in Georgia. This includes developing a national tourism strategy and a COVID-19 recovery plan at the request of the Georgian government. This included designing new tour packages, tourism infrastructure and support services, and assessing and developing Destination Management Organizations.

Association Rural Development for Future Georgia (RDFG): Georgian NGO with more than ten years of experience in community development, disaster risk reduction (DRR), economic development and empowering women, youth and other marginalized groups in the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) and throughout Georgia. RDFG assists vulnerable communities in gaining equal access to services and opportunities.

The Policy and Management Consulting Group (PMCG): Georgian consulting firm with a wealth of economic analysis experience, including conducting value chain and niche market analysis. PMCG provides consulting services to government and nongovernmental organizations in community development and planning, private sector development, value chain analyses, MSME development and organizational capacity development.

New Digital Solution Supports Smallholder Farmers and Savings Groups to Access Finance

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Access to finance is one of the major barriers to increasing agricultural productivity for smallholder farmers in Rwanda. Bank branches are often located far from farmers’ homes, making it difficult for them to access the financial services needed to support and scale up their businesses.

Mobile financial services and microfinance institutions (MFIs) like Duterimbere MFI and Umurimo Finance Ltd are well-placed to combat this by offering solutions that improve access to finance and address issues like the high cost of transactions, high cost of reaching farmers in rural areas and low rate of farmer transactions, which also impacts the availability of financial data for proper loan distribution and decision-making. Since 82 percent of Duterimbere and Umurimo’s clients are farmers, they partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity to improve farmers’ access to finance in the districts of Kayonza, Gatsibo and Nyamasheke.

Hinga Weze and its MFI partners teamed up with ADFinance Ltd, a Rwandan company specializing in the design and implementation of digital solutions for the financial sector, and local mobile network operators to develop a SMS-based software called ADMobile. The software enables farmers to conveniently deposit and withdraw funds from their bank accounts and complete mobile money transactions with ease. After its launch, ADFinance Ltd provided training to MFI staff on the service’s usage and MFI staff, in turn, educated their farmer clients on how to use the new mobile tool.

The new push-pull service works by integrating the MFIs’ core banking systems with mobile money services from network operators Mobile Telephone Network (MTN) and Airtel. Through this mobile service, individuals and savings groups can access their mobile money wallets and make payments online, without needing to travel to a physical bank branch. The new mobile financial service therefore makes it easier for farmers to save income since they no longer need to spend time and resources traveling back and forth to the bank.

The service’s simplified withdrawal and deposit transaction processes also facilitate loan repayments quicker and more efficiently than before. During COVID-19 lockdown periods when physical movement in the country was restricted, the mobile platform not only helped farmers continue using financial services, but it also helped them save time, increase transparency, improve the security of group savings and reduce conflicts among groups. Participating MFIs also saw an increase in the volume of client transactions, lowering the cost of their operations and supporting farmers to collect enough data to make improved lending decisions.

To enhance access to ADMobile and increase the number of farmers utilizing the platform’s mobile financial services, the activity and its partners developed campaigns showcasing the platform’s benefits. than 1,300 smallholder farmers have accessed over $328,000 in loans through the digital system. Beyond its support to individual farmers, 674 savings groups have used the digital financial service to connect with MFIs and access new sources of funding.

Recently, ADFinance Ltd also successfully piloted a new mobile-based service called “Mobile Lending,” which enables the automated disbursement of small loans to bank clients utilizing a defined criteria and machine learning technology. Moving forward, ADFinance Ltd aims to scale up their services, allowing them to reach more farmers in remote areas of Rwanda, to expand their technology into other countries and, most importantly, to quickly and efficiently facilitate improved access to loans for farmers.

Youth Engagement in Agriculture Improves Access to Digital Technology and Extension in Rwanda

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In Rwanda, only 3.18 million out of 7.75 million individuals of working-age are employed, and the number has declined by more than 13 percent since August 2020. The agriculture sector also lost upwards of 47,000 jobs while the unemployment rate stayed relatively high at 25.5 percent among the youth population (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda).

Linking youth to agriculture can significantly contribute to innovation, job creation and agriculture sector development. The USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity works to attract youth in agriculture by increasing agricultural productivity, employing youth through internships, improving access to finance and strengthening youth capacity in digital and private sector extension. Since 2017, the Activity has reached 733,000 individuals, of whom over 24 percent were youth.

To support the development of youth entrepreneurs, the Hinga Weze Activity provided internships to over 200 youth and awarded $92,647 in youth-specific grants for companies including Mahwi Tech, Carl Group, Zima Enterprise and KOTIB. Using the grant funds, Mahwi Tech was able to transform its M-LIMA platform, a youth-owned agricultural market information platform, into an online marketplace that can serve the dual purposes of providing market information and facilitating market linkages. Similarly, technology company BK TecHouse was able to expand its online Smart Nkunganire System to support over 200,000 new farmers, including 51,324 youth, by improving their agricultural input and information distribution and digitalizing their agrodealer operations through a Mobile Order Processing Application.

Hinga Weze’s activities also strengthened youth capacity in extension by including youth in digital extension programming, integrating youth in public and private extension services and providing youth-friendly approaches to extension and farming through the New Extensionist Learning Kit (NELK). Hinga Weze trained 133 youth on the use of digital extension, 15 youth on digital extension content creation and 21 youth on extension video dissemination. To date, these youth produced six videos on improved maize cultivation and helped train 4,000 farmers on maize production techniques using the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International’s (CABI) App—a mobile learning application focused on the production, harvest and post-harvest management of maize.

“Youth in Rwanda have quickly adopted information communication technology (ICT) tools and platforms. By using youth to customize and promote digital technologies, the Activity is supporting the advancement of ICT and transforming the way agricultural technologies are transferred to smallholder farmers,” highlighted Laurence Mukamana, Hinga Weze Chief of Party.

While Hinga Weze continued to utilize traditional extension methodologies to help farmers adopt climate-smart and other good agriculture practices, such as on-site coaching and Farmer Field Schools, the Activity also partnered with master trainers from the Rwanda Agriculture Board and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to help youth expand engagement, training and digital tools to extension agents and farmers through the Government of Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi national extension program. By leveraging existing government and private sector structures, Hinga Weze was able to create ownership and ensure the sustainability of promoted practices and methodologies beyond the life of the activity.

Supporting Smallholder Farmers by Increasing Access to Affordable, Appropriate, and Effective Technology

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USAID Pakistan Agriculture Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA) was an Activity implemented by CNFA to assist Pakistani farmers transition from traditional to commercial farming, and increase smallholder farmers’ access to affordable, appropriate, and effective agriculture technologies.

Youth-Led Enterprise Accesses Finance to Scale-Up Soybean Production in Benue State

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Benue State is a major hub for soybean production in Nigeria, producing over 100 metric tons of beans each year– approximately 30% of the country’s total. But due to rising demand for oilseed, processors are turning to imports instead of relying on local production and Nigerian farmers, particularly smallholders, are facing pressure to maintain their market share by increasing their yields.

To support soybean farmers with meeting market demand and expanding their businesses, the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), facilitated training and connections between producers and financial institutions to enhance agribusiness performance and improve access to finance.

The Activity partnered with youth-owned soybean farm, Agojo Farms Ltd, to strengthen their business development skills, teach soybean production best practices and secure financing for increased production. The Activity trained Agojo Farm representatives on microenterprise fundamentals, group dynamics and leadership while breaking down barriers to accessing finance for youth. In line with the Central Bank of Nigeria’s requirements for their Agribusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), the Activity also supported Agojo Farms to prepare a business plan, which enabled them to secure a loan in early 2021.

“The AGSMEIS loan supported us to expand our soybean farm from four acres to 11 acres,” said Angbiandoo Agojo, CEO of Agojo Farms Ltd. “After learning to procure improved seed varieties, we also anticipate an increased yield of 15 bags of soybeans for every two acres of land, compared to just 10 bags in previous seasons.”

By building the capacity of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to improve their business development and production, particularly for those owned and operated by youth, the Activity supports soybean producers to access finance, provide employment and efficiently scale up their operations, improving livelihoods and fulfilling the country’s growing demand for soybean.

Since December 2018, the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity has facilitated access to agricultural-related credit and investment worth over 35 billion Naira ($96 million) for over 11,000 MSMEs in Nigeria. Over the next two years, the Activity will continue working with a range of market actors and stakeholders, with a specific focus on youth and other marginalized business owners, to improve the enabling environment for agricultural sector growth, broaden access to agribusiness finance, facilitate investment for agribusiness expansion and sustainably enhance the performance of agribusinesses across Nigeria.

Access to Finance Supports Value Seeds Limited to Supply over 500,000 Farmers with Certified Seeds

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Value Seeds Limited, an agricultural seed company, works in northwest Nigeria to strengthen the reliability of the seed sector for staple crops such as cowpea, maize, rice and soybeans and to sustainably supply seeds to its network of more than 500,000 farmers. In addition to producing seeds on their farm in Kaduna State, Value Seeds Limited runs an out-grower scheme of over 4,000 farmers, providing education on good agronomic practices, supplies, inputs and monitoring agricultural productivity and quality for seed production and multiplication.

As they sought to expand their operations during the 2021 season, Value Seeds Limited partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), to apply for and secure credit worth 1 billion Naira ($2.63 million) from Sterling Bank Plc under the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS).

The Activity worked with Value Seeds Limited to ensure that they could meet the risk criteria set by Sterling Bank Plc by conducting an audit and environmental impact assessment of the company’s operations. They then provided recommendations on ways the company could improve its processes and environmental impact in order to qualify for the loan.

“Since 2019, a key condition for securing bank loans has been the ability to present an environmental impact assessment report,” said George Zangir, Managing Director of Value Seeds Limited. “However, we were finding it difficult to get the right experts for the assessment at the cost that was expected.

“To address this challenge, the Activity supported us to conduct this assessment and obtain a positive report, enabling us to receive the loan we applied for in a timely manner and to bolster production while minimizing impact to the environment.”

The financing from the new loan allowed Value Seeds Limited to boost support to their out-grower farmers and increase the production of certified seeds produced, cleaned, processed, packaged and sold to smallholder farmers, large-scale farms, agro-input dealers, development organizations, producer associations, farmer cooperatives and government entities across Kaduna, Niger and Benue states.

With a projected yield of about 1 billion Naira ($2.63 million) in turnover, Value Seeds Limited can further its goal of producing quality seeds and supporting growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, ensuring greater food security for communities across the country.

The Activity will also continue its goal to strengthen access to agribusiness finance and investment for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) like Value Seeds Limited by building the capacity of financial institutions to fund agribusiness MSMEs, catalyzing access to credit and investments and supporting MSMEs across Nigeria’s agricultural sub-sectors to ensure they are investment ready.

Ebonyi State Government Launches Digital Loan Portal Expanding MSME Access to Finance

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In Nigeria, a digital loan/e-wallet portal launched by the Government of Ebonyi State on June 7, 2021, is now strengthening access to finance for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) including agribusinesses, addressing funding constraints and improving access to financial resources for entrepreneurs across the State.

In continuous discussion with the Ebonyi State Government’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Business Development, over the past year the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), designed and developed a digital loan portal with connected e-wallet system. That portal has now been launched by the Ebonyi State Government’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Business Development to serve as the hub for delivery and coordination of their MSME Development Funds.

The MSME Development Funds are a collection of federal government and private-sector-driven loan and grant initiatives targeting eligible MSMEs to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. This new user-friendly online portal and its integrated e-wallet, which serves to facilitate loan payments in Ebonyi State, is the first of several initiatives the Activity is engaged with to deploy ICT solutions that seamlessly manage the aggregation, documentation and disbursement of MSME funds at State level. The portal also enables the State Government to oversee loan utilization and recovery in collaboration with key financial institutions including Zenith Bank, First Bank and United Bank for Africa. Aligned with the Activity’s focal value chains, 50 percent of the MSME Development Fund is targeted at agribusiness MSMEs in the aquaculture, cowpea, maize, rice and soybean value chains.

The Ebonyi State Government is now piloting the use of the portal and has so far used it to disburse loans worth $169,427 (69.4 million Naira) to 609 rice farmers. These loans are supported by the World Bank’s FADAMA project through Ebonyi State’s Nigeria COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus (NG CARES) Program for Results. The NG CARES Fund is a World Bank initiative executed by the Nigerian Bank of Industry (BOI) that launched in September 2021 to provide state-level financing through targeted interventions in the form of subsidized loans, business and employment grants to support businesses.

An additional 392 farmers supported by the Activity will receive loans worth $109,086 (44.7 million Naira) upon completing their registration and verification via the portal.

With the loan portal and e-wallet now online, at least 6,000 MSMEs in Ebonyi will have access to NG CARES funds worth at least $14,642,360 (six billion Naira) over the coming months. The portal also presents Ebonyi State with a unique opportunity to leverage BOI’s microcredit platform, which will allow them to deliver more grants and loans to businesses in the state, providing targeted relief, restoring livelihoods and stimulating economic recovery for vulnerable households and MSMEs in the State as a result of COVID-19.

“The loan portal has and is going to open up a lot of opportunities for our state,” said Dr. Stephen Odo, Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Business Development, Ebonyi state, noting that it will further the state government’s drive to stimulate economic growth and job creation. “We are now looking at integrating all running agribusiness and MSME loans in the state for ease of management and recovery.”

As the Ebonyi State Government drives the growth and development of MSMEs, the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity will continue to support the government to make financial processes less cumbersome and to expand access to financial services for agribusiness MSMEs across its value chains, increasing long-term agriculture sector development and food security in the state.