Over 50,000 Rice and Maize Farmers to Benefit from Thrive Agric’s Enhanced Access to Finance

Over 50,000 Rice and Maize Farmers to Benefit from Thrive Agric’s Enhanced Access to Finance

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Sustainable growth of the agriculture sector in Nigeria has been identified as a key element of the Government of Nigeria’s plans for eradicating poverty and hunger, while developing a more diverse economy. To achieve this, smallholder farmers in the country require steady and reliable access to affordable finance, among other things, so that they can expand their operations and produce food for communities at home and abroad.

Anchor companies such as Thrive Agric, a youth-led agricultural technology startup, are working to bridge this financing gap by providing farmers with data-driven advice and access to finance and premium markets. However, Thrive Agric themselves face challenges accessing the funding they need to grow, such as struggling to meet restrictive bank requirements.

To help Thrive Agric achieve their financing goals, the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), assisted the company to upgrade their digital agricultural operating system software. The upgraded platform allowed them to integrate with banks, seamlessly disburse cash and inputs, and monitor investments and farm activities through to loan repayment. It also allowed Thrive Agric’s over 2,000 field agents to capture critical farm data and provide farmers with technology-enabled extension and advisory services.

This software opened access to their financiers, strengthening their loan monitoring capability, and helped meet a critical requirement for Thrive Agric to apply for and receive funds from different financiers and secure multiple partnerships with bodies and organizations with aligned goals of supporting farmers and boosting food production in Nigeria and across Africa.

Following this successful collaboration, in March 2021, the Activity’s support enabled Thrive Agric to unlock additional loan financing from its bank partners from the Central Bank of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers’ Program Prime Intervention Fund. The Anchor Borrower Fund supports anchor companies linking with smallholder farmers in key value chains, such as rice or maize, by providing funds that can be distributed as in-kind or in-cash loans to smallholders to boost production and stabilize their supply of inputs. Securing this loan enabled Thrive Agric to fund inputs to over 50,000 registered maize and rice farmers across Kaduna, Kebbi and Niger states.

Moving forward, the Activity will continue its efforts to support Thrive Agric as a prime anchor company to meet lender criteria by strengthening their ability to access funding, improving their creditworthiness and financial reporting, and support farmers working to improve maize and rice production across the country. With increased access to finance, anchor companies like Thrive Agric will strengthen and grow their business, improving and expanding smallholder farmers’ access to credit, inputs, expertise, and markets for increased food security, employment, and income generation.

Rice Mill Uses USAID Expertise to Improve Production Efficiency and Expand Operations

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Rice is an important regional and global food staple, eaten regularly by millions in Nigeria and around the world due to its affordability and availability. As national demand for rice rises, the Government of Nigeria is keen to increase local rice production, and reduce reliance on imports, by helping farmers access credit on appropriate terms to increase their scale of production and profitability.

AMMI Integrated Mill was established in 2018 in Argungu, Kebbi State, and has partnered with the USAID-funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), over the past year to conduct an Organizational Performance Improvement Needs Assessment of their business and identify and remedy gaps hindering their production.

The assessment highlighted inefficiencies in the mill’s output, which was operating at 60% of its full capacity, mainly due to ill-defined staff roles on AMMI’s rice processing and packaging line. Armed with this knowledge, the Activity supported AMMI to clarify job roles, move excess staff to the drying line, and install a performance system to reward workers for the number of rice bags produced. These adaptations improved output efficiency to 90% and overall worker satisfaction by supporting workers to carry out their duties with efficiency, clarity, and confidence.

“I have running costs under control and a clear understanding of the best business process for us. I am excited about the future.” said Rahmatu Gulma, CEO of AMMI Integrated Mill.

The streamlined system also enabled the mill to sustainably expand its commercial operations as it further diversified into producing parboiled white rice and other products.

“I have leveraged the savings made from the Activity’s cost cutting measures to expand on other business areas. Besides now producing parboiled rice, I also recently started a greenhouse and poultry rearing operation. These new ventures are flourishing thanks to the lessons learned from the interventions done at the Mill.” Gulma concluded.

Rahmatu Gulma, CEO of AMMI Integrated Mill, in her greenhouse.

The Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity aims to strengthen the enabling environment for agribusiness finance and investment in Nigeria, with a focus on four interrelated components: improving the enabling environment for agricultural sector growth; broadening access to finance by mitigating the credit risks of agribusinesses; promoting and facilitating investment opportunities for agribusinesses to expand and scale up operations; and sustainably enhancing the performance of agricultural micro, small and medium size enterprises (MSMEs). By 2023, the Activity aims to viably and sustainably link thousands of MSMEs and producer organizations like AMMI Integrated Mill with high-performing commercial actors in the rice, maize, soybean, aquaculture, and cowpea value chains.

Fish Farmers Association Strengthens Management, Transparency and Fundraising with support of USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity

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In the Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta State, an association of fish farmers called Camp 74 is renowned as a major hub for catfish production in Nigeria. Agricultural associations like Camp 74 play an important economic and social role in rural communities. Camp 74 provides farmers with peer-to-peer learning, access to affordable inputs, and a platform to promote their interests and market their products.

To strengthen the association’s management, fundraising potential, and quality of offerings to farmers, Camp 74 partnered with the USAID Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), to assess its areas for improvement through an Organizational Performance Improvement Needs Assessment. The Activity also provided expertise on management and leadership through its Micro Enterprise Fundamentals (MEF) and Group Dynamics and Leadership Skills (GDLS) trainings, which taught the group how to use their strong membership to raise funds internally, meeting their needs without resorting to loans and making them more attractive to outside investment and support.

After a thorough review of their needs and their new management skills, the association’s executive council organized an emergency membership meeting, conducted an audit of their accounts, and scheduled an Annual General Meeting (AGM) to help the group become more democratic and transparent to its members and more attractive to outside investment.

Building’s roof replaced, Kiln repaired and concessioner putting it to use.

The Activity also worked with Camp 74 to develop a revenue generation action plan that optimized the association’s existing resources. With the contributions mobilized from its members, Camp 74 rehabilitated its fish processing building and kiln and leased them out to a local private enterprise, further raising funds to improve the association’s management.

Through improved transparency, democratic management, and fundraising, Camp 74 now offers enhanced services and engagement to its member farmers, helping them to improve operations and productivity, strengthen the association, and ensure long-term sustainability. Camp 74 fish farmers are also optimistic that the momentum generated after the Activity’s intervention will be sustained as the association draws strength from its membership to grow and accomplish its goals of improving the inputs, incomes, productivity, and livelihoods of nearby smallholder fish farmers.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Rootstalks and Grafting with Mother Plants

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for handing rootstocks and grafting with mother plants.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Extracting and Preparing Seedlings for Sale

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for extracting and preparing plant seedlings for sale.

 

Small-Scale Irrigation Technology Transforms Farmers’ Lives In Rwanda

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Farmers get better yields from improved access to irrigation.

In Kayonza district, part of Rwanda’s drier Eastern province, smallholder farmers like Beata Mukanyirigira depend on reliable access to water and irrigation to improve their livelihoods and increase their yields and productivity.

To confront this challenge, farmers in four districts, Bugesera, Ngoma, Kayonza, and Gatsibo, partnered with the Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB), local authorities and the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity, a five-year U.S. Agency for International Development activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), to introduce small-scale irrigation technologies (SSIT) in their communities.

These technologies are affordable, appropriate and adaptable to the irrigation needs of smallholder farmers. The system is also powered by solar energy, allowing farmers to eliminate their reliance on diesel and reduce their environmental footprint. So far, nine sites have been completed, covering 100 ha, while two sites covering an addition 100 ha are under development. In total, 300 ha are targeted to be covered through the life of the project, benefitting thousands of farmers by significantly increasing productivity, improving incomes and livelihoods and ensuring food security and nutrition.

Once Hinga Weze and local authorities identify the irrigation sites, farmers are mobilized to consolidate land and form groups and cooperatives. To date, over 10 cooperatives and savings groups have been formed, enabling private sector partnerships from lending institutions, buyers, traders and agrodealers. These partners continue to supply agricultural inputs, to access agricultural inputs and markets. They also reinforce existing community-cohesion and offer employment opportunities and enhanced capacity strengthening interventions for farmers who work on consolidated farms.

Through the SSIT intervention, farmers have gained the knowledge and capacity to manage irrigation infrastructure and ensure the sustainability of their farms and livelihoods. All interventions are farmer-led and have resulted in the additional rollout of good agriculture practices (GAPs), which have greatly improved crop productivity and incomes.

So far, over 1,200 households benefitted from access to the small-scale irrigation infrastructure and this number is expected to increase to include thousands of farmers as the infrastructure will eventually cover 300 total hectares throughout the life of the activity. This undertaking will significantly increase productivity, improve incomes and nutrition, ensure food security and improve the quality of livelihoods for farmers.

Approved Policy Opens Opportunity for Agri-business Transformation in Delta State

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Agriculture is the mainstay of Nigeria’s rural economy, but the sector still faces a myriad of challenges. The sector struggles with a lack of proper legislation and weak enabling environment for agribusiness, limited access to appropriate financing options, poor commodity value chain networks, climate change and the environmental consequences of industrial activities, particularly in the oil-rich Niger Delta. These obstacles have persisted even in the wake of decades of government and donor-funded agricultural development initiatives.

To provide a sustainable solution to these persistent challenges and diversify the economy away from its reliance on extractive industry the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), together with the Nigeria Agricultural Policy Project (NAPP), supported the Delta State Government to develop this new Agricultural Policy.

The State Executive Council (SEC) approved the Delta State Agricultural Policy on January 29, 2021. The Activity provided technical support through the entire process of policy design, convened inclusive stakeholder engagements, and facilitated its approval by the SEC through the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The new Delta State Agricultural Policy will support agricultural productivity, improve agribusiness performance, and raise enterprise value of the agricultural sector by developing commodity value chains, improving access to quality inputs, finance and investments, storage facilities, and new markets.

“With the approval of this Policy, we believe that Delta State has now moved a step closer to its food quality, safety and security goals by creating a platform on which to build mutual understanding and trust between agribusinesses, financial institutions, and government entities,” said Dominic Graham, the Activity’s Managing Director and Chief of Party.

“The Activity will continue to support the Nigerian Government, MSMEs, producer groups, aggregators, processors, and other service providers in our focal agribusiness value chains as they operate in a more conducive regulatory, finance, and investment climate,” he concluded.

Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity

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Overview:

Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has made remarkable progress and the country’s economy has been growing steadily at roughly eight percent since 2001.[1] The agricultural sector plays a central role in Rwanda’s economy, accounting for 39 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of employment, and 90 percent of the country’s food needs.[2]

Despite this impressive growth, significant challenges to agricultural productivity and market participation remain, including constraints on land availability for cultivation, degradation of the country’s soil and natural resource base, lack of access to agricultural inputs and mechanization, and recurring extreme climatic events. The performance of the agricultural sector is closely linked to Rwanda’s overall nutritional profile and undernutrition remains a pervasive problem, further impacting Rwanda’s economy. About 33% of children under five are malnourished.[3] Stunting in children is attributed to food insecurity and poverty, inadequate feeding (poor complementary feeding practices) and inadequate environments.

The Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity is a five-year, $32.6 million USAID-funded activity that aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women of reproductive age (15-49) and children under two, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

Program Approach:

Hinga Weze works through holistic interventions that target the interrelated issues of undernutrition, food insecurity, barriers to agricultural productivity, and other challenges. Specifically, the activity focuses on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, with emphasis on climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches and social behavior change to the production and consumption of five value chains including nutritious foods: high-iron beans, Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.

The activity will support over 733,000 smallholder farmers to sustainably enhance productivity, increase incomes to purchase nutritious foods and improve household nutrition outcomes in the following ten target districts: Gatsibo, Kayonza, Bugesera, Ngoma (Eastern Province); Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Karongi (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province).

  1. Increasing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity: Hinga Weze focuses on interventions that support an integrated systems approach to agriculture productivity and that follow the principles of sustainable land and water use, with particular attention to climate-smart technologies of relevance to Rwanda, facilitating the resilience of farming systems by improving water management, preventing soil erosion, and maximizing the effectiveness of input use.
  2. Expanding Farmers’ Access to Markets: In order to enhance farmers’ competitiveness and expand access to markets, Hinga Weze increases access to post-harvest equipment and facilities, market information, and credit and financial services.
  3. Improving Nutritional Outcome of Agriculture Interventions: Hinga Weze is focused on strengthening the link between agriculture and nutrition to improve the nutritional status of its communities and families.

Partners:

The Hinga Weze consortium includes a diverse group of both international and local Rwandan partner organizations, including Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the prime, Rwanda Development Organization (RDO) and Imbaraga Farmers’ Federation. The activity achieves results by promoting household and community-level behavior changes through cost-effective interventions and a systems approach that prioritizes collaboration with stakeholders from the government, private and civil society sectors and the community.

Footnotes:

[1] NISR (2015) Rwanda Poverty Profile Report, 2013/14. National Institute of Statistics, Rwanda.

[2] Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (2013) Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III. Republic of Rwanda.

[3] Rwanda Demographic and Health survey 2020.

Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity

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Overview: 

Because improved technologies that are affordable, impactful and safe have not yet penetrated much of the smallholder market in Pakistan, producers continue to use outdated and less effective technologies, leading to stagnant or dwindling productivity and returns. This is particularly the case in the horticulture and livestock sub-sectors. To combat these challenges, the $8.2 million Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA) funded through USAID worked since April 2017 to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets and their overall development impact cost-effectiveness. By building on CNFA’s 10-year history of successful implementation in Pakistan, PATTA galvanized ongoing private-sector investment to commercialize the types of agricultural technologies that enable smallholders to increase their incomes, create jobs and enhance economic growth and stability. These technologies included seeds, fertilizers, water pumps, improved plant and animal breeds, precision agriculture and integrated soil fertility management, among others.

Approach:

CNFA collaborated with and built upon previous investments by USAID and similar development programs to improve the lives of smallholder farmers through the following three-pillared approach:

  1. Enabled Agricultural Technology-related Businesses to Expand, Adapt and Market their Products and Services to Meet Smallholder Farmers’ Needs: PATTA undertook initial and ongoing market and cost-benefit analyses of available agricultural technologies and facilitated outreach to key stakeholders based on the findings of these analyses. The Activity also oversaw a competitive process that led to detailed memorandums of understanding and comprehensive technical support and capacity building. In doing so, PATTA made the business case for sustained private-sector investments in technology transfer, adaptations, outreach and marketing such that profitable, inclusive output marketing opportunities for smallholders over the long term could be identified.
  2. Increased Smallholder Farmers’ Access to Affordable, Appropriate and Effective Agricultural Technologies: Sustained increased access to improves technologies adapted to smallholder needs required focused, strategic efforts by demand-side stakeholders who stood to profit from this outcome. These stakeholders included technology retailers like agrodealers and arthis– Pakistani agricultural agents who act as middlemen buying and selling inputs on commission and often making loans to smallholders– as well as microfinance institutions and banks that profit when they provide more loans and financial services to expanding agribusinesses and farmers’ associations. PATTA’s holistic approach of capacity-building technical support complemented the new marketing and outreach plans of technology companies and inspired sustained investments in the vast smallholder market.
  3. Scaled the Adoption and Use of Agricultural Technologies: PATTA supported the collective work of supply-and-demand side partners to launch and sustain demonstration activities that provided evidence of the value of improved technologies. These included the promotion of activities with a proven record of success, such as field days, demonstration plots and peer-to-peer education by champion farmers. Such demonstration activities leveraged various mediums, including radio broadcasts, video and mobile exhibits that reached women in purdah and other underserved groups.