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

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.

Improving Production and Livelihoods through the Manufacture and Sale of Poultry Feed

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Poultry farming is an important part of Burkina Faso’s rural economy. Unfortunately, it faces challenges, including the availability of low-cost feed, which is the most important and expensive input in poultry production. According to poultry producers, feed represents 60% to 75% of poultry production cost. Therefore, the availability of quality feed at affordable prices is essential for production to remain competitive on the market.

To remedy this, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri activity trained producers in improved poultry production techniques and in the manufacture of poultry feed using local ingredients. As a result, two members of the Béogoboumbou producer organization (PO) in Kaya, Burkina Faso, who benefited from this training are transforming their knowledge into a source of income for themselves and their PO.

During the training, producers learned that in order to have high output, regular productivity and optimal poultry growth, it is necessary to use balanced feed composed, among other things, of proteins, essential amino acids and minerals, which are found in locally available soya, corn, fish powder and calcined bone. Rasmata Sawadogo and Mouazou Kanazoe, both members of the Béogoboumbou PO, have successfully experimented with this feeding technique as a result of the training offered by USAID Yidgiri in 2021. Sawadogo and Kanazoe admitted that their chickens used to be small since they let them roam around looking for food and sometimes threw them handfuls of millet like so many farmers in the village. “I didn’t know that feeding my chickens a special diet could accelerate their growth, optimize their weight and earn a higher selling price,” says Kanazoe.

After the training and feed experiment the two conducted on their poultry, Sawadogo and Kanazoe trained the 17 members of their PO, including 6 men and 9 women, on these improved poultry production techniques. Now, in order to feed their poultry at a lower cost, the members collectively contribute money for feed production and pay for the necessary ingredients at wholesale prices.

Given the positive effect the feed had on their poultry and the frequent shortage of industrial poultry feed available on the market, the PO also decided to produce and sell their feed. Their products are sold to private individuals as well as to other POs, including Basnéré, Pissila and Kaya, who place group orders. A 50kg bag of poultry feed costs $25 (15,000 CFA) and the PO produces about one ton per month, depending on their orders. The PO puts 50% of profits earned in a fund and shares the remaining 50% with its members. The money in the fund can be borrowed by members who need a small loan to boost their activities.

Kanazoe, a 20-year-old youth member of the PO, says he likes this activity because “per month, I can earn between $16-42 (10,000 to 25,000 CFA). So far, I was able to purchase a bicycle and I am building a house of 20 sheets in the family yard. I dream of being a boss and of having a big poultry feed production company.” Sawadogo, a mother of two, adds that she earns an average of $33 (20,000 CFA) per month, which is additional income that she reinvests either in her chicken coop or on her family.

To help the PO increase its competitiveness and reduce dependence on their neighborhood mill for grinding ingredients, Lassané Kanazoé, the PO’s cluster lead, utilized his network of partners to help the PO access a nearby multi-function mill in December 2021 so that they could efficiently respond to orders. The mill has a grinding capacity of one ton per hour. The Songvensé cluster was formed under USAID Yidgiri’s predecessor, the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, and continues to have members, including the Béogoboumbou PO, take advantage of the mill to produce quality feed and help sell poultry at the right time and at preferential prices. In addition, the PO intends to offer its services to nongovernmental organizations to help their partners access poultry inputs.

Through its work with the Béogoboumbou PO, USAID Yidgiri is demonstrating that with strengthened capacity building, producers can improve their resilience and generate profitable economic opportunities for themselves and their communities.

New Terraces Increase Crop Yields and Incomes for Farmers

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Farmers get better yields and generate income from terraced land in seven districts.

Nyabihu district is renowned for its scenic hills and steep terrain, with an elevation estimated at 2,445 meters above sea level. However, for farmers like Seraphine Nyirarubanza, a resident of Rurembo sector, it is a daunting task to cultivate on the steep slopes.

Seraphine Nyirarubanza, Farmer, Nyabihu district

In this region of Rwanda, crops and fertile topsoil are frequently washed downhill by rain, causing reduced soil fertility and a decline in crop productivity.  To support over 5,620 farmers growing crops across this region, including Nyirarubanza and the members of her cooperative, the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity constructed and rehabilitated approximately 818.85 ha of radical and progressive terraces. Funded by USAID and implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Hinga Weze aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and improve nutritional status of women and children.

Together, Nyirarubanza and 164 other cooperative members offered their paid labor to construct the terraces, a task that involved setting up a drainage system around the plots by establishing cut-off drains, waterways and dams. The cooperative also planted grasses, such as French Cameroun, to protect the drainage systems and embankments.

As part of Hinga Weze’s integration model, the planted grass was also used as livestock feed, with the residue turned into manure and added to artificial fertilizers to improve soil fertility. Additionally, producers were encouraged to re-use topsoil removed during the terrace development phase, to add in three tons of lime per ha every three years to cultivate healthy soil and to add 10 to 30 tons of organic manure per ha per season to reduce soil acidity and improve fertility.

Many farmers quickly reaped the fruits of their labor. For example, at the Muhanda site in the Ngororero district, farmers planted Irish potatoes on 40 ha and increased their yield four-fold from five tons to 21 tons per ha, worth approximately $167,000 (173,677,500 RWF).

Nyirarubanza’s hard work also proved beneficial. “I used to harvest only 200 kgs on my 20-acre plot,” she said. “But after learning to terrace and apply fertilizers and manure, I am now able to harvest 400 kg.”

With the completion of progressive and radical terraces, farmers like Nyirarubanza are assured of improved yields and higher quality crops of maize, high-iron beans, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and various other horticultural produce, some of the key commodities in the region. These yields also translate to higher income generation and improved food security.

Poultry Farming Through Care Group Model Transforms Rural Livelihoods

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Through the care group model, farmers have transformed their livelihoods

Nutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Rwanda, with 38% of children under five classified as stunted and 9% of children under five manifesting as underweight (RDHS 2014-2015). One significant contributor to stunting is a lack of dietary diversity among Rwandan children due to a lack of animal-source protein consumption, which can provide a variety of micronutrients that are difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from plant-source foods alone.

Dietary diversity is also a significant challenge in the ten target districts where the Feed the Future Rwandan Hinga Weze activity operates, including in Nyamagabe and Kayonza. To overcome this challenge, Hinga Weze adapted the care group model and mobilized households to join care groups as a conducive space for nutrition-sensitive agricultural education, peer learning, saving and chicken rearing to increase income and the consumption of nutritious foods for women and children.

Since 2018, Hinga Weze has worked with communities to strengthen the capacity of care groups through trainings and coaching, mostly in good agricultural practices, nutrition, food safety, savings, gender and poultry farming. In Kayonza and Nyamagabe districts, Hinga Weze also introduced the Small Livestock Program to improve the intake of animal-sourced foods by increasing the local availability of small livestock, mainly chickens. This, in turn, helped families generate household income to purchase nutritious foods, while increasing access to meat and eggs for consumption.

So far, 46 care groups have received 9,200 chickens through Hinga Weze’s Small Livestock Program. After receiving and rearing their chickens, care group members were able to pay back $400 (400,000 RWF) through a pay-back model and to fund a second chicken production cycle. Care groups have also been able to generate incomes from egg sales, distribute 15 eggs for consumption to each member per month and use organic chicken manure in crop production and home gardens.

“Due to lack of skills and knowledge related to nutrition-sensitive agriculture and nutrition, we were ignorant about what contributed to malnutrition in our area,” says Masengesho, the leader of Imbereheza care group in Kayonza district.

The care group trainings equipped communities with skills on chicken farming, feed formulation and chicken rearing. For example, many care groups were supported to raise one-day old chicks, while some have even become agents for Uzima Chicken, a local chicken supplier. Similarly, Wisigarinyuma care group was able to raise 1000 one-day-old chicks until 35 days and sell 840 chicks to farmers outside of their care group.

Hinga Weze’s Small Livestock Program also provided a full package for supply agents and farmers to care for their chickens, which included vaccines and specialized technical trainings on chicken maintenance, poultry house standards, feeds, transportation, marketing, business development and general health standards for poultry businesses. This made the Small Livestock Program a de-facto business-provider for farmers and a nutritional conduit for households.

In addition to the chickens distributed as part of the Small Livestock Program, Hinga Weze distributed 86,400 chickens to 14,400 households (six chickens per household) across eight districts, which has greatly contributed to improving nutrition and dietary diversity. Through their weekly savings and joint household budgeting, farmers have increased their incomes and improved their livelihoods at the household level.

Hinga Weze is a five-year project funded by the USAID that aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ incomes and improve the nutritional status of women and children.

Youth Interns Help Farmers Turn Poultry Farming into Business

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Nutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Rwanda, with 38 percent of children under five being classified as stunted and nine percent of children under five manifesting as underweight (RDHS 2014-2015). One significant contributor to stunting is a lack of animal-source food protein consumption, which hinders dietary diversity among Rwandan children. Dietary diversity was also a challenge in the 10 Hinga Weze targeted districts of support including Nyamagabe and Kayonza.

Eggs in Hinga Weze beneficiary dish, supporting increased household income to purchase nutritious foods and increase meat and egg consumption.

To overcome this issue, Hinga Weze adapted the care group model and mobilized household members to join care groups as a conducive space for nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) education, peer learning, saving, and chicken rearing to increase incomes and consumption of nutritious foods for women and children. Animal-sourced foods can provide a variety of micronutrients that are difficult to obtain in adequate quantities from plant source-foods alone. Hinga Weze is committed to contributing to overcome this challenge by increasing small livestock, mainly chicken, available for beneficiaries to increase household income, purchase nutritious foods and increase meat and egg consumption.

To achieve the above, Hinga Weze engaged youth interns to speed up implementation for the activity and work with farmers on how to develop and manage poultry farming. Interns were hired from places where farmers lived so that they would have familiarity and knowledge about the specifics of the area and of farmers’ needs. It also created opportunities for employment and self-reliance for interns to start their own businesses after the end of their ten-month internship period. Over 250 interns have been engaged by Hinga Weze.

Youth interns strengthened the capacities of care groups through different trainings and coaching mostly in good agricultural practices (GAP), nutrition, food safety practices (FSP), from farm to fork, savings, gender, poultry farming and more in Kayonza and Nyamagabe districts, with the aim of achieving Hinga Weze’s objective of nutrition improvement through agriculture. So far, 46 care groups received 9,200 chickens. After receiving chickens, care groups experienced success with the program and members were able to pay back $400 (RWF

Chicken manure and feeds applied to a home garden done with Hinga Weze support by care groups.

400,000) through a pay-back model. “Most of us did not even know that we were supposed to eat better or about nutritious meals due to a lack of skills and knowledge related to nutrition-sensitive agriculture and nutrition. We were ignorant, which contributed to malnutrition in our area,” says Masengesho, the leader of Imbereheza care group in Kayonza district, Ruramira sector, Ruyonza in Taba village. “Our lives have now been changed and improved. We are getting sufficient and balanced diets but also investing in the poultry business as a care group to provide services to our neighbors.”

Hinga Weze has since given 203,271 chickens in 10 districts to 27,522 households, which has greatly contributed to improved household nutrition. The poultry program has also thrived for farmers supported by youth interns attached to care groups, who have instituted weekly savings and taught joint household budgeting to farmers, an undertaking that has strengthened poultry businesses, increased incomes and improved livelihoods at the household level.

 

 

Ailing Fruit Project Saved by New Solar Irrigation

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Farmer Jean Claude Sindikubwabo (35) has experienced a long and painful journey from the time he started farming in 2014. Like most beginners, he started off on the wrong foot, seeing losses on his first vegetable harvest mainly due to a lack of knowledge and unconducive weather conditions around Bugesera, one of Rwanda’s driest districts. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered from that bad start until much later in November 2019, when he received an approx. $4,000 (RWF 4 million) bank loan to invest in watermelon farming that matured the following year in March 2020. By bad luck, that coincided with the first total lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic! The project was doomed without access to markets. The pain of watching his produce rot in the garden and the thought of the unpaid bank loan were too much to bear. Sindikubwabo needed urgent help.

That same year, Sindikubwabo joined 63 farmers on Kamabuye solar irrigation site, one of the sites set up in the four districts of Gatsibo, Ngoma, Kayonza and Bugesera by the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity and the Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB). Funded by USAID, Hinga Weze mobilized the farmers into a cooperative and coached them on good farming and climate smart practices. Hinga Weze aims to improve productivity and incomes for 535,000 farmers, improve nutritional intake for women and children and build the resilience of agriculture to climate changes.

Fully equipped with new skills, Sindikubwabo returned to farming. He also learned to diversify and grow other crops, which he marketed ahead of harvest time in order to minimize losses. Last season alone, Sindikubwabo sold 178 sacks of green pepper and nine tons of watermelon for a combined total of approx. $3,059 (RWF 3,080,000). This adds to $5,294,907 (approx. RWF 5 billion) gained by farmers in sales value for horticulture. Like the other 12,000 farmers on solar-irrigation sites across the four districts, Sindikubwabo is able to plant vegetables and fruits all-year around, unlike previously when they would wait for favorable seasons.

“I’m able to pump water upstream for irrigation without spending a lot of money on fuel and labor,” observed Sindikubwabo. He was also able to use profits from farming to set up a permanent house and a piggery project. He employees four permanent staff and 25 casual laborers, whom he supports with soft loans and vegetables for their families’ welfare.

As Hinga Weze winds up, Sindikubwabo has paid off 90 percent of the bank loan and is now planning to expand his farming business.

Sugu Yiriwa

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Overview

The five-year Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa activity (2021-2026) aims to strengthen market systems, sustainably improve household incomes and improve the nutritional status of women and children in Mali. Sugu Yiriwa, prosperous markets in Bambara, will empower actors across the market system to affect sustainable, systemic change, with a strategic focus on vulnerable and gender- and nutrition-sensitive value chains in 46 communes in the Sikasso sub-zone.

Program Approach

Sugu Yiriwa will engage and strengthen market actors to achieve results across three mutually reinforcing objectives:

  1. Enhanced Market Access and Business Linkages: Sugu Yiriwa will multiply business linkages to facilitate development of markets that are more inclusive, dynamic and functional. Building the capacity of market actors will increase market preparedness and ensure producer organizations can meet quality and quantity buyer requirements.
  2. Improved Access to and Use of Quality and Affordable Inputs and Services: Sugu Yiriwa will work at the input supply system-level to reduce costs, improve quality, increase access and raise awareness among producers on the effective and efficient use of inputs and agricultural services at the farm and firm levels. Sugu Yiriwa will also build the capacity of agrodealers to promote enhanced technologies for improved access to information related to weather and prices. It will also promote improved labor-saving technologies to improve post-harvest management techniques and support the establishment of input retailer networks.
  3. Increased Market Demand for Consumption of Nutritious and Safe Foods: Sugu Yiriwa will conduct a nutrition and market pathways assessment to understand the factors that drive consumer food choices and diets in the Sugu Yiriwa zone of influence (ZOI). With these results, it will identify opportunities at the market and household levels to fill nutrient gaps by improving the availability, affordability, desirability and consumption of safe and nutritious foods, especially among pregnant and lactating women and children under two.

Partners

  • Mali Agricultural Market Trust (MALIMARK): a Malian nongovernmental organization established in 2010 with the support of CNFA under the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-funded Agrodealer Strengthening Program. A leader in strengthening agricultural input and service systems in Mali, and with a presence in the Sikasso sub-zone, MALIMARK will design strategies and lead implementation under Objective 2: Improved Access to and Use of Quality and Affordable Inputs and Services, facilitating the development of a more dynamic input and service sector by building the capacity of agrodealers, increasing market linkages, and improving marketing of inputs, technologies, and services.
  • Helen Keller International (HKI): leverages its 20 years of experience in Mali building local capacity to prevent malnutrition by promoting resilience of market actors and vulnerable groups through social and behavior change (SBC) interventions. HKI, which also partners with CNFA on USAID Yalwa, implemented in Niger, will lead Objective 3: Increased Market Demand for Consumption of Nutritious and Safe Foods.

Amalima

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Overview:

Amalima, the seven-year (2013-2020), $60 million USAID Development Food Aid Program (DFAP), worked with over 118,000 vulnerable households to sustainably improve household food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe’s districts of Bulilima, Gwanda, Mangwe (Matabeleland South), and Tsholotsho (Matabeleland North). 

Amalima draws its name from the Ndebele word for the social contract by which families come together to help each other engage in productive activities such as land cultivation, livestock tending and asset building. 

Approach:

  1. Improved Sustainable Access to and Availability of Food: Amalima promoted climate and conservation-sensitive agriculture practices and encouraged the adoption of improved agriculture and livestock production practices.
  2. Strengthened Community Resilience to Shocks: The program partnered with communities to improve livelihoods and build resilience by creating and strengthening disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees through cash for asset activities, household asset vouchers and village savings and lending (VS&L) groups that promoted income-generating activities and savings to build household resilience.
  3. Improved Nutrition and Health: To improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices, dietary diversity and micronutrient intake of pregnant and lactating women and children under two, Amalima distributed supplementary feeding rations and enhanced nutrition care practices with a combination of capacity building, mentioning and community-based messaging delivered through care groups and community health clubs.
  4. Promoted Gender Equality: Amalima empowered women to play a key role in food security and resiliency at the household and community levels through increased access to and control over incomes, which promoted men and women to take increasingly equal responsibilities for both productive and reproductive activities.

Partners:

 

Amalima Loko

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Overview:

Amalima, the Ndebele word for a group of people coming together to achieve a common goal, and Loko meaning “genuine” or “authentic” in Tonga join to form Amalima Loko – a five-year (2020-2025) USAID-funded Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance program designed to improve food security in Zimbabwe through increased food access and sustainable watershed management.

Implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Amalima Loko builds on the legacy of its predecessor Amalima, a seven-year Resilience Food Security Activity also implemented by CNFA that worked to sustainably improve food security and nutrition for vulnerable Zimbabwean households.

The $75 million Amalima Loko activity seeks to elevate the livelihoods of more than 67,000 vulnerable households across five districts of Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland North: Binga, Hwagne, Lupane, Nkayi and Tsholotsho. To accomplish this, the program utilizes a unique Community Visioning approach designed to strengthen community and household-level resilience, promotes nutrition-sensitive initiatives including a blanket food distribution program and improves watershed infrastructure and practices that provide long-term foundations for improved resilience and agriculture-based livelihoods.

Program Approach:

  1. Enhance inclusive local ownership over food security, resilience planning and development through Community Visioning, which strengthens the ability of communities to identify their own priorities and define solutions to support social cohesion and resilience. As the foundation of the Amalima Loko approach, Community Visioning engages stakeholders in an inclusive planning process and mobilizes community action groups around development priorities, including gender and youth dynamics, social safety nets and disaster risk reduction.
  2. Advance health and availability of soil, water and plant resources within the watershed by working at the micro-catchment level and using an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach to improve community ownership, use and governance of watershed resources. This IWRM approach supports the restoration and protection of natural resources while improving access to water infrastructure for household and productive use. Amalima Loko also utilizes “cash for assets” programming to provide a cash infusion to vulnerable households, while building the community asset base through watershed infrastructure and conservation works such as dams, soil conservation, erosion control measures and rehabilitation of degraded areas.
  3. Improve human health and livelihoods by strengthening individual and household capacities to weather shocks and stresses, and thrive with good health, a sufficient and stable asset base and adequate, reliable income. The program also enhances nutrition and health for women of reproductive age and children under five by enhancing nutritional adequacy and healthy behaviors, implementing a blanket food distribution program using the “first 1,000 days” approach and promoting diverse livelihood strategies based on village savings and lending group participation, business skill building and asset accumulation to help households manage the risk and impact of shocks and stresses.

Partners: