Youth Interns Help Farmers Turn Poultry Farming into Business

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 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 program 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: 

Private-Sector Agripreneur Spurs Banana Revival in Malawi

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When most people think of farming, they may immediately see visions of tractors, plows, and harvesters. But as one USAID Farmer to Farmer (F2F) engagement in Malawi, facilitated by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), clearly illustrates, successful farming today often has more to do with access to far more sophisticated technology beyond mechanization. For Frankie Washoni, a farmer in Lilongwe, Malawi, F2F partnerships which bring knowledge and free capacity support to communities and businesses, were key in scaling his business to meet the needs of his community.

Pests and diseases are common threats to crops in every country around the world, and Malawi is no different. Since the mid-1990s, smallholder farmers in the southeast African country have seen banana bunchy top virus (BBTV) wreak havoc in their plantations. According to the Malawian Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, over that period almost 70 percent—more than 30,000 hectares—of Malawi’s total banana production area was lost due to the disease, which is transmitted unknowingly through infected banana suckers—shoots from the plants’ roots that are used for new plantings.

As plantations continued to dwindle in the 2000s, consumer prices increased steeply, causing traders to rely on banana imports from neighboring Tanzania and Mozambique. While the higher prices inspired some Malawian farmers to attempt to set up new banana farms, finding BBTV-free planting material proved an insurmountable challenge.

Hortinet Foods Limited, a farming business owned by Mr. Frankie Washoni, maintains 6,000 BBTV-free banana plants on 7 of its 17 acres. Since founding Hortinet in 2012, Washoni maintained good management practices to keep BBTV out of his operation, helping him to become one of Malawi’s few sellers of BBTV-free banana plantlets. While he initially used revenues from the plantlet business to supplement the income from his banana sales to grocery stores, he soon realized that the overwhelming demand for his BBTV-free banana suckers represented a significant new business opportunity: “[Accessing] banana seed remains a big problem, and we saw an opportunity to bridge the gap and eventually slow down the banana imports into the country,” Washoni said. “We decided to invest in tissue culture technology to mass-produce good-quality and disease-free planting material.”

After establishing the first private tissue culture laboratory in Malawi with $55,000 in investments, Washoni turned to the CNFA’s Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer program to request a volunteer expert in tissue culture laboratory operations and management. By August 2019, Dr. John Griffis, Professor of Horticultural Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University, was on the scene, helping Hortinet set up the new lab, ensuring that it had all necessary equipment, and designing a layout to facilitate efficient operation. He also trained seven up-and-coming lab technicians—four young men and three young women—in areas such as biosafety and risk mitigation.

His work was not done. In December 2019, Dr. Griffis returned to the new Hortinet facility to help establish standard operating procedures and protocols for lab operations and to train the team in how to initiate the trial cultures that would pave the way for a larger production. The results of the two consultations exceeded expectations. Four months after Dr. Griffis’ second visit, Hortinet had already produced 20,000 banana plantlets out of a recent order for 40,000 banana plantlets from the Ministry of Agriculture to distribute to smallholder farmers who previously lost their plantations—especially in the main banana production areas in Malawi’s southern and central regions.

Based on the success resulting from the two Farmer to Farmer engagements, Hortinet now is investing in additional equipment that will allow it to triple its production capacity—forecast to reach 1 million banana plantlets a year at full capacity. Washoni notes that the limited knowledge he had acquired online prior to the interventions by Dr. Griffis had left him technically “very weak,” and would not have equipped him to reach such high levels of production. “Dr. Griffis equipped us with skills and protocols we could not get from our own research,” Washoni said.

Thanks to Washoni’s entrepreneurial enthusiasm and CNFA’s Farmer to Farmer facilitation, the future looks bright for Malawi’s banana producers. As for Hortinet, the company is now exploring tissue culture propagation for potato and pineapple!

Input Credit Scheme Links Agro-Dealers to Farmers

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Agricultural productivity depends on the affordability and accessibility of agriculture inputs including seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers that are essential for improving yield and raising incomes (AGRA, 2013). Unfortunately, farmers in Rwanda must incur significant up-front investment in agro-inputs before they can generate revenues to recoup these pre-seasonal expenses. Without access to finance, poor farmers are exposed to perpetual sub-optimal yield and low revenues due to their inability to invest in appropriate inputs. As a result, production levels of key crops in Rwanda including maize, potato, and vegetables, are relatively low.

Hinga Weze set up a pilot input-credit scheme in two districts to bridge the gaps in the financing of agro-input supplies for farmers and later scaled it up to link more agro-dealers to farmers to boost their production and incomes. This is in line with part of Hinga Weze’s goal to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems.

Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze has now enrolled 318 agro-dealers across its 10 targeted districts of Rwanda, into the scaled-up input-credit scheme to gain technical knowledge on agrochemical regulation, climate-smart agriculture, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and product knowledge in pesticides, fertilizers, and lime. They were also provided with training and skills in business record-keeping, warehouse management, and marketing strategies to give good services and products to farmers who were able to double their harvest.

Through Hinga Weze’s model and support, the agro-dealers were also linked to financial institutions that to date have provided 79 agro-dealers with loans worth over $277,242. For example, 11 agro-dealers from Karongi were assisted to access loans from banks and Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) worth $21,019 (19,800,000 RWF) and were, therefore, able to provide agro-inputs on credit directly to farmers, who, in turn, were able to repay the loan upon harvesting. In the last three months, the scheme has assisted 1,838 farmers to access inputs worth $38,419.

Post-Harvest Handling Practices Change Fortunes for Carrot Farmers

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Situated in the Western Province of Rwanda, Nyabihu district has a very conducive climate for vegetable growing. One of the key vegetable crops grown in Nyabihu is carrots for sale to urban areas across Rwanda. However, farmers continually incur losses due to the perishable nature of carrots –  most of the carrots rot before reaching the market, becoming inedible and leading to significant losses for farmers.

Nyabihu farmer Mukasine Mariza (46) faced this challenge many times. In previous seasons, she would harvest an average crop but then lose a large proportion to spoilage due to poor post-harvest handling practices. Adding to her woes, Mukasine would be forced to sell off her produce at a “give-away-price”, fearing additional losses since carrots are very perishable. Like most farmers, she would be at the mercy of aggregators who would take advantage of the perishability of carrots to pay less, forcing the farmers to accept poor returns on their labor and investment. The lack of proper post-harvest handling skills and equipment made vegetable farming an unprofitable venture for many farmers in Nyabihu district.

Mukasine’s fortunes changed when USAID, through Hinga Weze, offered a 6,243,597 RWF ($6,456) investment to set up a cold room with a cool bot and to construct a Zero Energy Cooling Chamber (ZECC) for her cooperative, KOGIMUIN. The cold room stores up to 300 crates, each carrying 15 kg of carrots, and, to-date, 3,600 MT of carrots have been handled by the facility. The cooperative of 55 members also received 150 crates and one weight scale.

Using the facilities provided, Mukasine and others can weigh their produce, ensuring that it is stored upon harvest to keep fresh, and it is safely transported to the market without overexposure to heat. This support is in line with Hinga Weze’s goals as a USAID-funded Feed the Future program to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

From Hinga Weze’s training on good agricultural practices and post-harvest handling, Mukasine increased her yield from 3 tons per hectare to over 4.5 tons per hectare. Most remarkably, she also managed to increase earnings per yield from 375,000 RWF (about $398) to 562,500 RWF (about $597). Her earnings also improved after Hinga Weze linked the farmers to a cooperative of aggregators where their selling power is stronger, and they can negotiate better prices.

“I almost gave up farming, but now I no longer make losses. I save enough money for my children,” she happily observed. To Mukasine and her cooperative members, carrot farming is no longer a burden as they continue to utilize the skills and facilities to reduce losses and earn more from farming.

Participatory Cooking Demonstrations and Nutrition Education Empower and Improve Farmer Communities and their Knowledge

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The Hinga Weze Care Group (CG) model is a conduit for improved nutrition for farmer communities. Comprised of household members, the CG brings together community members for the purpose of nutrition education and cooking demonstrations so participants can learn how to prepare nutritious foods for themselves and their families. CGs are typically comprised of 50-75 households or approximately 100-150 people. CGs are facilitated by trained community-based volunteers (CBVs) to disseminate basic nutrition concepts, good nutrition practices, and food safety best practices to fight against all forms of malnutrition for women of reproductive age and children under 2. Additionally, the CBVs promote other healthy and essential practices such as water, sanitation, and hygiene best practices, gender education and empowerment, methods for improving savings culture, promotion of family-centered conflict resolution, and enhancement of community-centered development.

Feed the Future Hinga Weze Activity (Hinga Weze) introduced this model in the Gatsibo District, one of its 10 target districts in Rwanda. The Tuzamurane Twita ku Mirire Myiza (“Develop ourselves with a focus on better nutrition”) CG was one of the first beneficiaries of Hinga Weze, comprised of 73 households. This CG had difficulties raising money to purchase nutritious foods for its members, coupled with a general lack of knowledge on hygiene and food safety practices.

The leader of the CG, Mukazuza, noted that through support from Hinga Weze, the CG members, both men, and women, successfully acquired and applied knowledge on the components of a well-balanced diet and how to prepare nutritious meals from locally available foods or items grown in home gardens. CG members also received training on how to establish and maintain home gardens, which serve as a source of additional fruits and vegetables. Demonstrations on home gardening and nutritious cooking were held for the CG to participate in. Mukazuza credits the community nutrition transformation and improved gender equity to Hinga Weze’s presence in the district. She noted that, on a personal level, her own health and that of her grandchild has improved considerably due to improved knowledge acquired through her CG.

Since its inception in mid-2017, Hinga Weze aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ incomes through increased productivity, improved nutritional status of Rwandan women and children, and increased resilience toward the changing climate. Hinga Weze has supported 66,562 households with 14,009 cooking demonstrations taking place in communities across its 10 target districts in Rwanda, transforming nutritional practices, stabilizing gender norms, and empowering farmer communities.

USAID Yalwa

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Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Niger

Overview:

The $29.1 million five-year USAID Yalwa (2020-2025) activity strengthens the capacities of farmers, producer organizations, agribusinesses and rural households in the Maradi, Tillabéri and Zinder regions of Niger to meet the growing demand for affordable, safe and nutritious food.

Yalwa means “fulfillment” or “blossoming” in the Hausa language. USAID Yalwa supports USAID’s regional Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) program, which works with the Government of Niger to help citizens escape poverty and build resilience to natural, economic and other shocks. USAID Yalwa includes a ground-breaking component on food market systems and follows five years of progress generated by the USAID-funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, also implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).

Program Approach:

USAID Yalwa’s market systems facilitation approach is based on collaboration with catalytic local actors and networks. Yalwa will work primarily through unions to provide services to producer groups (access to agro-inputs, finance, skills development, etc.), while building their capacity to provide services without project support. The approach leverages commercial investments to build long-term linkages between buyers and sellers, ensure delivery of inputs and services and supply nutritious food. It also builds the skills of farmers, traders and processors so they can earn a profit from their businesses, seek out nutritious foods and become self-reliant.

Yalwa targets 105,000 farmers in over 195 villages and 160 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by fulfilling the following purposes:

  1. Enhance performance of market systems in the cowpea, small ruminant and poultry value chains.
  2. Increase the use of high-quality inputs and services such as seeds, fertilizers, and livestock and poultry feed, improving food production and storage and supporting improved marketing, production and access to finance and climate information.
  3. Increase local consumption of nutritious, safe and affordable foods by promoting demand and helping market actors to supply these foods to targeted populations.
  4. Promote inclusive markets for women and youth by identifying barriers to market participation and working with communities to encourage youth and women’s entrepreneurship and leadership.

Partners: