Amalima Loko

Amalima Loko

Posted On: Filed Under:

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 and 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 and 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 and 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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

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

Posted On: Filed Under:

Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Niger

Overview:

The five-year USAID Yalwa 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 the food 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: 

USAID Yidgiri

Posted On: Filed Under:

Enhancing Markets and Nutrition in Burkina Faso

Overview:

The five-year United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Yidgiri activity is designed to strengthen market systems, sustainably increase household incomes, and improve the nutritional status of women and children in Burkina Faso.

Aptly named Yidgiri, or “grow” in the Mòoré language, USAID Yidgiri is part of the second phase of the USAID Regional Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) project, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso to prepare for and effectively manage recurrent crises, and to pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty. By 2025, USAID Yidgiri aims to improve the resilience of market systems by establishing profitable linkages between producers and buyers in the Centre Nord, Sahel, and Est regions of Burkina Faso, and facilitate access to local and regional markets.

Program Approach:

USAID Yidgiri is strengthening the resilience of market systems by building individual and institutional capacities among agricultural market actors in Burkina Faso. USAID Yidgiri has three focus areas:

  1. Enhance performance of commodity market systems by establishing profitable market linkages between producers and buyers, improving livestock market system structure and governance, and improving the capacity of market system actors, including farmers, producer organizations and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to access financial services and products.
  2. Increase use of quality inputs and services by developing business clusters, organizing seasonal commodity fairs, facilitating partnerships between producer organizations and industrial and institutional buyers, and leveraging financial services. USAID Yidgiri works at the systems level to decrease costs, improve quality, and educate farmers on the most efficient and effective use of available inputs and services.
  3. Increase consumption of nutritious, safe and affordable foods by increasing demand for and facilitating the market-driven development of diverse sources of such food, and employing social behavior change (SBC) interventions to ensure that all activities resonate with targeted rural markets, especially women and youth.

Partners: 

Changing Male Perception towards Domestic Duties

Posted On: Filed Under:

Although Rwanda has registered remarkable improvements in gender equality, some men continue to shun domestic duties as reserved for women. Those that get involved in domestic chores often end up being ridiculed by fellow males as ‘inganzwa’ (a reference to a husband who is subservient to his wife), a tendency that discourages males from supporting their wives at home. However, one farmer has vowed to change this status quo.

Elaste Mbonimpaye, (35), resides in Kabusunzu village, Isangano cell, Ndego sector in Kayonza district. He supports his wife at home but is always dismayed by the attitude of fellow males towards domestic chores. Luckily, he was selected by his community to become a male gender champion. These are groups organized by HW to mobilize males to engage in gender and nutrition-related activities. Through current community volunteers – 150 male gender champions, 150 female role models, and 100 Youth for Change, HW is mobilizing communities to adopt dietary diversity and proper nutrition. The aim is to improve the nutritional status for women and children and to increase yield and incomes for 560,000 farmers.

Elaste joined a care group in September 2018 and received training on gender equality and female empowerment with focus on equitable decision – making regarding family incomes and equal division of labor. Leading by example, he showed how this has changed his own household. That is all he needed to mobilize and train 30 farmers in his group and their spouses, who are now able to take joint decisions and divide home chores.

His wife, Nakure Médiatrice, is evidence of how increased support with childcare enabled her to have enough spare time to engage in the activities of a women savings group. She invested 40,000 RWF of her savings into a small retail shop of fresh foods and vegetables.

“I’m now closer to my children while my wife is now generating income for the family,” observed Elaste.

From the savings, they were able to acquire three additional plots of land, paid for community health insurance for the whole family, and bought scholastic materials for their children.

The family is still counting their gains. The wife has since gained confidence to make decisions at home and that has opened many windows of opportunity. She now has spare time to educate other women on how to manage domestic affairs and also takes care of herself.

Improving Business for Irish Potato Aggregators in Rwanda

Posted On: Filed Under:

Rwanda is the sixth largest producer of Irish potatoes in Africa. However, its competitiveness is challenged by low quality agro-inputs, poor storage capacity, and weak coordination between farmer groups and potential buyers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Consequently, this leads to low yield, high post-harvest losses and, subsequently, low prices on the market.

However, the difficult situation has turned into a business opportunity for some who are frustrated by the challenges.  Enias Hangiyaremye (44) is an Irish potato aggregator near Kavumu sector in the western district of Ngororero. He started the business in 2014 and it was initially performing well, but, unfortunately, it did not go as well as anticipated due to poor business management, lack of markets, and bad debtors.

Irish potato aggregator Enias Hangiyaremye loading up produce for the market.

In 2018, Enias engaged with HW to benefit from a series of trainings for aggregators and suppliers. Funded by USAID, HW is promoting the production, marketing, and consumption of Irish potatoes together with other value chains – HIB, OFSP, maize, and horticulture – for 560,000 farmers across 10 districts. The aims is to increase farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women and children, and increase the resilience of agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

Together with 32 other aggregators, Enias gained skills in business management -– including quality assurance, record keeping, and contract farming – to grow his Irish potato business. He now sells 20 MT, up from 15 MT when he started with HW, and he is able to buy in bulk at the time of harvest, manage stock, and deliver to clients on time, thereby sustaining the market for farmers. Enias has also diversified the business and is now managing an input credit scheme worth 27.4 million ($31.3million) for 160 Irish potato farmers. “I help farmers to access agro inputs like Irish potato seeds, lime, and fertilizers on credit and they pay back after harvest,” observed Enias.

To promote all HW value chains, Enias, and 11 other aggregators were assisted to sign 68 contracts for the supply of 164 MT of Irish potatoes, 5,212 MT of maize, 150 MT of high iron beans, 8,472 MT of horticulture crops and 929 KG of OFSP. Sales are now worth USD $3,876,427 and farmers are able to access finance worth 1.416 billion RWF (USD $1.62 M).

Managing business is no easy task, but, through HW, aggregators are finding a niche in the unpredictable Irish potato market.