Beekeepers Hear the Buzz About Pest Control in Madagascar

Beekeepers Hear the Buzz About Pest Control in Madagascar

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Beekeeper Jean Tsitambainarivo lives with his family in Madagascar’s Vatovavy Fitovinany region, where he is well respected and is president of the AINA Beekeeper Cooperative in the community of Antsenavolo. AINA, with its 19 members, produces honey from numerous plants, including lychees, bonara (Albizia lebbeck L.), grevillea, eucalyptus and niaouli.

In the Vatovavy Fitovinany region, the combination of warm temperatures, high rainfall and increased biodiversity leads to conditions where honey can be harvested up to four times per year. In 2010 when Tsitambainarivo began beekeeping, he successfully started his first harvest with 60 hives at his disposal which produced 1,400 liters of honey. However, 2010 was also the year that the varroa mite took hold in Madagascar, infecting the endemic honeybee, Apis mellifera unicolor.

Tsitambainarivo harvesting honey.
Photo credit: Raharinirina Monique

Over the next few years, this pest caused the destruction of approximately 60% of the country’s bee colonies, and up to 90% in some areas. The devastation caused by the mite led the Government of Madagascar to declare it a national disaster, mandating that all infected and adjacent hives be destroyed. By 2017, Tsitambainarivo’s production decreased by 60% and he had only 20 low-producing hives left. Locally no obvious treatment was known at the beginning of the infestation and imported products were expensive. Many beekeepers struggled to continue producing honey.

In Madagascar, beekeeping is not just important for the sale of honey and wax, but also for pollination. The endemic bee pollinates 80% of all plants and, culturally, honey is highly regarded as a symbol of success and happiness. While expensive, most Malagasy families make a point to have honey available for use in important events and ceremonies as well. Due to the impact of the varroa mite, many beekeepers made the decision to pursue other economic activities, but Tsitambainarivo persevered and led the AINA Cooperative to find a solution. Using a pesticide that controls varroa mites, Tsitambainarivo was able to reduce the infestation and serve as an example to other beekeepers. He built back more hives, but because the varroa mites were not completely exterminated, he still struggled with low production and weak colonies.

Youssef demonstrating oxalic acid technique. Photo credit: Raharinirina Monique

In early 2020, Tsitambainarivo and the AINA Cooperative partnered with the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program implemented in Southern Africa and Moldova by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) to improve control of the varroa mite. AINA, meaning “life” in Malagasy, is a beekeeper cooperative based in the rural commune of Antsenavolo of the Mananjary district, in Southeast Madagascar. Tsitambainarivo and 18 other AINA Cooperative members were visited by U.S.-based volunteer Steven Youssef, a business development professional, beekeeper and owner of a beekeeping business in Vienna, Virginia. During his trainings, Youssef demonstrated a technique to control varroa mite that had not been tried by the cooperative. Using a battery-powered vaporizer, he demonstrated how to fumigate hives with oxalic acid, a naturally occurring acid found in plants that can successfully exterminate mites. The training covered topics like choosing the right time for fumigation, selecting directions for spraying based on air flow and, importantly, using protective face masks. Youssef also trained cooperative members on how to follow-up on the colonies and hives, support the development of a strong bee colony and increase production of quality honey. As a complement to the trainings, CNFA’s partner, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), covered the cost of the vaporizers, which still remain with the cooperatives today.

The AINA Cooperative was impressed at the speed and ease of the oxalic acid technique. As president, Tsitambainarivo oversaw the treatment of many hives and, nowadays, is back to producing substantial amounts of honey through his 70 hives . By September 2020, he had collected 840 liters of honey, considerably more than the 150 liters his bees produced in 2019. With his larger and improved quality harvests, Tsitambainarivo can take advantage of the increased domestic demand for honey and improve his income. His sales in 2020 totaled $3,230 and are still growing, whereas sales the previous year totaled only $460. With this extra income, Tsitambainarivo supported his wife to expand her shop and has made plans to further expand his own business.

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.

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: 

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.

Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth

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Overview:

The five-year (2015-2020), USAID Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program was designed to increase the incomes of vulnerable households by improving the performance and inclusiveness of the cowpea, poultry and small ruminant value chains. Implemented in Niger and Burkina Faso, the $34.3 million program was one of many operating under USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) initiative, supported by a consortium of partners and led by CNFA.

Approach:

  1. Strengthened Resilience to Environmental, Security and Economic Shocks: The program aimed to improve community resistance to shocks by sustainably rehabilitating markets, facilitating village-savings programs and improving access to shared and household assets along three value chains: cowpea, poultry and small ruminants.
  2. Facilitated and Catalyzed Market Systems: REGIS-AG used a “facilitation approach” that aimed to improve the function of markets and create sustainable change without becoming embedded in the system. REGIS-AG also aimed to identify opportunities through value chain and end-market analysis and to strengthen relationships across its value chains.
  3. Strengthened Input SUpply and IMproved Smallholder and Agro-Pastoralist Access to Interconnected Markets:CNFA concentrated on improving delivery of and access to veterinary services and feed provision centers for poultry and small ruminants and strengthening the supply of agricultural inputs for cowpeas with a specific emphasis on Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) bags for improved storage practices.
  4. Increased Access to Finance, Innovation and Private Sector Investments: REGIS-AG worked with private-sector investments to design and market financial products that will expand access to services, particularly for women. It also aimed to improve the enabling environment for local and regional private-sector investment by building trust between value chain actors and increasing their voice at the policy level.
  5. Focused on Gender and Women’s Empowerment REGIS-AG employed a comprehensive approach to engage both men and women in overcoming structural biases and barriers in the three target value chains through education and integration into the formal market economy.

Partners:

  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
  • Association Nigérienne pour la Dynamisation des Initiatives Locales (Karkara)
  • Association for Catalyzing Pastoral Development in Niger (AREN),
  • Association Nodde Nooto (A2N)
  • The Association pour la Gestion de l’Environnement et le Développement (AGED).