The San Move From Seclusion to a Healthy and Food Secure Community

The San Move From Seclusion to a Healthy and Food Secure Community

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Known as Abathwa in Ndebele and Basangwa in Kalanga, the San inhabit remote areas of southern Africa, including Tsholotsho district of Matabeleland North province in south-western Zimbabwe. By tradition, the San are a nomadic people of hunter and gatherers who value seclusion from the rest of the world as a way to avoid disturbance and preserve their culture. Historically, this mobile and insulated lifestyle has made the San hard to reach for development assistance programs and has contributed to higher levels of illness and food insecurity. The Amalima program partners with San communities to improve health and income while respecting their desire to maintain traditional values.

In Tsholotsho, San communities are largely found in Ward 10 where the Amalima program is building on existing communal initiatives and solidarity to address food and nutrition insecurity and strengthen resilience to shocks. Through an introductory communal meeting with an Amalima Field Officer, members and leaders of Mtshina village San community became interested in the program’s trainings, particularly conservation agriculture and the Amalima Community Health Club (CHC) concept. Both adults and children were frequently ill with diarrhoea and water-borne diseases, and the village at large was motivated to improve their community’s livelihood and food security. Traditional leaders noted that San communities in the area have felt left out of many development initiatives because they are perceived as ‘outcasts’ in local society and have historically been marginalized by the sedentary, agricultural communities. As a result of the meeting, twenty-five community members (13 males & 12 females) representing households from half the village decided to establish the Siyazama Community Health Club (CHC).

As part of Amalima’s efforts to improve nutrition and health among pregnant and lactating women and children, CHC’s aim to increase awareness of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices in communities through completion of a 20 module Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) training. CHCs foster learning for change through promotion of practical improvements at the household level (e.g. washing hands at critical times, and establishing latrines, “tippy tap” hand washing stations and rubbish pits) to change the behaviors of community members in favor of a more hygienic environment. The CHC members began receiving lessons in September 2014 from Grace Moyo, their neighbor and Community Based Facilitator (CBF), who was trained herself by an Amalima Field Officer and Ministry of Health Environmental Health Technician (EHT). After each week’s lesson, members conduct practicals at home with family members where they put their training to use.

CHC member, Anna Madhumane, acknowledged how health unconscious her community was prior to the formation of the CHC. Of the widespread disregard for cleanliness she said, “People were not hygienic and, they used open defecation.” But Anna quickly pointed out that behaviors changed after the trainings: club members adopted the recommended practices. They built tippy taps, pot racks, rubbish pits, began to keep clean yards and wash their hands. “The CHC also gives us a platform to share ideas,” she said. “We talk about moulding bricks and getting more men involved to help dig pits for latrines.” The general community at large began to adopt some of the hygiene standards too – like digging a hole for ‘cat’ sanitation method for defecation and tippy taps for handwashing – which resulted in a noticeable reduction in cases of illness.

After completing the PHHE sessions, all 25 Siyazama CHC members graduated at a community-wide ceremony with songs, dramas and poetry about the importance of WASH practices. The MoHCC EHT, who works with Amalima, noted that this ward was generally regarded as a health unconscious community. “The San people were always looked down up on,” she said, “but now with this graduation and the change that has happened they have attained better status in local society.”

At the ceremony, Anna was awarded the first place “model home” award for adopting and maintaining hygienic practices at her homestead where she lives with her 16-year-old son, two grandchildren and a 3-month-old great-grandchild. She constructed a tippy tap, rubbish pit, pot drying rack, and practices clean dish-washing. Anna indicated that she is happy with the way the community has changed and she is determined to be a champion of hygiene standards—especially after receiving her award. “The certificate is a source of motivation for me. If am lazy to clean the yard, I am motivated to keep the cleanliness of my home when I see the certificate,” she said.

However, the club members recognized that their efforts to improve their community shouldn’t be limited to hygiene alone. In fall of 2014 while the CHC was at its early stages, the 25 members also participated in an Amalima conservation agriculture (CA) training to learn methods to increase yields in the arid area where they live. Most people in Mtshina rely on casual labor in the surrounding villages as a source of income, which generally goes towards buying corn meal and paying school fees. With CA, members hoped to become more independent and capable of feeding their children year-round. The training covered land preparation methods, fertilizer application, planting, pest management and post-harvest handling. After working together as a CHC group, the transition to CA was a natural process, noted Ana. In the spirit of Amalima members worked together to prepare the land and dig basins for each other’s fields—a practice which sped up the time it would take one household to do the work alone and resulted in each plot being ready for planting before the first rains.

On her 0.5 hectare plot, Ana planted maize, millet, sorghum, round nuts and groundnuts. Despite the severe 2014/2015 drought, Ana’s plot achieved above average yields for the season with 150 kgs of millet, 75 kgs of sorghum and 18 kgs of ground nuts and round nuts each, of which she has 50kgs of millet remaining. Of the maize, she said “it completely dried out. You could have lit a match and burned the field to ash.”

The CHC members recognized that their CA plots had much higher yields than farmers who practiced conventional farming and had a very poor or failed harvest. With this in mind, the members have already started preparing land for the upcoming cropping season. Each household plans to use CA methods, focus on planting millet and sorghum (small drought-tolerant grains) and avoid the more water-dependant maize. With the support of Amalima, Mtshina village is also establishing a nutrition garden where kale, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and other vegetables will be grown for consumption and sale, generating income and improving dietary diversity for 50 households.

“A few years ago,” Ana started, “if Amalima had approached our community, we would have fled, or hid, wishing to avoid contact with outsiders.” But now, Mtshina village is showing a commitment to hygiene and food security, which will benefit themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Amalima Begins Much Anticipated Formative Research in Zimbabwe

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Improving dietary diversity and quality of foods consumed by the entire Zimbabwean household was the driving force behind the collaborative baseline study conducted recently by Amalima, a USAID-supported program managed by CNFA. The Amalima program promotes the adoption of new practices in agriculture, disaster preparedness and infant and young child feeding to improve nutrition in over 66,000 households in Tsholotsho of Matebeleland North and Gwanda, Bulilima and Mangwe of Matebeleland South.

An analysis of nutrition in the region led to the conclusion that nutrition problems are a result of household feeding practices and behaviors, rather than a direct result of food shortages. As such, rather than offering prescribed solutions and recommended practices, the formative research will seek to better inform what motivates the individual behaviors, interests, attributes and particular needs of the communities the program will be serving over the next five years.

Preliminary tests and research allowed the Amalima team to capture baseline information on everything from what crop varieties are grown in the region, what assets are desired by the community and the level of household nutrition. These results, along with lessons learned, will be used to inform a broader survey that will drive program activates moving forward.

USAID Empowers Self-Employed Women to Become Entrepreneurs

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Five years ago, Hajira Beyene, and her family of 12 became beneficiaries of the Ethiopian government’s safety net program – an initiative that supports the poorest of the poor in food insecure districts of the country to help them meet their basic needs and become self-sufficient – in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). For 38-year-old Hajira, who is the head of her family, the 750 birr she received a month from the safety net program, along with food rations, was helpful, but far from enough.

Hajira knew she had to take matters into her own hands to ensure that her family would survive and escape poverty. She decided to start rearing and selling goats, by using one female goat that she received from a charitable organization known as Goal, and selling seasonal vegetables, which she planted in her yard when the rains allowed. Despite her efforts, lack of technical and business skills hamstrung Hajira’s efforts and left her without fair return, keeping her family reliant on the safety net program.

Hajira is one of the 63 women from the Amhara, SNNP and Tigray regions who received a four-month training on business management and leadership skills organized by USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) project from February to May 2015. The training taught the women how to become successful business operators by offering training in resource management, as well as improving their participation in the leadership and decision-making process of their businesses.


“The knowledge I gained from the training has entered my bones, not just my head,” Hajira siad.


The training has given her the confidence to take immediate action in purchasing one more goat for rearing by better managing some cash she had. “I purchased a new goat for 650 birr. She is expecting and will be giving birth in two months’ time, and the twin from the old goat will be ready for sale in a few months. Unlike before, I plan to sell them at a better price, and save the income from one of the goats’ sales, so that I can plan to build a better barn for the expansion,” said Hajira who mentioned lack of capital, as her main challenge.
According to Hajira before the training she never considered borrowing from the savings and credit association in her village for fear of not being able to pay back the money “Every 15 days, I contribute five birr to the association. If I borrow money, I need to pay it back within three months together with the interest based on the borrowed amount. My fear of doing so was always based on not having the source to pay back,” explained Hajira, who thinks that the training has now given her the self-confidence to overcome this difficulty as she will practice better financial management thanks to the knowledge she gained from the training.

As the safety net program of the government is set to terminate this year with a probability of being replaced with a different program, this training by USAID is a timely contribution to support Hajira’s transformation, and that of other women, into self-reliance. “There was a time when my first born had to drop out of school after he reached the ninth grade, because I couldn’t put him a school uniform. Although he is a year behind his class mates, I was able to work hard and send him back to school,” Hajira, who herself dropped out of school from the sixth grade as a result of unwanted marriage, said. She is firm in wanting to invest more in her children’s education, including her nine-year-old grandchild who is in the first grade, and whom she supports after he lost both of his parents at an early age.

Kenya Drylands Livestock Development Program

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From 2010 to 2013, the USAID-funded Kenya Drylands Livestock Development Program (KDLDP) addressed obstacles facing pastoralists in northeastern Kenya. USAID awarded KDLDP to CNFA through the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Leader with Associate Award (LWA) mechanism. With a total budget of approximately $10 million, the program’s main objective was to increase income and food security for pastoralist households in the districts of Garissa, Ijara, Mandera, Tana River, and Wajir.

Pastoralists in northeastern Kenya face obstacles such as poor access to inputs like animal feed and water, limited access to vaccines, poor linkages between producers and markets, and a lack of price transparency in their local markets. To address these problems, CNFA focused on the entire livestock value chain, connecting herders to markets, credit services, and livestock health inputs while also working to improve the policies that affect pastoralists. CNFA worked with key local partners like the Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC) and a Kenyan affiliate, the Agricultural Marketing Development Trust (AGMARK), to address short-term issues facing pastoralists and to lay a foundation for long-term, sustainable development.

KDLDP integrated cross-cutting themes such as gender, youth, and adaptation to climate change, and the project undertook baseline studies, including Household Income Surveys, a Gender Analysis study, and Environment Impact Assessments. These studies and assessments helped to inform local policy and support the continuity of future development initiatives in KDLDP’s target regions.

Program Approach:

  • Enhanced Livestock Trade and Marketing:CNFA mobilized groups including Livestock Marketing Associations (LMAs) to form larger commercially oriented associations of producer groups called Pastoralist Marketing Clusters (PMCs). PMC employees received Business Management Training (BMT) to improve the groups’ negotiation, documentation, record keeping, and bookkeeping skills. Recognizing that cultural implication would not allow the Muslim population in the area to access traditional banking loans, the program created the Community Owned Finance Institution (COFI), Kenya’s first Sharia-compliant Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (SACCOS). KDLDP also contributed to the National Livestock Market Information Systems (NLMIS) by providing weekly information from different markets within the program area. Key information generated from the data collected was broadcasted through the Wajir Community Radio and the Star FM radio stations;
  • Livestock Product Value Addition:CNFA identified initiatives that greatly improved the livelihoods of communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) areas. Program staff worked with local groups to produce and market value-added products for niche markets, identify new market opportunities, conduct studies of new enterprises, support the financing of viable enterprises via grants and guaranteed loans, and support improved performance of existing enterprises;
  • Increased Livestock Productivity and Competitiveness:The Business Management Training (BMT) component of KDLDP equipped agro-dealers with the skills and knowledge to manage and stock their enterprises professionally, and to disseminate the techniques to pastoralists. CNFA also strengthened the ability of Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development (MoLD) to implement disease surveillance and better control livestock movements;
  • Facilitate Marketing and Livestock Development through Policy Change:KDLDP held policy dialogue meetings to discuss issues, build consensus, and prepare memoranda detailing constraints and policy suggestions on livestock development. CNFA hosted multiple activities to develop the capacity of the District Livestock Marketing Council (DLMC) and to equip pastoralists’ representatives with the necessary skills to participate in policy processes and advocate on behalf of their constituents;
  • Promote Strategies to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change:KDLDP equipped pastoralists with skills to combat disease epidemics that derive from climate change and more severe weather. The program provided support to the expansion of water harvesting and the mainstreaming of Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) in all program activities. In addition, KDLDP supported vaccination programs in areas where flooding may trigger Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and Hemorrhagic Septicemia.

Agricultural Market Development Trust

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The Improving the Productivity and Incomes of Smallholder Farmers in Western Kenya initiative aimed to expand the agricultural input distribution system across four key districts of Bungoma, Bondo, Siaya, and Vihiga. This pilot project focused on the development of rural agricultural input stockists, accessible to smallholder farmers and local communities. Through its locally registered Kenyan affiliate AGMARK, CNFA addressed the constraints in the input distribution system to stimulate the flow of productivity enhancing inputs and provide increased production, food security, and incomes to smallholders.

Program Approach:

  • Built the capacity for stockists via training in both agricultural inputs, product knowledge and safe use, and business management. CNFA leveraged both “embedded” services provided by companies on products and independent trainers for teaching business management skills;
  • Drafted six new training modules comprised of Working Capital Management, Stock Management, Selling and Marketing, Costing and Pricing, Record Keeping, and Managing Relations and Networks (Supply Companies, Banks, and GOA Agencies) information;
  • Used a Financial Innovation Fund to provide partial guarantees to reduce initial risk for companies and wholesalers interested in selling to project-supported stockists.

Amalima Improves Livestock Productivity in Matabeleland North and South Zimbabwe

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Phillip Sithole, his wife and four children live in Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe, an area characterized by low rainfall available for planting crops. Because of the area’s arid conditions, the land is best suited for raising livestock. Sithole cares for cattle, goats, chickens and Guinea fowl on his small farm and sells at least one of his cattle every year, through his membership at the Magaya Livestock Producers Association, to support his family. But in order to generate a profit, he needs new offspring to replace the cattle he sells.

Unfortunately, low calving rates and in-breeding hinder smallholder farmers like Sithole in their efforts to increase their livestock. To address these constraints, Amalima, a USAID-funded Food for Peace program, initiated a series of trainings on Artificial Insemination (AI). AI affords farmers an opportunity to introduce new genetic material of adaptable and desirable cattle breeds that are better suited for harsher physical environments. Amalima staff, in collaboration with the Department of Livestock Production and Development, Department of Vet Services, Agritex and local paravets, facilitated the trainings to discuss the benefits of AI, as well as its process, timing and post-pregnancy diagnosis.

When Sithole heard about the training opportunity, he gathered funds to pay for seven cows to be inseminated at the cost of $30 USD each. “I am excited for an increase in my animals’ impregnation rate and am looking forward to a better income for my family,” Sithole expressed. Like most farmers who attended the training, the average pregnancy rate using traditional methods is between 20-30%. The insemination, introduced by Amalima, crossed his cows with a more resilient breed to improve the quality of his heard. After insemination, Amalima staff came back to inspect Sithole’s cows and found that 100% of the inseminated animals were pregnant.

To date, Amalima has trained 304 farmers (211 male and 93 female) on AI throughout Amalima’s four program areas. Because of these trainings, there is now a 68% success rate of pregnant cows as a result of AI and farmers are expecting their first generation of crosses in early March 2015. With this new technology and improvement in livestock production, families like the Sithole’s are able to plan better for their future needs. Additionally, these farmers are able to predict how many of their animals will become pregnant as a result of a much higher pregnancy rate than using traditional breeding methods.

Amalima applies a set of innovative approaches by building on existing communal initiatives and solidarity to address food and nutrition insecurity and strengthen resilience to shocks. It is introducing new farming technologies like AI though its livestock component in addition to teaching beneficiaries to become better farmers in difficult physical environments. CNFA leads a consortium of partners including Organization of Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), Africare, Dabane Water Works, International Medical Corps (IMC), and the Manoff Group to increase productivity, improve drought resilience and adaptation, and enhance nutrition care practices in Matabeleland North and South, Zimbabwe.

Improving Livelihoods and Enterprise Development

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The $31.2 million Improving Livelihoods and Enterprise Development Program (I-LED) (2006-2010) assisted communities affected by the October 2005 Kashmir earthquake. I-LED focused on generating increased incomes, employment and an improved asset base for the earthquake-affected populations in the Siran and Kaghan Valleys in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Bagh District in Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK). The Livelihoods component, completed in 2008, delivered replacements of key farming systems, capacity building and reconstruction of affected infrastructure. Complementing these efforts, I-LED developed agricultural and tourism value chains that resulted in the creation and support of 3,082 new and existing enterprises that provided full-time equivalent employment to more than 4,914 individuals by the project’s conclusion.


I-LED worked with communities to identify and prioritize needs and provided support for communities to restore livestock and re-establish crop systems. It promoted industries with growth potential by strengthening key subsectors through grants training and technical assistance, which led to increased competitiveness of local Pakistani enterprises. It also engaged community groups and government stakeholders to facilitate stronger public-private partnerships, supported a positive role for government in enterprise development and helped producers and processors improve economic opportunities through formal organizations.

  1. Value Chain and Enterprise Development: I-LED was built upon revitalized agricultural production that introduced sustainable value-adding activities such as milk collection schemes and potato seed storage that created market and employment opportunities for farmers. By organizing producers and processors into clusters and associations, CNFA increased opportunities for collective marketing and purchasing as well as group advocacy. By the end of the program, I-LED generated new employment and income opportunities, improved competitiveness of products and services and increased access to markets by providing the resources necessary to develop value chains and establish new enterprises.
  2. Enhance Forage Crops: I-LED supported “Cut and Carry” fodder projects for each of the176 feedlot grant recipients to improve the availability of green fodder. Recipients participated in trainings on land preparation, seed sowing and fodder management.
  3. Improved Dairy Sector: I-LED’s dairy sector strategy was two-fold: to increase the production capacity of dairy farms and to develop clearly defined milk production zones in close proximity to major regional markets. Trainings were provided on proper animal care to increase the sustainable impact on the dairy sector.
  4. Supported Small Ruminant and Poultry Producers: CNFA designed and conducted numerous training activities for farmers and associations. I-LED awarded livelihoods and enterprise grants to restore livestock populations and improve the production capacity and quality of animal products.
  5. Provided Grants and Training: I-LED helped transition communities toward economic value-chain and local economic development using enterprise matching grants, value-chain grants and farm store grants.
  6. Supported Women Entrepreneurs: I-LED involved women and men equitably in the community engagement process with women making up 28% of program beneficiaries to receive direct training.
  7. Developed Community Organization and Associations: The Local Economic Development component focused on strengthening clusters and associations by promoting teamwork, enhancing local decision making and maximizing usage of local resources. I-LED established linkages between local banks, enterprises and associations to provide better access to loans and business services for entrepreneurs.
  8. Improved Community Physical Infrastructure (CPI): To facilitate the transition from relief to economic development, I-LED restored and reconstructed numerous physical structures vital to local communities such as mitigation structures, shops and public facilities.

Georgia Agricultural Risk Reduction Program

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The one-year (2008-2009), $19.5 million USAID-funded Georgia Agricultural Risk Reduction Program (GARRP) impacted the needs of roughly 40,000 farm families in their recovery from the economic impact of the Georgian-Russian conflict. The project addressed crucial food security and income generation issues in the affected communities of the Gori, Kareli and Kaspi districts.

Through GARRP, CNFA provided livelihood assistance to local farmers, as well as resettled internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had been issued agricultural land, to ensure successful spring crop planting and orchard assistance. In addition, CNFA operated a three-track voucher system for corn, orchards and winter wheat.


  1. Improved Yields: Vouchers for seed, fertilizer and machinery were distributed to more than 10,000 farm families, including 2,300 IDP families. CNFA mobilized local machinery service providers and organized the provision of plowing, cultivation, planting and fertilizer application services.
  2. Provided Electronic Voucher Cards: More than 17,900 farm families received electronic voucher cards for orchard inputs to be used in eight retail locations, modernizing orchard production.
  3. Supported Farmers in Harvesting Winter Wheat: The third prong of the voucher program targeted families either late in receiving land or whose land had been recently decontaminated from unexploded ordinances. This component distributed vouchers for seed and machinery services for 700 IDP families and 2,670 farm families.

By winter, 2009, the wheat planted at the beginning of GARRP was fully harvested, adding up to more than 41,000 metric tons and worth $10.1 million for program beneficiaries. Not only did this represent a vital return to self-sufficiency for the 7,862 wheat beneficiaries, but due to the failure of the wheat harvest in the east of the country, the total yield amounted to two-thirds of the total Georgian wheat harvest for the year, making it critical for the food security of the country.

In the last phase of the program, 32,000 farm families received vouchers to plant 2,750 hectares of winter wheat and 12,650 hectares of wheat fertilizer. Over 95,000 individuals benefited from the final phase, representing the completion of delivery of critical livelihood support to every farm and IDP family affected by the conflict

Private Sector Development Initiative

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The two-year, $12 million Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) was implemented by the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA) with CNFA, INternational Executive Service Corps (IESC) and Citizens Development Corps (CDC) as subcontractors from 2004 to 2006. The goal of the initiative was to help expand a competitive private sector in Iraq by offering business training and other business support services to Iraqi entrepreneurs. As the leader of the Value Chain and Marketing Development component, CNFA identified, assessed and analyzed marker opportunities throughout the entire agricultural value chain to ensure that interventions were appropriately targeted. CNFA also developed a comprehensive agribusiness strategy that addressed agribusiness development needs, priority sectors and specific interventions to strengthen weaknesses within specific value chains.


  1. Developed and Disseminated Training: The training component of PSDI was geared toward improving business skills and knowledge among the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector of the Iraqi private sector, as well as among local SME supporting institutions (banks, Chambers of Commerce, business associations and training institutions).
  2. Provided Technical Assistance: CNFA provided technical assistance through American and Iraqi consultants. The technical assistance component was designed to reinforce the skills developed in training programs and to complement the provision of grants when possible.
  3. Distributed Grants: CNFA was responsible for the selection of grantees and disbursement of $3 million in grant funds through 347 separate grant packages.