Improving Post-Harvest Practices to Increase Cashew Farmers Income

Improving Post-Harvest Practices to Increase Cashew Farmers Income

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Salifa Yahaya is a farmer from Labaka-Oja, a small settlement in the Kwara State of Nigeria, where about 80% of the residents are cashew farmers. Despite the region’s climate and soil conditions being apt for farming raw cashew nuts, local producers face other issues that hinder their operations. More specifically, unfavorable market conditions as well as a lack of technology make it difficult to harvest large yields and produce high-quality cashew nuts to sell for higher prices. Despite managing a relatively large farm of 11 ha, this affected Yahaya.

To address these barriers, the USDA West Africa PRO-Cashew Project (PRO-Cashew) collaborated with Sonata Nigeria formerly known as Huxley Nigeria, a company specializing in the processing and exporting of raw cashew nuts, to host a series of training sessions—one of which Yahaya attended. In this training, Yahaya and other local farmers learned new harvest and post-harvest practices to implement on their farms to produce better results. They were also trained in business operating techniques to make the most out of their improved cashew yields.

“I never thought I could get so much more money just by drying my cashew nuts,” she said. “I also never believed in keeping those little farm records and consistently saving small amounts of money until Sonata Nigeria trained us. I am so grateful I didn’t miss out.”

Applying the tools and trainings received from PRO-Cashew enabled Salifa Yahaya to diversify her income.

In the previous harvesting season, Yahaya was only able to collect 3.5 MT of raw cashew nuts due to many parts of her farm being inaccessible from orchard overgrowth. Applying pruning and management practices from the Sonata Nigeria training, Yahaya was able to improve her orchard’s conditions and collect larger and higher quality yields. This harvest season, she collected about 5 MT of raw cashew nuts. By drying the nuts, Yahaya was able to increase the quality of her product even further and sell for a higher price than she would have if the nuts were wet, earning about 7% more than her peers.

Before participating in Sonata Nigeria’s training, Yahaya did not approach her cashew production as a business, but rather as means to support just herself and her family. With a new business outlook, she now meticulously records production and sales figures, making it easier to re-invest into her enterprise and engage in other profitable activities. Yahaya also joined a savings group which allows her to allocate money toward other plans she may, following the recommendation of a Sonata Nigeria extension worker.

As part of the PRO-Cashew Agricultural Extension Grant program’s objective of establishing stronger supply chain linkages between producers and exporters, a grant was provided to Sonata Nigeria to continue supporting raw cashew nut producers with agricultural extension services. The grant also aims to enhance the local processing company’s supply chain and open doors for producers to find more selling opportunities.

One Cooperative’s Improved Organizational Capacity Strengthens Services Offered to Producers in Rural Mozambique

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The Forum of Associations of Producers of Mathariya (FACAM) is a smallholder farmer cooperative in the Rubáuè District of Nampula Province, Mozambique, that was formally registered in 2008 to serve as a platform organization for different associations. FACAM has 421 members, of whom 220 are women, distributed across 22 smallholder farmer clubs, each of which has its own leadership. The main purpose of FACAM is to provide commercialization services to members, as well as to protect forest resources, disseminate best practices for the sustainable use of mineral resources and advocate on behalf of those affected by epidemic and endemic diseases like HIV/AIDS within the members’ communities.

Although FACAM aspired to grow its organization and business ventures, an assessment conducted by the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program in June 2021 highlighted several improvements that the Forum needed to make in order to take their activities to the next level. For example, low membership retention resulted in a reduction in income from dues, which are used to fund the cooperative. Additionally, the cooperative’s high turnover rate meant that FACAM members had limited relationships with clients, and therefore fewer clients using their commercialization services. The cooperative also had inconsistent organizational management and record keeping structures, making it difficult to track operations and extract data for financial statements.

In October 2021, the cooperative received its first of two F2F paired assignments involving local volunteers working on the ground while collaborating with U.S.-based volunteers remotely. The local volunteer, Dieter Savaio from Manica province, is a teacher at the Higher Polytechnic Institute of Manica. He is also a shareholder of Emilia Commercial Seed Company and a consultant who had spare time to volunteer with F2F due to the COVID-19 restrictions placed on in-person classes. The U.S. volunteer, Joe McFadden from New Jersey, spent the last 40 years of his career as a certified public accountant working in accounting, auditing, budgeting, financial analysis and financial reporting.

After assessing FACAM’s financial management practices, the volunteers assisted their managers to set up a simple financial management and bookkeeping system. As a result, the cooperative now uses printed forms to document sales, expenses, income statements, balance sheets and controls of stock, debtors, creditors and cash flow.

In December 2021, Savaio again supported FACAM, this time with veteran U.S. volunteer Pamela Karg from Wisconsin, to assist the cooperative in improving their organizational capacity. The volunteer assistance focused on increasing due payments and strengthening leadership and association management, including improving understanding of the association’s function and the rights and duties of members. The volunteers conducted a SWOT analysis with the FACAM board members to assess major operational constraints. The volunteers also trained the club members associated with FACAM in association function, highlighting the importance of participatory management strategies. At the end of the assignment, Savaio presented recommendations to FACAM Board members for improving the organization and helping them achieve their goals.

As result of the F2F trainings, currently 60% of the members are paying their dues – a considerable increase from before. Additionally, sale volumes increased from 640 ton in 2021 to 970 ton in 2022, as an increasing number of farmer clubs commercialized their products through FACAM due to its improved organization and services offered to clubs and non-associated producers.

Fast forward and in August 2022, FACAM received a grant from the INKOTA consortium to initiate mechanization and transport services through the purchase of tools such as a tractor and a trailer. Even though INKOTA received applications from four cooperatives located in Ribáuè district, FACAM was the only one that met the conditions required by INKOTA to have a strong organizational capacity.

Antonio Joaquim, president of FACAM, noted his gratitude for the assistance his cooperative received from F2F volunteers, stating that “FACAM now develops its business in a professional way. Our vision is to continue growing and we will count on more assistance from F2F to support us to better position ourselves in the market.”

Partners Reap the Benefits from Farmer-to-Farmer and Innovation Lab Collaboration

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When two veteran USAID projects join forces, innovation and capacity building can happen at scale.  Between November 2021 and June 2022, the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in Southern Africa and Moldova, and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut trained 3,636 farmers in groundnut production and aflatoxin control in Malawi (669), Mozambique (381), Zambia (1,254) and Zimbabwe (1,322). Of the trainees, 2,245 were women and 363 were youth.

This collaboration was built on the strengths of both parties. The F2F program has field offices in each of the four aforementioned countries—which they rely on to connect with large networks of development partners, including USAID Mission-funded projects—as well as the experience to organize trainings. The program recruits local volunteers who are connected with volunteers based in the U.S. to conduct trainings virtually, a newer F2F model that came about as an adaptation to COVID-19.

In contrast, the Peanut Innovation Lab has a deep expertise in groundnuts, an important food and cash crop particularly for women farmers in Southern Africa. It also has an increasing number of training tools available, including its recently launched Groundnut Academy—an online course that is free and easily accessible. The first module, on agronomy, came online in 2021 and the second, on aflatoxin, in 2022.

Conversations between the two organizations rapidly resulted in the development of a plan to achieve the greatest impact: F2F would recruit local volunteers from across Southern Africa who would then take Groundnut Academy courses online and train additional farmers. The initial training was done with technical support from U.S.-based F2F volunteer and Peanut Innovation Lab Deputy Director Jamie Rhoads, who was paired with local volunteers during the question and answer (Q&A) sessions at the Groundnut Academy. The volunteers also worked with Rhoads during the subsequent farmer trainings, which offered participants the opportunity to ask questions and share experiences with Rhoads and the local volunteers.

Collaboration initiated in October 2021 with the Groundnut Academy’s newly published Agronomy course, which focused on the next rainy season expected to start in November-December when farmers could put their learning into practice. From October-November, 18 farmer trainings were conducted in the four countries—eight in Malawi, two in Mozambique, seven in Zambia and one in Zimbabwe—covering all aspects of groundnut production from planting to crop management and harvest.

Groundnut Academy training in the Eastern Province of Zambia.

The enthusiasm expressed by the farmers and local volunteers led to further collaboration when the Aflatoxin course was published in 2022. This time, the trainings were held just before groundnut harvests, so that farmers could learn ways to reduce aflatoxin during the upcoming harvest and storage period. From May-June, an additional 39 trainings were conducted, of which 14 were in Zimbabwe, 10 each in Malawi and Zambia, and five in Mozambique.

Farmers attended the trainings in numbers that went far beyond those expected and were quick to start adopting the practices taught by F2F. In Zimbabwe, F2F partner and field officer for the USAID-funded Fostering Agribusiness for Resilient Markets (FARM) project Rudo Mushangwe stated, “Farmers adopted early ploughing and purchased seed dressing, which they learned about during the trainings. So far, 150 of the farmers from two wards plan to dress their seeds for the first time in their lives.”

While learning to produce more of the important food staple and increasingly important cash crop, farmers also gained an important understanding of aflatoxin mitigation. Leya Lungu, a 34-year-old farmer and training participant from Nyachilala Cooperative in Zambia’s Petauke district in Eastern Province, reflected on the knowledge she gained during the aflatoxin training saying, “One thing I did not know that I learned was the causes of aflatoxin and its long-term effects on human health if consumed. As a family, we always selected the bad groundnuts for consumption and sold the good ones. It is interesting that as producers, we consumed the harmful ones ourselves and sold the good quality groundnuts to people who did not even produce them.”

Chomba Mubanga, 29, a local volunteer and Technical Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture in Chipata District in Zambia’s Eastern Province, echoed the importance of learning about aflatoxin saying, “For me what stood out most was the fact that I got to learn more about the impacts of aflatoxin as I had very little knowledge about it before and did not know that it was toxic. I also learned that aflatoxins are actually odorless and tasteless. This was new to me because each time I ate a groundnut which tasted bitter, I mistakenly associated that with aflatoxins.”

In all, 30 local volunteers took the Groundnut Academy’s agronomy and aflatoxin courses and received certificates recognizing their achievement. Additionally, Jamie Rhoads and the 30 local volunteers were recognized by CNFA’s F2F program as Volunteers of the Year for their dedication to the assignments and their efforts to improve groundnut production and aflatoxin mitigation.

Inonge Simalumba, 33, a local volunteer and Camp Extension Officer at Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture, stated, “I enjoyed the whole process, the training, the Q&A with Jamie Rhoads and the interaction with volunteers from Zambia and Malawi. It showed that the challenges we face with farmers were similar, so sharing our experiences was helpful. With the information we got from the Peanut Innovation Lab, it was also very easy to train farmers. We were confident that whatever issues the farmers would bring up, we would get a response. My biggest take away was that I could access all the materials I needed for future trainings from the Groundnut Academy website.”

Some of the local volunteers even went beyond training farmers on agronomy. For example, Mugove Gora from Zimbabwe helped farmers belonging to the Murwira Association in the Bikita District of Masvingo Province to revive their commodity group which had been abandoned during COVID-19. They were assisted to develop a budget and purchase seeds for the 2022-2023 rainy season. In Zambia’s Eastern Province, local volunteers Chomba Mubanga and Emmanuel Phiri facilitated a linkage between farmers and an agrodealer so that they could access quality inputs on credit. As a result, 64 farmers in Petauke District accessed improved groundnut seeds and fertilizers from Rimbecks Agro Hardware and General Dealers to increase production and improve the quality of their produce.

Additionally, several USAID-funded projects participated in the trainings as partners, particularly in Zimbabwe where the Fostering Agribusiness for Resilient Markets (FARM) project facilitated trainings on aflatoxin mitigation with 14 farmer groups. FARM field officer Harmony Marwa reflected on the importance of the trainings in the Zimbabwean context stating, “Peanut production in the smallholder sector has been on a steady decline as processers have raised concerns about the high aflatoxin levels present in local crops. The training is the first step in reviving this important value chain so that farmers can meet stringent quality requirements. The 14 groups are looking forward to having better quality produce this season.”

Similarly, Rhoads reflected on the Peanut Innovation Lab’s role in the trainings saying, “The Peanut Innovation Lab was excited to find an innovative way to partner with the F2F Program in Southern Africa through the Groundnut Academy. Working directly with the volunteers has been a great way to get immediate feedback on the content of the courses. It also helped us expand the reach of our extension tools like using animations and infographics from . In some cases, we’ve even identified areas of needed research directly from farmers who are looking for answers to challenges we hadn’t considered.”

With the clear benefits to all involved, collaboration between the Southern Africa F2F and the Peanut Innovation Lab will continue during the 2022-2023 rainy season, increasing its scale and impact to farmers along the way.

 

 

 

Improved Farming Practices Increase Fish Yields in Zambia

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Esther Siazilo and her family have been living in the Nazilongo area of Kalomo district in the Southern Province of Zambia for 37 years. They produce maize, sunflowers and groundnuts and have a vegetable garden where they grow kale, tomatoes, onions and cabbage. In addition to producing crops, the family is also involved in fish farming, which they started in 2014 with the construction of a fishpond measuring 15 m x 10 m.

At the time the pond was constructed, Siazilo and her family did not have any knowledge of farming fish for consumption, but they were inspired to launch this business after Siazilo’s husband, Jones, discussed the idea with a fish farmer in Kalomo town.

By 2021, the Siazilo family had solidified their fish farming business and joined the Nabuyani Fish Farmers Cooperative. Through the cooperative’s collaboration with the USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program implemented in Southern Africa and Moldova by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), Siazilo received technical support from two paired assignments involving U.S.-based volunteers virtually collaborating with local volunteers working on the ground.

The first assignment, in April 2021, focused on improving feed formulation. With support from local volunteer Abraham Muluku, head of the Nutrition Task Force at Zambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock headquartered in Lusaka, and New Jersey-based volunteer Dr. Juli-Anne Royes, an aquaculture consultant with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Siazilo learned how to formulate feed from local ingredients in addition to implementing recommended methods for fish feeding, applying feeding rates and keeping records.

The Siazilo family with their harvest.

The second assignment, in September 2021, was in pond construction and management. This time, local volunteer Twaambo Buumba and West Virginia-based volunteer Dr. Dan Miller taught Siazilo how to select sites, identify water sources and monitor water quality. They also recommended pond sizes and techniques for improving weed management, stocking density and pond fertilization. Both trainings included theoretical and practical information on fish farming.

After the first assignment, Muluku observed, “I was impressed by the commitment shown by Mrs. Siazilo as she was the one encouraging women in the community to participate in the practical aspects of formulating feed.”

It was therefore not surprising that the Siazilo family quickly put into practice what they had learned from the two assignments by implementing recommendations to improve feed quality, feeding rates, feeding methods, site selection, pond maintenance and record keeping. They also quickly saw the benefits of these changes.

During the August 2022 harvest, the family reaped over 300 kg of fish from one pond which had been stocked with 1,500 fingerlings. They sold the fish for $2.84 (ZMW45) per kg, which earned them approximately $794 (ZMW12,600). They then used their earnings to buy 3,500 fingerlings, which allowed them to stock two ponds with tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus)—filling one pond with 2,000 fingerlings and the other with 1,500 fingerlings.

Reflecting on the impact that the training had on her family’s fish harvest as a result of using improved inputs and management practices, Siazilo said, “I remember how disappointed I was when we started and only managed to harvest 75 kg of fish after stocking the pond with 1,500 fingerlings and rearing the fish for close to a year. At harvest, the fish were less than 100 g and we could not even sell them, so we just consumed them as a family. At the time I told my husband that I was not interested in fish farming anymore because I did not see the benefit.”

She then explained how she has inspired other women in her community to take up fish farming by sharing her knowledge and, with the help of her husband, training local women to farm. Together, 25 of these women have even formed a fish farming group and 10 of them have already constructed fishponds to start their farms. “I am so proud of my wife, especially the passion she has of encouraging other women to engage in fish farming,” said Jones Siazilo. “You can tell that she is happy with her achievements and willing to show others that they can do it as well.”

With the knowledge and skills they gained through F2F, the Siazilo family now has six fish ponds—four ponds measuring 25 m x 15 m, one pond measuring 15 m x 10 m and another measuring 10 m x 12 m. To ensure that they have a continuous supply of fish to satisfy their customers’ needs, they purchased quality fingerlings from professional hatcheries and commercial feed from a fish feed manufacturing company, which they alternate with the feed they produce themselves. With their earnings from fish sales, they also now have enough money to buy quality inputs for their crop production.

Improvement of Livestock Vaccination Coverage in Guidan Roumdji Department

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A veterinarian by training, Dr. Issa Nassirou Mamane, operates a private practice that covers the department of Guidan Roumdji in Niger, supporting clients with quality veterinary products and providing daily supervision to his network of livestock managers. With support from USAID through the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yalwa activity, and previously through its predecessor, the USAID Resilience and Economic Growth in the Sahel – Accelerated Growth (REGIS-AG) program, he ensures the timely distribution of zootechnical and veterinary inputs and products across his community. He also provides quality animal health services to local producers, sensitizes and trains farmers on improved animal production techniques and promotes and popularizes innovative methods and technologies in animal husbandry, helping increase animal production.

While working with the USAID Yalwa activity, Dr. Mamane has taken part in several capacity building exercises, including in areas related to private practice management and taxation. He received support for technical training for his livestock auxiliaries, and has been equipped with small surgical and cold chain equipment to enhance the services his business offers to the community. Dr. Mamane also collaborates with USAID Yalwa on targeted campaigns to raise small ruminant breeders’ awareness on the importance of  livestock vaccination.

Dr. Issa Nassirou, the private veterinarian for the department of Guidan Roumdji, Maradi region, pictured with the Auxiliaires d’Elevage (Livestock Auxiliaries) of the Maradi Region.

With USAID Yalwa support, Dr. Mamane has improved his business management practices, with the implementation of an accounting system that aligns with the Nigerien tax requirements. The business management training Dr. Mamane received from USAID Yalwa has allowed him to grow his business, expanding the number of permanent staff from three employees to 10, and his network of livestock auxiliaries from 30 auxiliaries to 60. He has also hired 30 local women to serve as community vaccinators. At his clinic, Dr. Mamane organized the construction of a training room to both train personnel and use as a conference space for business purposes.

With these improved facilities and resources, and with support from USAID Yalwa, Dr. Mamane has increased the rate of marking of small ruminants in Guidan Roumdji to 98% in 2022, improving livestock vaccination management and reducing waste resulting from the vaccination process like vials, packaging and vaccines. Furthermore, Dr. Mamane has been key to improving the understanding and recognition of the private veterinary services and their activities, such as appearing as a guest on community radio stations. These efforts have directly resulted in more famers trusting veterinary institutions to vaccinate their herds.

Cowpea Demonstrations Promote Adaptable and Sustainable Agricultural Practices, Bringing Greater Yields and Increasing Revenue

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To sustainably improve cowpea productivity and the incomes of producers, the Feed the Future-funded USAID Yidgiri activity established demonstration plots throughout the agricultural season and hosted field visits to showcase good agricultural practices for land preparation, planting, weeding and harvesting periods. The plots allowed farmers to test new agricultural methods, technologies and climate-smart practices, building resilience and developing mitigation strategies to deal with environmental shocks.

From 2020 to 2022, the USAID Yidgiri activity established more than 300 demonstration plots to test new varieties of improved cowpea seeds for food and feed, and to develop different techniques of water and integrated soil fertility management. In addition, more than 200 field visits focused on improved cowpea production practices, dual purpose cowpea variety, climate adaptability and resilience to help producers adopt new agricultural techniques in their local contexts. The demonstrations were conducted with support from Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture and producer organization extensionists to ensure sustainability of the activity.

Maria Ouedraogo, a farmer from the Nebnooma cooperative in Silmiougou, a village in the commune of Kaya, applied these improved cowpea production practices, including the use of high-yielding seed variety.

Maria Ouedraogo, a model producer for USAID Yidgiri’s cowpea demonstration plots.

“I reproduced it in my field of half a hectare and I am very satisfied,” she said. “I harvested five 100-kilogram bags of cowpeas in the 2021-2022 agricultural season, which I was able to sell at a good price.”

Sibila Sawadogo, a producer at the Wendkouni Cooperative in Nagbingou, in the commune of Boulsa, learned methods such as contour farming to conserve water on his plot. This is particularly important for his commune’s context, where they often face periods of drought.

“Since I have been experimenting with contour farming, I see that my plants grow better and do not dry out during these dry periods,” he said. “I experimented with this technique on half a hectare last year, and I have extended it to one hectare this year to harvest more and earn more money.”

For farmers like Sawadago, implementing efficient and sustainable cultivation practices that increase cowpea yields is a game changer, especially when farmers can take advantage of periods of high prices.

Amado Ouedraogo, a producer organization-based extensionist and model producer for USAID Yidgiri’s cowpea demonstration plots.

Amado Ouedraogo, a producer organization extensionist from the Songtaba cooperative in Tangasko, also benefitted from the demonstrations, scaling up the technology packages he teaches to his local peers and even increasing cowpea productivity on his own plot. Last year, he planted cowpea grain on just one hectare but decided this year to plant on all three of his hectares.

“I started to apply the techniques from my demonstration plot to my field because of the increased yields, and I invited my neighboring farmers to replicate it in theirs,” he said. “Nowadays, many of them apply it because they understand that they have a lot to gain, and I am happy to share my knowledge.”

Conducting hands-on demonstrations in a farm environment allows producers to increase their yield and adopt practices which are sustainable, efficient and revenue generating. This is particularly important moving forward as the effects of climate change continue to intensify. Climate-smart solutions are needed to ensure that farmers can continue to cultivate crops, like cowpea, and maximize their earnings.

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

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In Rwanda, only 3.18 million out of 7.75 million individuals of working-age are employed, and the number has declined by more than 13 percent since August 2020. The agriculture sector also lost upwards of 47,000 jobs while the unemployment rate stayed relatively high at 25.5 percent among the youth population (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda).

Linking youth to agriculture can significantly contribute to innovation, job creation and agriculture sector development. The USAID-funded Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity works to attract youth in agriculture by increasing agricultural productivity, employing youth through internships, improving access to finance and strengthening youth capacity in digital and private sector extension. Since 2017, the Activity has reached 733,000 individuals, of whom over 24 percent were youth.

To support the development of youth entrepreneurs, the Hinga Weze Activity provided internships to over 200 youth and awarded $92,647 in youth-specific grants for companies including Mahwi Tech, Carl Group, Zima Enterprise and KOTIB. Using the grant funds, Mahwi Tech was able to transform its M-LIMA platform, a youth-owned agricultural market information platform, into an online marketplace that can serve the dual purposes of providing market information and facilitating market linkages. Similarly, technology company BK TecHouse was able to expand its online Smart Nkunganire System to support over 200,000 new farmers, including 51,324 youth, by improving their agricultural input and information distribution and digitalizing their agrodealer operations through a Mobile Order Processing Application.

Hinga Weze’s activities also strengthened youth capacity in extension by including youth in digital extension programming, integrating youth in public and private extension services and providing youth-friendly approaches to extension and farming through the New Extensionist Learning Kit (NELK). Hinga Weze trained 133 youth on the use of digital extension, 15 youth on digital extension content creation and 21 youth on extension video dissemination. To date, these youth produced six videos on improved maize cultivation and helped train 4,000 farmers on maize production techniques using the Center for Agriculture and Bioscience International’s (CABI) App—a mobile learning application focused on the production, harvest and post-harvest management of maize.

“Youth in Rwanda have quickly adopted information communication technology (ICT) tools and platforms. By using youth to customize and promote digital technologies, the Activity is supporting the advancement of ICT and transforming the way agricultural technologies are transferred to smallholder farmers,” highlighted Laurence Mukamana, Hinga Weze Chief of Party.

While Hinga Weze continued to utilize traditional extension methodologies to help farmers adopt climate-smart and other good agriculture practices, such as on-site coaching and Farmer Field Schools, the Activity also partnered with master trainers from the Rwanda Agriculture Board and the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources to help youth expand engagement, training and digital tools to extension agents and farmers through the Government of Rwanda’s Twigire Muhinzi national extension program. By leveraging existing government and private sector structures, Hinga Weze was able to create ownership and ensure the sustainability of promoted practices and methodologies beyond the life of the activity.

New Terraces Increase Crop Yields and Incomes for Farmers

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

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

Seraphine Nyirarubanza, Farmer, Nyabihu district

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poultry Farming Through Care Group Model Transforms Rural Livelihoods

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Through the care group model, farmers have transformed their livelihoods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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