With $176 million in exports in 2015, the hazelnut is Georgia’s highest earning agricultural export and supports the livelihoods of over 40,000 families. However, the stability and profitability of the hazelnut sector, as well as the incomes of the smallholder farmers who depend upon it, are being threatened by the rapid growth of a pest known as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).
Originating in China, the BMSB is devastating the hazelnut sector by reducing the quality and quantity of hazelnut kernels. Left uncontrolled, the BMSB could set the country back years of agricultural growth and development in other sectors including apples, corn, grapes, peaches, and vegetables.
To address these challenges, the USAID Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) project received an additional $3 million to provide technical assistance and equipment to Georgia’s National Food Agency (NFA) between April 2017 and September 2018. By working closely with the Government of Georgia to develop a State Program with a focus on monitoring and managing the BMSB’s growth, REAP strengthened the capacity of local institutions to limit the agricultural losses caused by the pest. REAP’s efforts also helped the Government of Georgia better understand the BMSB’s biology to better inform management of the infestation.
As we walked through Al Sawalem Al Bahareya village in Assuit, a city in Northern Egypt, a sweet scent emanated from the local basil plant. Basil, the village’s main crop, occupies 700 feddans or about one-third of the village’s total 2,160 feddans of cultivated land. Basil is a strategic crop for farmers in this region since it is easy to grow and affordable to produce. Additionally, basil harvesting can occur as often as once per month over five successive months. This means it acts as a steady source of income for farmers and employment for laborers during the harvesting season.
Decreases in Basil Production Due to the Downy Mildew Parasite
In 2015, farmers in Assuit experienced a sharp drop in production as a result of the downy mildew parasite that had begun to infect basil plants in the region. After several inconsistent harvesting seasons, many farmers decided to abandon their basil crops for more consistent crops. “The basil farmers were not able to identify the type of pest that affected their basil and damaged the crop, which made them decide to remove such a strategic crop from their lands,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor of Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project.
Farmer Abdel Mola Bakry, a board member of Al Sawalem Al Bahareya Agriculture Association, and owner of 20 feddans, including five feddans cultivated with basil, said, “In the last three years, the basil leaves became yellow, with dark dots on the back, and the stem dropped the leaves which decreased the production to 300 kg per feddan for the second and third harvest. We barely harvested three times, while we were used to harvest five times in the season in the last years. This was the reason why we decided to remove the basil crop from our lands and replace it with a more profitable crop.” Additionally, Ayman Solhy, farmer and owner of four feddans told FAS, “I used to produce an average of 4,750 kg of basil per season from the five periods of harvesting. When I faced the downy mildew three years ago, my average production decreased to 1,600 kg per year. I had no access to finance and was not able to hire enough workers for harvesting, land preparation, and transportation. I decided to remove the basil and replaced it with more profitable crops like wheat.”
On the marketing side, Hassan Thabet, a local trader, who makes a prior agreement with the farmers to buy their basil production in return for providing the farmers with advance payments, fertilizers, seeds and pesticides, advised that for the last two years the demand in the market for basil was weak. This resulted in the low selling price of basil and therefore lower incomes for farmers. “Farmers need to use organic spray in order to enable the export of basil, and we need to explore new market channels for basil,” said Hassan Thabet.
With the support of the FAS project which aims to increase the incomes of small holder farmers, the problem was identified, and the farmers were advised on the appropriate pesticide to face the downy mildew. “We did a lot of research to identify the main cause of the problem facing the basil, asked the herbs and spices experts, surfed the internet about the basil diseases, till we discovered the downy mildew. We provided farmers with the technical support to control the downy mildew, which resulted in raising the basil productivity to reach 700 kg per feddan for the second through the fifth harvests, and increased the harvest times back to five times per season instead of three,” said Engineer Eslam Al Adawy, Technical Advisor in FAS project.
Basil Market Constraints and the Way Forward
To combat this, FAS project interventions have been very instrumental in aiding qualifying farmers to produce high quality basil crops, in accordance with the required specifications of the local and export markets. Engineer Eslam Al-Adawy, FAS technical advisor explained, “We trained the farmers on identifying the targeted pest, the use of organic chemicals, the time of spraying, and the maximum residue levels in order to enable exports of the basil production and to generate higher incomes for farmers. The total production of basil per feddan reached 4700 kilos per feddan in the five rounds of harvest compared to 1600 kilos per feddan, with an average increase in sales of EGP 40,000 compared to EGP 14,400 per season, which resulted in a tremendous increase in the incomes of basil farmers in Assuit.”
Preparation of the dry basil
Bugesera, Karongi, Nyabihu and Ngororero districts are among the hardest-hit areas of the deadly Fall Army Worm (FAW) pest attacking maize. FAW is an invasive pest that can cause significant yield losses if not well managed. It can reproduce multiple times each year and the moth can fly up to 100 km per night. However, the pest can be controlled through use of appropriate pesticides and early detection.
Over 760 hectares have been the most impacted by FAW across three districts of Bugesera, Ngororero, Nyabihu and Karongi and farmers are feeling the effects. FAW is expected to wreak havoc if farmers don’t aren’t prepared to combat it in time. Farmers need the knowledge about the early warnings of the pest markings before it multiplies. Last year alone, 2017 FAW infested an estimated 17,521ha of maize out of over 60,000 ha in season 2018 B. Farmers were thus more than alarmed about the potential losses to their crops.
To respond to this challenge, USAID through its Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity, which aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ income and nutritional status, rapidly moved to work with stakeholders on the ground and farmers to combat FAW to reduce its destruction of yields particularly for maize in season B 2018.
Hinga Weze worked hard to build the capacity of key players to fight FAW through trainings on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) delivered through Farmer Field Schools and Farmer Promoters reaching over 29,000 farmers. One of these farmers, Musabimana Pilipila, 35, is a smallholder farmer in Sangati Cell, Nyabivumu Sector in Karongi District. She was among those hit-hard by the FAW. She expected the yield from her 0.4 ha to benefit her family of four children. However, FAW attacked her plantations of maize. As a participant of Hinga Weze, Pilipila has been able to access pesticides and acquire new knowledge on effective pesticide application through a local agrodealer. Her prospects seem promising as she explained that ‘’I have been able to fight FAW massively through support by accessing appropriate pesticides and modern spraying equipment, thanks to Hinga Weze staff who have been with me throughout the process’’ she says
Hinga Weze bought and distributed spraying and protective equipment (pumps and protection equipment) to all 10 districts’ intervention areas and Hinga Weze district staff continue to train farmers on how to use safe pesticides to combat FAW. Also, Hinga Weze has linked hundreds of farmers with agro-dealers for access to the pesticides of their choice. So far, 245 agro-dealers are working with Hinga Weze to provide modern affordable spraying equipment and better seeds to farmers across the 10 target districts.
Since maize is a staple food for Rwandans, Hinga Weze district staff have been supporting farmers together with district stakeholders in targeted districts to fight FAW infestation. ‘’On many occasions I am personally involved picking FAW with farmers to demonstrate the urgency of intervention to fight FAW on time’’ says the Hinga Weze agronomist of Karongi district.
According to Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s 2018 Rural Livelihoods Assessment, the number of food insecure households in Matabeleland North and South are expected to double in the 2018/2019 season as compared to projections from the 2017 Rural Livelihood Assessment for the 2017/2018 season. This increase in projected food insecurity can be contributed to the changing environmental, political and economic climate in the country which impacts the availability of food, access to food, the safe and healthy utilization of food and stability of food availability, access and utilization. The USAID-funded Amalima program is seeking to address and help stabilize this changing level of food security by providing monthly food rations to mothers and care givers in Matabeleland North and South. While distributing food rations addresses immediate nutritional needs, they are not a sustainable strategy towards the program’s objective of reducing stunting for children under five by improving nutrition, expanding and diversifying agricultural production, increasing household income and reducing risk of disasters by improving resilience. Amalima is targeting ration recipients and encouraging them to participate in all Amalima activities to adopt behaviors that can continue after
Living in Southwestern Zimbabwe, Blessed Mhlanaga is responsible for taking care of her household and three children, ranging in ages from 11 months to eight years. Each day, Ms. Mhlanga must clean her home, care for her children, purchase or produce food for her household, cook for her family, and gather the water and firewood necessary for household chores. While Ms. Mhlanga works hard to balance her responsibilities, she has experienced challenges in attending to her home while also being attentive to her children. In early 2014, Ms. Malanga attended a ward meeting where she first learned about Amalima, including the fact that pregnant and lactating women and children 2-23 months were eligible to receive a monthly food ration. After delivering her second children, Ms. Mhlanaga signed up to receive rations as a lactating mother.
Amalima is currently working at 87 food distribution points to provide a monthly ration of 5.5 kgs of Corn Soya Blend Plus (CSB+) and 1.38 kgs of fortified vegetable oil per month for pregnant and lactating women; and 3 kgs of CSB+ and 0.92 kgs of oil per month for children 6-23 months. These food baskets supplement the diet of either the mother or child under two years and provide necessary nutrients that are not easily accessible to vulnerable families. During food distributions, Amalima encourage ration recipients to participate in its other activities by inviting recipients to join and providing a taster of lessons promoted in activities by having existing groups provide pre-distribution “edutainment” in the form of dance, songs or drama that center around a key lesson or promoted behavior.
Ms. Mhlanga was invited to join a Community Health Club by a Community-based Volunteer, who trains club members following a Participatory Health and Hygiene Curriculum, and then joined a Care Group to learn about good childcare practices. In her involvement with the Community Health Club, Ms. Mhlanga attended trainings sessions with other recipients on health and sanitation and constructed hygiene-enabling structures in her home, such as a latrine and multiple hand washing stations. To continue supporting health in the household, the Community-based Volunteers Amalima staff encourages members join other Amalima groups, including Care Groups, and farmer groups during the training sessions to continue improving the health and hygiene of their families. While receiving lessons as a Community Health Club member, Ms. Mhlanga joined a Care Group to learn how she could better care for her children, especially her second child who was five months old at the time. In explaining why she wanted to join another group she said, “being a part of a group means you are learning from each other and are sharing the work instead of doing it alone.”
In her role as a Care Group member, Ms. Mhlanga learned about important infant and young child feeding practices and shared experiences with other care givers. The Care Groups are supported by a Lead Mother who provides monthly lessons following four Care Group modules and conducts home visits with each member to provide one-one-one support and reinforce the lessons. During these lessons, Ms. Mhlanga was taught to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, not feeding the infant any water or porridge, and breastfeed until the child was satisfied. Ms. Mhlanga learned to take her time when feeding her children, instead rushing to continue with household chores. Through the home visits, the Lead Mother was able to provide suggestions on how to better adopt the promoted behaviors. The home visits also play an important role in reaching other family members, who can influence whether the mother adopts behaviors, by talking to them directly and explaining what was discussed in the group lessons. For Ms. Mhlanga, her husband is unable to attend the home visits, but she has experienced his support by
While attending Care Group trainings with her third child, Ms. Mhlanga also joined a Conservation Agriculture group after receiving the healthy harvest training. Within the Care Group curriculum, Amalima includes training on the importance of creating a nutritious and diverse plate and training on producing food for home consumption. During this training, Lead Mothers stress the value of participating in productive agricultural activities for household consumption and household income to purchase food necessary to prepare nutritious meals. Ms. Mhlanga just joined the conservation agriculture farmer group in the past year, but has already received training on conservation agriculture and begun preparing her fields alongside members in her farming group.
Since joining a CHC, Care Group and Conservation Agriculture group, Ms. Mhlanga has experienced a mental shift from trying balance her household chores and caring for her children to prioritizing her children, especially the infant who needs more attention. From her involvement in the Care Groups, she has since noticed a big difference between her oldest child, who was born four years before she joined Amalima, and her second two children, who were raised while participating in Amalima trainings. The eldest is more slender and would cry nonstop as an infant, while her older two children are more plump and cry less because they are feed more often. From her involvement with the Community Health Club, her children are enthusiastic to follow in her example of improve hygiene, using the tippy tap constructed during her Community Health Club lessons and helping to keep the homestead clean and orderly. From her involvement in the Conservation Agriculture farmer group, Ms. Mhlanga looks forward to her harvest of sorghum, millet, groundnuts and roundnuts, which she will use primarily to her feed her family and will sell the rest. Ms. Mhlanga plans to continue participating in Amalima groups, even after the program has closed out, since she believes it is important to continue improving her household. Looking back on her involvement with Amalima she explains, “It is not receiving the porridge and oil, but the lessons taught in my Care Group meetings, CHC training and CA trainings which has been the most valuable.”
 Figures from the ZimVAC 2017 Rural Livelihood Assessment projected XX households in Matabeleland North and South to be food insecure in the 2017/2018 agriculture season, while figures in the ZimVAC 2018 Rural Livelihood Assessment projected 415,340 households in Matabeleland North and South to be food insecure in the 2018/2019 agricultural season. Full reports can be found here: https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-vulnerability-assessment-committee-zimvac-2017-rural-livelihoods-assessment and https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-vulnerability-assessment-committee-results-2018.
Date: July 2018
Place: Ward 1, Mangwe
Located in Southwestern Zimbabwe, Ward 1 (Empandeni) in Mangwe district is generally dry. It receives about 300 mm of rain per year, which is used by community members for agricultural production, livestock watering, and household use. To improve access to water resources, the USAID-funded Amalima program constructs or rehabilitates dams through the Cash/Food for Assets (C/FFA) activity. Once Amalima finishes construction or rehabilitation, Amalima trains individuals selected by the community for to serve as the Asset Management Committee (AMC) responsible for managing and maintaining the constructed or rehabilitated asset. This committee is key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the asset, even after the program has ended.
Amalima worked with four villages in Ward 1 (Empandeni East, Kwite, Mhlotshana, and Mkaya) to assess, plan, and construct Kwite Dam. The dam was constructed over two phases, which began in August 2016 and ended in August 2017. For phase 1, 200 workers (154 females, 46 males) focused on the dam’s super structure by constructing a 4.3-meter-high masonry wall, 550m in length at spillway level, and a seasonal stream. For phase 2, 151 workers (114 females, 37 males) constructed a silt trap, gabion basket, and some bolsters across water ways to reduce land degradation and dam siltation. The constructed dam is at least 20,000m3 large and contains enough water to remain at 90% capacity. The dam provides water to 558 households and at least 3,500 livestock (including donkeys, cattle, goats, and sheep). This reduces the burden on women who previously travelled up to 10 kilometers with their livestock to access water points. In times of drought, the surrounding community from Ward 1 and Ward 13 can access water from the dam for domestic use.
To support the sustainability of the dam, Amalima worked with the community to create a seven member (3 females, 4 males) AMC responsible for operating and maintaining the dam’s water system. The AMC was trained in sustainable environmental management, constitution development, fundraising, conflict resolution and maintenance of the dam. The AMC was also linked to relevant government ministries and departments including the Department of Agricultural, Technical, and Extension Services (AGRITEX), and the District Fund. The committee meets monthly, as reflected by their constitution, to discuss their operations and maintenance of the dam. Based on these meetings the committee will engage local leadership to mobilize community members and raise funds for additional construction and maintenance.
In 2018, the committee engaged local leadership to expand their conservation works. Following a look and learn visit facilitated by Amalima to another dam constructed by Amalima,Makhelwane dam, the committee was motivated to improve the watershed of their dam by curbing soil erosion around the dam. Using knowledge gained from the look and learn visit, the committee engaged local leadership to share their vision of protecting the dam from silt with the rest of the community. As a result, 126 community members (107 females, 19 males) came together to create barriers using stones and indigenous plants to slow the flow of water and reduce the amount of silt entering the dam. Nearby farmers located upstream from the dam were also instructed to dig contours in their dryland fields to reduce erosionThe community members were a mix of former C/FFA workers and new participants that worked twice a week, donating their time from 7 am – 9 am, until the conservation works were complete. As a result, 19 hectares within the dam’s catchment area was protected.
Moving forward, Kwite AMC plans to continue mobilizing resources to fence off the dam and provide maintenance as needed. The AMC also has plans to establish two productive activities – a fish farm for local consumption and an apiary to produce honey for sale. The AMC plans to continue working with local leadership and government stakeholders to ensure the dam is well protected and can be better utilized by the surrounding community.
In the Malalume Village, Lantana camara, an invasive plant species originally from South and Central America, has been destroying grasses used to graze livestock. To improve the livelihoods of Zimbabweans in rural Matabeleland, Amalima supports Disaster Risk Reduction projects, including providing training on eradicating the Lantana camara weed as well as providing tools and paying workers to remove the weed through the program’s Cash For Assets activity.
Land in the Malalume village of Bulilima district is dry and dusty, not well suited for crop production, making livestock production and sale the main livelihood activity in the area. In 2010, the community saw the quality and quantity of grass deteriorating in their grazing lands – and the conditions of their cattle suffering as a result.
Lantana camara was introduced to Southern African about 100 years ago as a hedgerow shrub. The plant grows very densely and chokes out native species of grasses and reduces soil moisture. The leaves are also toxic which can lead to livestock skin and eye irritation and death in some cases. Although the plant is classified as a noxious weed by the government and by law, farmers are supposed to notify the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) to come and destroy it, few smallholder farmers know about the regulation.
Embodying the spirit of zenzele, or “do it yourself”, the community began addressing the issue by removing Lantana camara from one centrally located grazing area. Over the next three years, the community continued to remove Lantana camara from grazing land while also working on other projects to improve community resilience. Even with the removal efforts, the plant continued to come back and spread.
In November 2014, Amalima came to the village to provide training to the Disaster Risk Reduction Committee on Lantana camara management and share best practices on eradicating the plant. The training covered a range of practices, including removing the plant before fruiting to prevent the plant from spreading, removing the plant’s roots to prevent them from continuing to spread, and burning the plants after they have been removed to prevent dormant seeds from germinating. Amalima also trained the community on health problems that can occur when livestock eat the plant.
Amalima also supported the community’s Lantana camara removal project by providing gloves, shovels, and picks as well as paying 104 workers for Lantana camara removal through the Cash for Assets activity in 2015. Workers were paid $30 for a 15-day period of work, using their payment to purchase food for their families and pay for school fees. In total, the workers cleared approximately 12 hectares of land.
The land has remained clear of Lantana camara since 2015. The ward councilor says, “Now you cannot see any Lantana camara”. Keeping the community free of this problem plant has become a community-wide project – even young people in the village are able to identify the plant and notify the local leadership so it can be removed.
Removing Lantana camara has had a strong impact on the livelihoods of families in the area. The Disaster Risk Reduction Committee says that cattle deaths have greatly decreased, in part because of the improved condition of grazing land since the removal of Lantana camara. Sales from livestock have also increased because the animals are in better condition and sell for higher prices.
One DRR committee member even shared her knowledge of Lantana camara while visiting relatives in South Africa. Mrs. Nyathi saw Lantana camara in the fields, and shared the knowledge she had gained through Amalima training with the landowners. She told them about the dangers of the plant and how to remove it so that it does not return. She says that she does not want to see any animal suffer from Lantana camara in her community or any other community. She wants everyone to know that they can do it themselves, and “remove it with their own hands!”
The USAID Agriculture Program is a five-year program (2018-2023) that accelerates the growth of agricultural sub-sectors that show strong potential to create jobs, grow incomes, and increase micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) revenues.
The USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program (2018-2023) is implemented by CNFA in Southern Africa (Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and the Eastern European country of Moldova. CNFA’s current F2F program aims to connect 420 mid-to senior-level U.S. volunteer experts with farmer groups, agribusinesses, trade associations, agricultural finance providers, and other agriculture sector institutions to facilitate sustainable improvements in food security and agricultural processing, production, and marketing.
The Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program was initially authorized in the 1985 Farm Bill with the primary goal of generating sustainable, broad-based economic growth in the agricultural sector through voluntary technical assistance. A secondary goal is to increase the U.S. public’s understanding of international development issues and programs as well as international understanding of U.S.-sponsored development programs. For more information on the activities of the program worldwide, please visit https://farmer-to-farmer.org.
CNFA recruits highly trained, exceptionally qualified volunteers — with years of experience in their respective fields — who offer their time and energy to provide technical assistance to farmers and entrepreneurs. Volunteers should be U.S. citizens or permanent residents. See our Volunteer Page for more information on how to become a volunteer.
CNFA’s approach builds on continuous learning from the F2F program since its 1985 inception and decades of experience in F2F implementation. In each country, focal value chains are first analyzed to identify critical leverage points for widespread improvements in incomes and food security.