Feed the Future Zimbabwe Non-Timber Forest Products Global Development Alliance

Feed the Future Zimbabwe Non-Timber Forest Products Global Development Alliance

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Overview

The five-year Feed the Future Zimbabwe Non-Timber Forest Products Global Development Alliance (NTFP GDA) works across 23 districts of Zimbabwe to expand the market for Zimbabwean non-timber forest products (NTFPs), such as baobab, marula, Kalahari melon, and Ximenia. The NTFP GDA—a partnership between USAID, CNFA, and Organic Africa—will train and engage new farmers and wild collectors as specialty-certified suppliers and develop new processing facilities and technologies to expand the domestic and international supply of natural ingredients from Zimbabwe.

Leveraging $7.7 million in private sector investment, the NTFP GDA seeks to provide new and sustainable income-generating opportunities for 12,000 smallholder farmers and wild collectors while protecting at least 160,000 hectares of forest and farmland through the introduction of improved community-led natural resource management, carbon market engagement, and organic farming practices. It also seeks to improve the resilience of vulnerable and marginalized communities, particularly women and youth, by increasing and diversifying household incomes and strengthening environmental stewardship from the commercialization of NTFPs in Zimbabwe.

By creating income-generating opportunities that rely on nutritious and diverse forest resources and by paying premium prices for products with organic, Fair Trade, FairWild, and UEBT certifications, the GDA will incentivize the protection of natural resources and the adoption of sustainable farming practices.

Approach

The NTFP GDA will expand Organic Africa’s geographic reach and community-based supplier network, building on the company’s core values of social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

The GDA will focus on three inter-related components to achieve its overall objectives:

  1. Increased Production and Supply: Through targeted training for 12,000 smallholder farmers and wild collectors and investment in tools for the local primary processing of raw materials, the NTFP GDA will improve the supply of NTFPs that meet market standards and increase income-generating opportunities in rural communities. Engaging new suppliers and other market actors in Organic Africa’s supply chain will provide men, women, and youth with the training and tools that they need to increase yields, enhance efficiency, and meet certification requirements to achieve premium pricing.
  2. Enhanced Product Quality: The GDA will introduce new processing equipment to improve efficiency and will expand community-based and commercial processing capacity and storage with investments in new facilities and expansions to existing facilities, creating new employment opportunities. The NTFP GDA will support Organic Africa to continue strengthening traceability systems and operating procedures, helping producers earn and maintain specialty certifications like organic, FairWild, Fair Trade, and UEBT, which carry social, environmental, and financial benefits for participants. Together, CNFA and Organic Africa will leverage the increased supply of certified NTFP products in local markets, expand access to high-value export markets, and grow the domestic availability of Zimbabwean natural ingredient products.
  3. Improved Natural Resource and Forest Management: The NTFP GDA will incentivize the sustainable use and protection of biodiverse forest areas and build the capacity of farmers, wild collectors, and community groups to effectively manage their natural resources. The GDA seeks to develop a voluntary carbon market offset activity to compensate communities for implementing environmental practices that reduce, sequester, or avoid CO2 emissions.

Partners

  • Organic Africa: a socially responsible family of companies, including Organic Africa, B’ayoba, and KaZa Natural Oils, founded and operating in Zimbabwe since 2007. Organic Africa specializes in partnering with farmers and wild collectors to supply sustainably and ethically produced natural ingredients, such as baobab, rosella, and natural oils, with specialty certifications for domestic and export markets. Organic Africa is a Zimbabwean social enterprise and leading producer, exporter, and domestic supplier of specialty-certified natural ingredients products.

Domba’s Women Driving Inclusive and Sustainable Market Development

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Food processing entrepreneurs Mariko Maimouna Togola and Konate Mariam Ballo are members of the Tomba Nafama Agricultural Association in the Bougouni region of Mali. Founded in 2016, the 47 women members of Tomba Nafama process local agricultural products including fonio, peanuts and ginger. “Tomba Nafama is a group of women whose main activity is the processing of their agricultural products,” said Togola.

To diversify their activities and revenue sources, Tomba Nafama members participated in “Open Day” market events organized annually by the Feed the Future Sugu Yiriwa activity in the Bougouni, Koutiala and Sikasso regions to provide local market actors with opportunities to showcase their innovations, technologies, practices, services and products. They also facilitate collaboration between agricultural stakeholders including producers, processors, traders, input suppliers and financial services providers.

“We took part in an initial Sugu Yiriwa workshop in November 2021 that brought together agri-food processors from the region of Bougouni,” said Ballo. “Subsequently, Mariam and I participated in two of the Open Day market events organized by Sugu Yiriwa in Bougouni and Sikasso. It was at this second Open Day event that we had our first introduction to Urea Molasses Mineral Blocks (UMMBs). I found myself at the same stand as a group of women from Farakala who were selling UMMBs for sheep and goats. The moment I laid eyes on the nutritious blocks, I became deeply interested as I considered the impact they could have on improving animals’ health and diversifying our association’s income. I reached out to Sugu Yiriwa requesting training for our association’s members in the manufacturing and marketing of these nutritious blocks,’’ added Togola.

Recognizing the nutritional, economic and environmental value of UMMBs, Sugu Yiriwa organized trainings on the manufacturing and marketing of UMMBs in March 2022 for 50 women and youth from Tomba Nafama and the neighboring Tomba Sabougnouma cooperative. The activity also provided the groups with 10 sheep to support their breeding efforts.

After the training, and over a period of one year, the women of Tomba Nafama manufactured and sold over 700 nutritional UMMBs, generating over $1,324 (800,000 FCFA) in sales. They subsequently secured a contract with Sugu Yiriwa for 240 nutritional blocks as part of emergency initiatives funded by USAID to reduce the effects of the global food crisis on Mali’s rural communities.

“The income generated through this contract has had a significant impact on us. We used it to purchase much-needed solar panels and batteries to provide us with a self-sufficient source of energy,” Ballo said. “As a result, we were able to relaunch our ice business, which had been suspended for over a year due to a lack of consistent electricity. We have also been able to increase our livestock production by purchasing additional sheep,” Togola added.

Livestock breeding is of paramount importance in the Sikasso, Bougouni and Koutiala regions, key areas for agricultural development in Mali. According to the 2015 annual report of the national directorate in charge of animal production and industry, the Sikasso region had over 4 million head of livestock. Livestock plays a crucial role in food security, job creation and the fight against poverty in Mali. However, livestock breeding faces a number of challenges that hamper the well-being of the animals. These challenges include climate change, which leads to the degradation of natural resources, demographic pressures and lack of access to inputs and veterinary services that limit the productivity and quality of animal products.

UMMBs offer a viable solution for small ruminant breeders during Mali’s agricultural lean season. The nutritional blocks—enriched with proteins, vitamins and minerals—are specially designed to meet the dietary needs of animals in ways that stimulate milk production and weight gain as highlighted in a study conducted by the by researchers at the Station de Recherche Zootechnique du Sahel in Niono, Mali.

This 5-month comparative study involved three groups of animals who were fed different diets. Results revealed that animals fed with nutritional blocks recorded a growth of +192 grams per day, while those fed with salt and commercial concentrate suffered weight losses ranging from -99 grams to -410 grams per day. Other studies have shown the positive effects of the blocks on milk production, which often rises from 3.8 to 4.8 liters per day in animals supplemented with UMMB blocks.

They also found that the UMMBs improved the quality of milk produced by increasing its concentration of fats and proteins, allowing farmers to generate higher incomes from their products. UMMBs have been proven to improve fodder digestibility and drastically reduce the health risks associated with undernourishment.

In addition to the benefits for animals, the production and marketing of UMMBs enables harvest residue and bush straw to be put to good use, thus helping to preserve the environment.

As a result of their success, Tomba Nafama trained other local associations to produce UMMBs. Armed with this experience, they felt ready to take on a regular role as trainers. According to Togola, “We contacted Sugu Yiriwa to explore opportunities to lead trainings for others. Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa recruited our services to train 240 women and youth from Sikasso, Bougouni and Koutiala in UMMB production as part of the second phase of the activity’s emergency initiatives. This new income will really benefit us as it will enable us to carry out our poultry and market gardening projects, and further diversify our sources of income.”

Konate Mariam Ballo, member of the Tomba Nafama Agricultural Association in Mali

Mariko Maimouna Togola, president of the Tomba Nafama Agricultural Association in Mali

Reclaiming Rangeland and Restoring the Environment One Village at a Time

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Members of Siamwele village in Hwange District, Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe, have cleared two hectares of land that were covered by an invasive species that threatened livestock health and food security in the community. The effort was devised during community discussions as part of the USAID-funded Amalima Loko activity’s Community Visioning approach.  

Siamwele is situated in the driest part of Zimbabwe, where low rainfall (300-450 millimeters per year) and infertile Kalahari sands limit the growth and spread of grasses while extensive conservation efforts such as at Hwange National Park limit the availability of grazing land for communities. Around the village, Lantana camara, a noxious woody and mono-cultural shrub originally introduced to the area as a flower in the 1990s, has taken over 70 hectares of what was already limited grazing space, including a large swath of the once-lush Lukunguni vlei, a low-lying marshy area which collects water during the rainy season. The invasive species has out-competed local herbaceous species leaving livestock little choice but to eat it, leading to skin and eye irritations, reduced livestock fertility and in some cases premature death. To avoid the Lantana camara, livestock are forced to graze further from the village and closer to Hwange National Park, exposing them to threats from wild predators and to exotic zoonotic diseases. 

“Growing up, there was no Lantana camara,” Khulu Ncube, an elder from Siamwele, shared. “I would herd our cattle along the vlei (marshy land with shallow pools), play and swim in the dam with my friends while the cattle grazed along the valley.” 

Food insecurity in the area is exacerbated by economic stagnation, increasingly unpredictable climatic conditions and environmental degradation. To tackle this community members were eager to participate in Community Visioning discussions, a foundational element to the Amalima Loko activity, which seeks to address community-identified issues underpinning food insecurity. In July 2022, community members took part in a village planning process guided by a hazard mapping exercise. This was a participatory discussion through which communities identified, ranked and planned to address key drivers of food insecurity in their area. It was through these discussions that Siamwele community members identified the invasion of Lantana camara as a key driver of livestock disease and death and expressed their ambition of restoring the vlei and productive grazing land. 

To commence the removal process, a diverse group of 75 indidivuals formed and joined a Community Action Group chaired by Khulekani Ncube, a male youth from the community. After forming, the group worked weekly over a period of four months under a Cash for Assets arrangement supported by Amalima Loko, under which community members were given very modest compensation for their labor cutting, stumping, filling and burning the spiky Lantana camara shrub. The work is hard and slow as stumped roots must be filled with dirt and branches to stabilize the soil, reducing soil erosion and water flow out of the area, which in turn protects germinating grass seedlings for the rainy season and so promotes new growth. The group used their own tools for the job: machetes, axes, picks, slashers and hoes, with Amalima Loko also contributing gloves and some additional shovels and picks.  

“Removing Lantana camara is very difficult,” Village Head David Moyo said. “But seeing the enthusiasm from each other and yearning to see lush vlei again has cultivated the zeal to continue working.”  

Prior to the removal process, Amalima Loko staff trained the community on best practices to eradicate the plant. The training covered a range of practices, including removing the plant before fruiting, removing the plant’s roots and burning the plants after they have been removed to prevent dormant seeds from germinating. Community Action Group members were also jointly trained by Amalima Loko and the Zimbabwean Environmental Management Agency on safe fire usage and control. 

“We applaud the Community Action Group’s work mobilizing neighbors, tools and linking with the Environmental Management Agency and Amalima Loko,” said Moyo. “We would like to see more young people participating [in] and leading [the] collective action. As traditional leaders, we are committed to supporting them.” 

The community plans to continue the clearing process after the farming season (which runs from November-April), and their efforts have inspired neighboring communities along the vlei, notably Silibinda, Chewumba and Musani B villages, to start removing Lantana camara as well. 

“The knowledge we have obtained has made us see that [this] invasive species is dangerous to our grazing lands,” Busi Mpala, a community member, shared of the Community Visioning and invasive species removal processes. “And this is knowledge we will share with our successive generations.”  

The Amalima Loko activity is funded by the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance and is implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). It is designed to improve food and nutrition security for more than 67,000 vulnerable households in rural Zimbabwe through increased food access and sustainable watershed management. The activity’s Community Visioning process has reached 42,000 people of diverse genders, ages, abilities and social groups in more than 500 villages. 

Happy Cows Make Happy Milk and Happy Milk Makes Happy People

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This season’s hay harvest is stacked high and fodder is tied in bales at Mathias Chuma’s homestead in Binga District, Zimbabwe. For the first time, Chuma and his family are using hay and fodder they grew, gathered and processed themselves to feed their five cows and 34 goats through the dry season. In this area, most livestock depend on finding wild grasses and pods on communal grazing areas for their nutrition. However, heavy use of grazing lands in this dry and fragile landscape, with only weak arrangements for collective grazing land management and recovery, is contributing to land degradation and depleting grazing resources over time. The USAID-funded Amalima Loko activity advises farmers on how to grow fodder crops and produce low-cost homemade feeds to reduce pressure on these grazing lands, to improve livestock condition and ensure livestock survival through the dry season and to increase availability of animal-source foods including milk and meat for local diets. 

Earlier in the year, Chuma was given fodder crop seeds by government extension services but was unsure how best to cultivate and use them as dolichos lablab (hyacinth bean) and sunn hemp were new crops to him. This led him to work with Amalima Loko, where he participated in trainings on cultivation and processing for fodder crops and learned about optimal feeding mixes for livestock nutrition. He also joined a “look and learn” visit organized by the activity to see other smallholder farmers where fodder crops are already being grown and processed. 

Chuma family’s fodder harvest.

He planted 0.5 hectares each of sunn hemp and lablab and, as the dry season progresses, is now reaping the rewards. By the end of the growing season, Chuma had harvested 550 bales (3,850 kilograms) of the new fodder crops. Now, in the dry season, he feeds each of his cows four kilograms of fodder daily. He has also been able to sell surplus fodder to other smallholder farmers in his community, having sold 70 bales at $3 each, and is using the $210 profit to help pay for his children’s education. 

“I was a bit skeptical growing fodder for the first time,” Chuma said. “However, now that I am feeding my cattle and goats, I have realized that I have been missing out on an easy way to keep my livestock healthy and in good condition. I do not have to worry about my livestock perishing from drought. The fodder is enough to take my livestock to the next rainy season.” 

From the outset, Chuma noticed an immediate increase in milk production from his cows—milk that his family consumes in addition to their normal dry season diet. His wife, Josephine Chuma, attests to how their family is benefitting from this: 

“Since we started feeding the cows with fodder, we have been consuming more milk than before because the cows are producing more,” she said. “The milking period has also extended. There is enough for us to use and we still leave ample for the calves to suckle.” 

Inspired by their success, other local farmers are now also interested in producing fodder for themselves next year. Chuma is sharing his experiences with other farmers and hopes that if they produce their own fodder, his community will become more resilient, with meat and milk production increasing and pressure on local grazing lands reducing. Together, the Chuma family and their neighbors are transforming the landscape in Binga District, increasing agricultural production, promoting sustainability of local natural resources and contributing to a brighter and future for their families and community. 

Microfinancing and Technical Trainings Help Benin Farmer Get Ahead

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For the past 32 years, Marc Tasso, a cashew producer from the village of Gararou in northeastern Benin, has carefully worked to maintain his orchard. Over time, this task has become more arduous with difficulties in pruning the branches and weeding the floor affecting the quality and sustainability of his orchard, resulting in lower yields. His orchard soon became overgrown, limiting room for branches to fruit effectively and for crews to collect fallen nuts. To add to complications, any time or money put into rehabilitation and renovation initiatives—which are needed—would put serious strain on his livelihood since cashew production is his main source of income.

To support cashew producers in similar situations to Tasso, the USDA Food for Progress West Africa PRO-Cashew Project helps build capacity to rehabilitate and renovate their orchards. Through training sessions hosted by the Project, Tasso and other members from his community were able to learn about enhanced pruning techniques, how to identify aged cashew trees in need of replacement, proper spacing for planting, how to apply fertilizers most effectively and general maintenance and weeding best practices to facilitate the harvesting of fallen nuts. They also received financial skill building sessions focused on available financial services in their localities, personal financial management, financial management for agricultural domains, long-term financial planning, management of credit, risk management and insurance plans, knowledge of mobile money systems, e-security, financial security, networking and marketing, contractualization with cashew industry processors and gender dynamics in the cashew nut industry.

“My harvest was getting smaller and smaller as the trees got older,” Tasso said. “The trees were no longer producing at an ideal level. It was very difficult financially because the sale of cashew nuts brought me very little money, which made it even more difficult maintain my plantation and take care of my other needs.”

After consulting a Fédération Nationale des Producteurs d’Anacarde du Bénin (FENAPAB) agricultural adviser, working in partnership with the PRO-Cashew Project, Tasso was made aware of a plantation maintenance loan option available to him through PADME (Promotion et l’Appui au Développement des Micro-Entreprises), a microfinance institution in his village.

Marc Tasso on his cashew orchard.

From here, the adviser helped him file for the loan, and he was able to obtain $320 (200,000 FCFA) in credit. This allowed Tasso to hire professional service providers (PSP) trained by PRO-Cashew to help renovate his plantation. Among improvements, Tasso has spaced out his trees in the orchard to maximize production and rehabilitated older trees which are pruning to produce new yields. For others needing replacement, PRO-Cashew helped Tasso take advantage of a popular and successful program from the Government of Benin organized by their Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries called Programme National de Développement de la Filière Anacarde (PNDFA).  This program subsidizes close to 80% of the price per tree from approved nurseries sourcing high-quality plants with favorable traits that are climate resilient, have larger nuts and are known to be easier to transform. With PRO-Cashew having identified multiple of the government-approved nurseries in the region, the project subsidized close to $212 (132,000 FCFA) worth of trees, Tasso was able to obtain 220 grafted seedlings for only $35 (22,000 FCFA).

While waiting for his replacement cashew tress to produce their first harvest, Tasso intercropped his orchard with soybeans so that nitrogen fixation, a process designed to enrich the soil that supports the development of young cashew trees, could take place. This has already led to decent soy and cashew harvests which Tasso has been able to profit from—recovering a bit from last year’s financial hit due to weak yields.

“I’ve already harvested my soybeans and cashew nuts and I’ve repaid the loan and interest rate on time, thanks in large to the skills on cashew production I learned during the training course,” Tasso said. “My 7-hectare orchard, which used to produce barely a ton and a half of cashew nuts, has doubled its production thanks to the application of good agricultural practices such as weeding, pruning and, above all, the thinning that the PSP carried out in my field.”

As next steps, Tasso plans to increase his orchard’s production to five tons in the coming years, especially once all trees are fully productive. With more developments on the horizon still, Tasso’s income has already increased, making over $725 in sales (451,490 FCFA)—double the amount of his loan.

Once his new grafted seedlings start producing cashew nuts, Tasso will almost certainly be able to reach his production goals. With PRO-Cashew grafted seedlings taking three years to provide their first harvest—two years less than with conventional cashew seeds—these results are expected to happen sooner than later. Tasso is also working with Korosho, a PRO-Cashew grantee, to obtain agriculture certifications that will enable him to reach higher price points and reach international markets while upholding stronger standards of sustainability.

USAID Agriculture Program

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Overview:

The five-year, $23 million USAID Agriculture Program (2018-2023) works to accelerate the growth of agricultural sub-sectors that show strong potential to create jobs, improve incomes, and increase micro, small, and medium enterprise (MSME) revenues, with particular focus on the berry, culinary herb, stone fruit, perishable vegetable, pome fruit, table grape, mandarin and nut crop value chains.

To accomplish this, the Program facilitates partnerships with public and private sector actors and provides demand-driven technical assistance to farmers, agribusinesses and MSMEs in order to address value chain gaps and advance agricultural production and processing.

The Program also contains an integrated grant component to deliver cost-share grants to producers, processors, cooperatives, service/information/extension providers and associations. These grants are designed to address identified value chain gaps and develop agricultural sub-sectors, contributing to the sustainable development of the Georgian economy.

Program Approach:

  1. Increase productivity and productive capacity: The USAID Agriculture Program uses technical assistance to develop and update business plans, financial plans and market assessments, and provides competitive cost-share grants for medium-, small- and micro-enterprises (MSMEs), including producers, processors, service providers, cooperatives and associations.
  2. Build capacity to add value: The Program improves processing, storage and other techniques by providing training to farmers on production, harvesting and post-harvest techniques; and facilitates relationships between value-adding agribusinesses and smallholder or emerging commercial farmers.
  3. Meet international standards and certifications: The Program provides cost-share grants for MSMEs, facilitating market access to new domestic buyers and international markets and training producers and MSMEs on modern production and business operations.
  4. Strengthen linkages within agricultural value chains and to new markets: The Program encourages public-private partnerships by facilitating linkages and providing support to vocational education institutions, business service providers and enterprises to improve training curricula and access to private sector-led skills development opportunities. It also assists with developing business relationships and addressing financial institutions requirements to obtain capital for further growth.
  5. Strengthen capacity of cooperatives, extension and other service providers and associations: The Program facilitates the development and capacity building of business or sector associations; trains service and information providers on topics such as teaching methods, farmer outreach models and technical skills and knowledge; and supports dialog between extension providers, educational institutions and cooperatives to coordinate efforts to increase reach and effectiveness of extension.

Partners:

  1. South-East Europe Development (SEEDEV)
  2. World Food Logistics Organization (WFLO)

Cashew Cultivation: An Opportunity for a New Start

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Jean-Baptiste Bationo, a farmer from Bouaflé in central Côte d’Ivoire

Less than five years ago, Jean-Baptiste Bationo, a farmer from Bouaflé in central Côte d’Ivoire, had no experience growing cashews and instead grew cocoa, which he had cultivated for over 20 years. However, with the cacao swollen shoot virus (CSSV) devastating plantations across Côte d’Ivoire, Bationo’s harvests were affected, putting his operations in a tenuous situation. Bationo and farmers experiencing similar damage had to find a sustainable solution that would rid them of the CSSV problem and improve their activities for the long run.

This led Bationo to work with the USDA Food for Progress West Africa PRO-Cashew Project which offered to provide farmers with high-quality grafted seedlings as part of its cashew seedling initiative. This initiative aims to promote the expansion of trees with favorable traits such as larger nut sizes, resilience to climatic shifts and the ability to speed up the production of their first harvest, helping farmers increase their production and quality to be more competitive in local markets.

Seeing an opportunity to replace his virus-prone cacao with this new profitable crop, Bationo signed up to be shortlisted as a participant and eventually received 130 cashew seedlings from PRO-Cashew at a subsidized cost in 2022.

“I was very concerned, because I thought at the time [replacing my cacao plantation] was a huge loss for me,” Bationo said. “After all the effort I’d put into creating and growing my cacao plantation, I did not know what to do.”

For him, cashew planting was an ideal solution for replacing his cacao plantation. The grafted plants provided by PRO-Cashew are resistant to diseases and resilient to the effects of climate change. Additionally, cashew trees require less rainfall than cacao plantations.  Where cacao plantations require between 1,500-2,000 millimeters of rainfall annually, cashew trees only require 800-1,800 millimeters.[1][2]Finally, the grafted seedlings only take three years to produce their first harvest compared to the typical five years normal seedlings take, ensuring a quicker restart to his activities.

After taking advantage of the Agence Nationale d’Appui au Développement Rural (ANADER) governmental program that supports farmers with uprooting their cacao crops to eradicate CSSV at no cost to farmers, Bationo’s plantation was ready to start fresh with his new cashew venture.

A year into the restoration of his plantation, his new cashew seedlings were developing well. And while waiting for the crops to start producing, Bationo decided to intercrop bananas and casava within the plantation to bring in an additional source of income. As he continues transitioning to a new and more sustainable agricultural endeavor, he hopes to serve as a source of inspiration to other cacao growers experiencing CSSV by helping them convert to the fruitful cashew sector.

For producers looking to transition into or enhance their cashew production, PRO-Cashew supports them to access improved planting materials, connect with technical experts that enhance their operations and participate in workshops designed to strengthen their financial management. The Project also works to build linkages with market actors such as seedling retailers—including those connected to commercial nurseries established through public-private partnerships, farm renovation and rehabilitation providers and rural-based service providers to help farmers develop transition plans and receive tree cutting and pruning services. With these options available, farmers like Bationo have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

[1] https://www.icco.org/growing-cocoa/#:~:text=Trees%20are%20very%20sensitive%20to,should%20not%20exceed%20three%20months.

[2] https://agroivoire.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/ftec-anacardier.pdf

Community Visioning Prioritizes Needs and Facilitates a Tangible Sense of Ownership

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In Matabeleland North, one of the driest and most food insecure regions in Zimbabwe, USAID’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)-funded Amalima Loko activity empowers communities to address and take ownership of their development priorities. In Daluka Village, Ward 19, Lupane, community leader Moven Ngwenya reflects on his community’s experience a year after the village started the Community Visioning (CV) process.

“Amalima Loko set us in motion,” said Ngwenya, whose village’s CV process kicked off in June 2021 with the planning and preparation stage, which involves a series of exercises for communities to identify their existing structures, assets and formal and informal capacities to inform local transformation plans at the village and ward level. During this stage, communities generate a range of resources, including a socio-economic map, community resource map, historical timeline, vulnerability matrix and seasonal calendar for crops and livestock.

“We took part in several discussions on long-term food security and resilience planning,” Ngwenya recalls of the planning and preparation stage. “We started with resource mapping, during which we were asked questions about how we lived, what we had and what a thriving community looked like,” he recounted. “When they asked us what a thriving community would look like, we realized immediately that we were onto something life-changing and that we had taken an important step towards creating something that would provide the community of Daluka with some tangible sense of ownership.”

Ngwenya recalled that during discussions, Amalima Loko staff worked with the CV participants to overcome differences in community priorities. “At first, we had competing needs,” he said. “Some wanted food, others water, while others wanted schools and bridges. We worked with Amalima Loko to rank and prioritize our needs.”

These discussions feed into a cohesive community vision, including goals and actionable steps, with a focus on resilience. In Daluka village, ultimately community discussions led to the prioritization of water access through drilling and rehabilitation of boreholes that can provide clean water for people and livestock.

“We identified access to water as an important and immediate need,” Ngwenya said. “We concluded with a concrete action plan at village and ward level, where we now have both short-term and long-term goals that we are striving to achieve in solidarity as a community.”

The Daluka Ward 19 Transformation Plan was finalized in December 2021, and set goals such that by 2030, community members, inclusive of all genders and abilities, will have access to adequate potable water, productive agriculture, market linkages, improved health and nutrition, education, inclusive skills development, natural resources management skills and  recreational services.

Ngwenya’s  community is now in the implementation stage of the CV process, where communities take actions to achieve the goals outlined in the transformation plans. Accomplishments to date include:

  • Ten boreholes in the watershed cluster rehabilitated with Amalima Loko support (two within Daluka Ward).
  • Five new boreholes targeted for construction in the watershed cluster (one within Daluka Ward) by Amalima Loko—currently at the solar installation stage.
  • One rehabilitated borehole completed by Mafinyela Village through collective action independent of Amalima Loko.
  • Gulley reclamation conservation works throughout the ward.
  • Rehabilitated feeder roads from Sibangani Village leading to major health facilities.

“The Community Visioning process under the Amalima Loko program has been a true turning point for the Daluka community,” Ngwenya said. “Amalima Loko came through with a Community Visioning approach which gave us direction and strengthened our voices to determine projects and set the pace at which we wanted this development to happen. I must say this was a welcome initiative.”

Amalima Loko is funded by the USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance and implemented by CNFA. It is designed to improve food and nutrition security for more than 82,800 vulnerable households in rural Zimbabwe through increased food access and sustainable watershed management. The activity’s Community Visioning process has reached over 42,000 people of diverse genders, ages, abilities and social groups in more than 500 villages.

Preserving Food and Preserving Lives: Improving Income through Innovative Preservation Technologies

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Diakité Mariam Diarra is an agri-food processing entrepreneur from Koutiala, Mali, where she actively watched and helped her mother produce and sell home-made natural juices throughout her childhood.

“I decided to continue my mother’s passion in the field of food processing.” Diarra said. “However, my experience remained basic until 2014, when I received training provided by the the Support Fund for Vocational Training and Apprenticeship (Fond d’Appui à la Formation Professionnelle et à l’Apprentissage FAFPA).”

Since, she has been able to enhance her ability to market locally, as well as to Bamako. Her success led her to exploring export opportunities even, participating in the International Fair of Agriculture and Animal Resources (FIARA) fair in Senegal.

In 2022, Diarra started collaborating with the Feed the Future Mali Sugu Yiriwa activity through an Open Day Event organized in Koutiala, where she won first prize in the culinary contest and received a 100-kilogram gas drying machine. After this, her work with the Activity progressed, participating in other  trade events—both nationally and regionally—where she could sell her products and establish new business relationships.

“I attended several trainings that greatly improved my food processing skills which has enabled me to increase my income,” she said. “I particularly appreciated the session on good preservation practices for perishable products.”

Like other vendors in Sugu Yiriwa’s intervention zones, Diarra was facing significant waste of perishable products. With excessive use of fertilizers, frequent power cuts and high temperatures, the vegetables she bought would lose their freshness and quality over a period of two days, forcing her to get rid of the produce and bear financial losses.

According to statistics[1] from the diagnostic report of market garden production systems in Mali, market garden produce perishes at high rates in Mali, often exceeding 20%. To improve the availability and accessibility of nutritious and healthy products for households throughout the year, Sugu Yiriwa organized three trainings in November 2022 for 177 market actors on good preservation practices for perishable products.

During those sessions, participants worked on techniques to preserve food products in the short- and long-term, using technologies such as Zero Energy Cooling Chambers (ZECCs) and canary fridges, as well as modern methods like pasteurization, refrigeration and the use of preservatives. Brining was also presented as a preservation method.

“I put these new skills into practice by building a conservation chamber with cement bricks and sand that was available at my house,” Diarra said. “This method helped me save time, energy and money by better preserving my products.”

With these new skills and techniques, Diarra’s family is able to enjoy fresh produce regularly, including during the Ramadan season where she conserved carrots, peppers and tomatoes effectively for up to two weeks.

She also began producing brine for marketing, as well as for her own consumptions.

“The brine I produce helps diversify my sources of income and provide my family with vegetables such as green beans and carrots throughout the year, even when they are not available in the market,” she said. “While others struggle to find these vegetables, I am able to preserve them year-round.”

To share her experience, Diarra organizes individual capacity building sessions for her family, cooperative members and neighbors on her volition. With knowledge from the Sugu Yiriwa training, she was able to disseminate information to 40 individuals, improving their incomes and access to nutritious foods year-round, while also building capacity.

“I am proud of the positive feedback I received and the impact these training sessions have on their lives,” she said.

Access to nutritious food year-round is essential to addressing malnutrition, especially in Mali’s the southern zone, among children, pregnant and lactating women and the elderly. According to the 2022 Standardize Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutrition survey, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in Mali exceeds the 10% alert threshold in most regions. Feed the Future Sugu Yiriwa trainings, like the one attended by Diarra, contribute to improving household livelihoods and fostering resilience by enabling households to produce and consume healthy foods throughout the year.

[1] Rapport diagnostic des systèmes de production maraîcher au Mali, Projet SAFEVEG.