Poultry Farming Through Care Group Model Transforms Rural Livelihoods

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.

Ailing Fruit Project Saved by New Solar Irrigation

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Farmer Jean Claude Sindikubwabo (35) has experienced a long and painful journey from the time he started farming in 2014. Like most beginners, he started off on the wrong foot, seeing losses on his first vegetable harvest mainly due to a lack of knowledge and unconducive weather conditions around Bugesera, one of Rwanda’s driest districts. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered from that bad start until much later in November 2019, when he received an approx. $4,000 (RWF 4 million) bank loan to invest in watermelon farming that matured the following year in March 2020. By bad luck, that coincided with the first total lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic! The project was doomed without access to markets. The pain of watching his produce rot in the garden and the thought of the unpaid bank loan were too much to bear. Sindikubwabo needed urgent help.

That same year, Sindikubwabo joined 63 farmers on Kamabuye solar irrigation site, one of the sites set up in the four districts of Gatsibo, Ngoma, Kayonza and Bugesera by the Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity and the Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB). Funded by USAID, Hinga Weze mobilized the farmers into a cooperative and coached them on good farming and climate smart practices. Hinga Weze aims to improve productivity and incomes for 535,000 farmers, improve nutritional intake for women and children and build the resilience of agriculture to climate changes.

Fully equipped with new skills, Sindikubwabo returned to farming. He also learned to diversify and grow other crops, which he marketed ahead of harvest time in order to minimize losses. Last season alone, Sindikubwabo sold 178 sacks of green pepper and nine tons of watermelon for a combined total of approx. $3,059 (RWF 3,080,000). This adds to $5,294,907 (approx. RWF 5 billion) gained by farmers in sales value for horticulture. Like the other 12,000 farmers on solar-irrigation sites across the four districts, Sindikubwabo is able to plant vegetables and fruits all-year around, unlike previously when they would wait for favorable seasons.

“I’m able to pump water upstream for irrigation without spending a lot of money on fuel and labor,” observed Sindikubwabo. He was also able to use profits from farming to set up a permanent house and a piggery project. He employees four permanent staff and 25 casual laborers, whom he supports with soft loans and vegetables for their families’ welfare.

As Hinga Weze winds up, Sindikubwabo has paid off 90 percent of the bank loan and is now planning to expand his farming business.

Provincial Study Tour Promotes Stronger Agricultural Technology Enabling Environment

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As technology plays a larger role in increasing agricultural productivity, enhancing competitivity and lowering barriers to access, the adoption of affordable, appropriate agricultural technologies has become essential to improve rural incomes and livelihoods. In Pakistan, USAID-funded Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity’s (PATTA) partners closely with Provincial Agriculture Departments to increase farmers’ access to these technologies and support the modernization of farming communities across the country.

As part of this government collaboration, PATTA organized a four-day study tour to Punjab province in early 2021 for government officials from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). The tour aimed to facilitate knowledge sharing between the two governments and to showcase the Government of Punjab’s new agricultural initiatives—specifically the region’s agricultural call centers, which were established during COVID-19 as a socially distant way to promote good agricultural practices, improved inputs and technologies and regional extension services to smallholder farmers.

On-site demo of high-tech precision agriculture technologies by Farm Dynamics Pakistan.

On the tour, KP officials observed a data collection system and a live stream of farmer queries and technical expert responses at a call center for extension services. Punjab officials also briefed attendees on their SMART agriculture initiative, which improves soil and productivity by issuing soil health cards, profiling the soil on farmers’ fields and conducting data recording and traceability analyses. They further shared key best practices including their International Organization for Standardization (ISO): 17025 analytical laboratory certification systems and their ability to improve analyses of soil, water, agrochemicals and fertilizer traceability.

In addition to meeting with government officials in Punjab, attendees visited several of PATTA’s private-sector partners. To demonstrate how these partners manage their agriculture and livestock technology businesses, the group toured agricultural machinery production facilities and a model slaughterhouse and were given an on-site demonstration of high-tech precision agriculture technologies.

The study tour not only strengthened linkages between officials and private sector actors from KP and Punjab, but it also showcased ways to improve KP’s agricultural productivity through the use of modern technologies. The leader of the KP delegation, KP Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Dr. Israr Ahmad Khan, expressed his appreciation for PATTA’s work to organize the visit and emphasized his government’s support for future collaboration with PATTA and its agribusiness partners.

By facilitating linkages and collaboration between provincial governments, PATTA helps modernize the agriculture sector in Pakistan and strengthen the enabling environment for agricultural technology adoption. This improved enabling environment will support PATTA’s work to lift barriers, enable awareness, and promote agricultural technology uptake across the country’s provinces, benefitting 132,506 small farmers by the end of 2021.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Rootstalks and Grafting with Mother Plants

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for handing rootstocks and grafting with mother plants.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Grafting Techniques to Improve Budding and Horticulture Production

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for grafting plants to enhance budding and horticulture production.

Sharing Agricultural Best Practices: Extracting and Preparing Seedlings for Sale

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The USAID Agriculture Program in Georgia demonstrates best practices for extracting and preparing plant seedlings for sale.

 

Beekeepers Hear the Buzz About Pest Control in Madagascar

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

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

Tsitambainarivo harvesting honey.
Photo credit: Raharinirina Monique

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

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

Youssef demonstrating oxalic acid technique. Photo credit: Raharinirina Monique

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

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

Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze Activity

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Overview:

Over the past 20 years, Rwanda has made remarkable progress and the country’s economy has been growing steadily at roughly eight percent since 2001.[1] The agricultural sector plays a central role in Rwanda’s economy, accounting for 39 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), 80 percent of employment, and 90 percent of the country’s food needs.[2]

Despite this impressive growth, significant challenges to agricultural productivity and market participation remain, including constraints on land availability for cultivation, degradation of the country’s soil and natural resource base, lack of access to agricultural inputs and mechanization, and recurring extreme climatic events. The performance of the agricultural sector is closely linked to Rwanda’s overall nutritional profile and undernutrition remains a pervasive problem, further impacting Rwanda’s economy. About 33% of children under five are malnourished.[3] Stunting in children is attributed to food insecurity and poverty, inadequate feeding (poor complementary feeding practices) and inadequate environments.

The Feed the Future Rwanda Hinga Weze activity is a five-year, $32.6 million USAID-funded activity that aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve the nutritional status of women of reproductive age (15-49) and children under two, and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate.

Program Approach:

Hinga Weze works through holistic interventions that target the interrelated issues of undernutrition, food insecurity, barriers to agricultural productivity, and other challenges. Specifically, the activity focuses on the sustainable intensification of Rwandan smallholder farming systems, with emphasis on climate-smart, nutrition-sensitive approaches and social behavior change to the production and consumption of five value chains including nutritious foods: high-iron beans, Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP), Irish potato, maize, and horticulture.

The activity will support over 733,000 smallholder farmers to sustainably enhance productivity, increase incomes to purchase nutritious foods and improve household nutrition outcomes in the following ten target districts: Gatsibo, Kayonza, Bugesera, Ngoma (Eastern Province); Nyabihu, Rutsiro, Ngororero, Nyamasheke, and Karongi (Western Province); and Nyamagabe (Southern Province).

  1. Increasing Sustainable Agricultural Productivity: Hinga Weze focuses on interventions that support an integrated systems approach to agriculture productivity and that follow the principles of sustainable land and water use, with particular attention to climate-smart technologies of relevance to Rwanda, facilitating the resilience of farming systems by improving water management, preventing soil erosion, and maximizing the effectiveness of input use.
  2. Expanding Farmers’ Access to Markets: In order to enhance farmers’ competitiveness and expand access to markets, Hinga Weze increases access to post-harvest equipment and facilities, market information, and credit and financial services.
  3. Improving Nutritional Outcome of Agriculture Interventions: Hinga Weze is focused on strengthening the link between agriculture and nutrition to improve the nutritional status of its communities and families.

Partners:

The Hinga Weze consortium includes a diverse group of both international and local Rwandan partner organizations, including Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), the prime, Rwanda Development Organization (RDO) and Imbaraga Farmers’ Federation. The activity achieves results by promoting household and community-level behavior changes through cost-effective interventions and a systems approach that prioritizes collaboration with stakeholders from the government, private and civil society sectors and the community.

Footnotes:

[1] NISR (2015) Rwanda Poverty Profile Report, 2013/14. National Institute of Statistics, Rwanda.

[2] Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (2013) Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture in Rwanda Phase III. Republic of Rwanda.

[3] Rwanda Demographic and Health survey 2020.

Amalima

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Overview:

Amalima, the seven-year (2013-2020), $60 million USAID Development Food Aid Program (DFAP), worked with over 118,000 vulnerable households to sustainably improve household food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe’s districts of Bulilima, Gwanda, Mangwe (Matabeleland South), and Tsholotsho (Matabeleland North). 

Amalima draws its name from the Ndebele word for the social contract by which families come together to help each other engage in productive activities such as land cultivation, livestock tending and asset building. 

Approach:

  1. Improved Sustainable Access to and Availability of Food: Amalima promoted climate and conservation-sensitive agriculture practices and encouraged the adoption of improved agriculture and livestock production practices.
  2. Strengthened Community Resilience to Shocks: The program partnered with communities to improve livelihoods and build resilience by creating and strengthening disaster risk reduction (DRR) committees through cash for asset activities, household asset vouchers and village savings and lending (VS&L) groups that promoted income-generating activities and savings to build household resilience.
  3. Improved Nutrition and Health: To improve Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) practices, dietary diversity and micronutrient intake of pregnant and lactating women and children under two, Amalima distributed supplementary feeding rations and enhanced nutrition care practices with a combination of capacity building, mentioning and community-based messaging delivered through care groups and community health clubs.
  4. Promoted Gender Equality: Amalima empowered women to play a key role in food security and resiliency at the household and community levels through increased access to and control over incomes, which promoted men and women to take increasingly equal responsibilities for both productive and reproductive activities.

Partners: