Integration across program activities brings improved food security

Integration across program activities brings improved food security

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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.[1] 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.

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.”


Care group member, Blessed Mhlanga, with her youngest child

[1] 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: and

Kwite AMC Mobilizes Community to Improve Constructed Dam

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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.

Watershed around Kwite Dam

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.

Village beats back invasive species to improve livestock health

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Lantana camara fruits on a bush in Matabeleland

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.

The Malalume village Disaster Risk Reduction committee responsible for leading the Lantana camara removal project.

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.

Four members of the DRR committee, including Mrs. Nyathi (second from right), stand in the land that they cleared of Lantana camara

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!”

USAID Agriculture Program

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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.


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

Farmer-to-Farmer: Southern Africa & Moldova

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The USAID-funded John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program (2018-2023) is implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) in Southern Africa (Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the Eastern European country of Moldova. CNFA’s current F2F program aims to connect 394 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 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


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.

Program Approach:

CNFA’s approach builds on USAID’s continuous learning from the F2F program since its 1985 inception and CNFA’s decades of experience in F2F implementation. In each country, focal value chains are analyzed to identify critical leverage points for improvements in incomes and food security through volunteer technical assignments.

  1. Increase Agricultural Sector Market-Driven Productivity and Profitability: The Program promotes the adoption of innovative agricultural techniques and technologies and supports improved marketing and business skills.
  2. Improve Conservation and Sustainable Use of Environmental and Natural Resources: The Program leverages conservation agriculture and other practices to produce higher and more stable yields while reducing environmental degradation.
  3. Expand Agricultural Sector Access to Financial Services: The Program’s efforts strengthen the financial management and business-planning skills of farmer organizations and agribusinesses.
  4. Private Sector Engagement: The Program also partners with government and private sector stakeholders and supports organizational development by building local markets and networks.


Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production

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The USAID/Georgia Restoring Efficiency to Agriculture Production (REAP) activity was a five-year (2013-2018), $19.5 million enterprise development activity that increased income and employment in rural areas by delivering firm-level investment and tailored technical assistance to Georgian agribusinesses. Since October 2013, REAP increased private investment and commercial finance in the agriculture sector by $37.5 million, mitigated risks for rural agribusinesses, upgraded farmers’ agricultural and technical skills and expanded commercially sustainable linkages between service providers, producers and processors.


  1. Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Development in the Agriculture Sector: By utilizing its $6 million grant fund, REAP partnered with 70 agribusinesses to launch profit centers that provide input supply, services, technical trainings and commercial markets to smallholders. REAP’s investment portfolio, consisting primarily of Farm Service Centers (FSCs) and Machinery Service Centers (MSCs), created over 2,000 new rural jobs, provided over $18 million in new cash markets, trained over 200,000 smallholders and generated new gross sales of over $182 million.
  2. Implemented Technical Assistance Program: To ensure the sustainability of REAP investments and bolster the capacity of Georgia’s agriculture sector, the activity worked closely with its partners to deliver demand-driven, customized technical assistance in collaboration with the private sector to improve competitiveness, increase sales and foster professional development. REAP also supported non-grantees—enterprises that did not meet the competitive benchmarks to receive matching grants—by providing capacity-building consulting through local BSPs and International STTA on a 50-50 cost-shared basis to increase access to funding.
  3. Focused on Gender: REAP ensured inclusive enterprise development and involved men, women and youth in its activities. All C1 grant applicants were required to present a gender integration strategy as part of their proposals. REAP expected at least 15% of grantees and 25% of trainees to be women.
  4. Improved Access to Finance: REAP stimulated affordable financing by working with both financial institutions and agribusinesses, providing technical assistance to improve supply and demand. Through business plans, agriculture lending strategies and training for loan officers, REAP increased the volume of lending to the agriculture sector.
  5. Improved Workforce Development: REAP had a robust internship program that allowed over 120 students to work in fields that support REAP’s implementation, including administration and finance, monitoring and evaluation, environment, access to finance and technical assistance. REAP also offered 11 research grants for students committed to addressing constraints faced in Georgia’s agriculture sector, including an additional nine who focused on Brown Marmorated Stinkbug (BMSB) research.
  6. Focused on the Environment: All grant applicants were visited by REAP’s Environmental Specialist and provided with environmental review checklists and guidance on environmental compliance.

Farmer-to-Farmer: Southern Africa

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CNFA implemented the USAID John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program in Southern Africa starting in 2008. From 2008 to 2018, the $7.9 million CNFA-implemented F2F Program operated in the countries of Angola, Malawi and Mozambique and aimed to generate rapid, sustained economic growth in the agricultural sector through short-term technical assistance provided by expert U.S. volunteers, including farmers, bankers, professors, civil servants and active and retired business people. Lasting two-to-four weeks, volunteer assignments focused on a range of topics, from training farmers’ associations in improved production techniques to teaching cooperatives better financial management and marketing.

CNFA volunteers were guided and supported by highly trained home and local teams. Through the storytelling of returned volunteers, F2F increased the broader American public’s understanding of international development issues and the critical importance of U.S. development programs.


CNFA worked with agribusinesses, extension agencies, cooperatives and farmers to provide expertise on topics including crop production, post-harvest handling and marketing of seeds, cooperative and association development, business plan development, communications and marketing support and financial management.

  1. Increased Agricultural Sector Productivity and Profitability: CNFA’s approach focused on increasing smallholder productivity and profitability by targeting high-potential value chains in each target country.
  2. Improved Conservation and Sustainable Use of Environmental and Natural Resources: CNFA balanced increased agricultural productivity with improved conservation and sustainable resource use. Examples of volunteer roles include water management, integrated pest management (IPM), and integrated soil fertility management.
  3. Expanded Agricultural Sector Access to Financial Services: CNFA linked smallholder farmer organizations and small and medium enterprises with credit via appropriate channels, including microfinance institutions, banks, supplier credit, leasing, equity investment and blended capital from investors.
  4. Strengthened Agricultural Sector Institutions: CNFA strengthened farmer organizations, including cooperatives and associations, local NGOs, industry associations that support improved input supply, and agricultural universities.

Feed the Future Guinea Strengthening Agriculture Value Chains and Youth

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The CNFA-implemented Feed the Future Strengthening Agriculture Value Chains and Youth (SAVY) Program (2016-2018) facilitated improved access to agricultural inputs, credit tools and market information along the rice, horticulture and livestock value chains in Guinea. 


The $11 million SAVY program, which fell under the Guinea Agricultural Services (GAS) project, was funded by USAID and implemented in partnership with six international nongovernmental organizations focused on animal health promotion and animal disease outbreak mitigation, financial inclusion and market facilitation. These three intervention areas had one major cross-cutting activity, the Apprentissage en Vulgarisation, Entreprenariat et Innovation Rurale (AVENIR) (Apprenticeship in Extension, Entrepreneurism and Rural Innovation) program, which engaged 85 entrepreneurial and ambitious youth and provided training, mentoring and work experience needed to become successful entrepreneurs and change agents in a competitive agricultural sector. 

  1. Developed Human and Institutional Capactiy: CNFA collaborated with the Strengthening Market-led Agricultural Research, Technology, and Education (SMARTE) program implemented by Winrock International to implement the AVENIR program.
  2. Boosted Private Sector Engagement and Entrepreneurship: SAVY activities increased positive risk-taking, the use of mobile money and access to and use of affordable credit tools to facilitate new market linkages.
  3. Supported Women’s Empowerment: SAVY activities facilitated opportunities for women in the horticulture and livestock value chains and in processing and marketing activities. The program mitigated constraints faced by women and female youth, such as limited access to and understanding of credit, heavier work burdens and limited ability to make decisions about agricultural production, expenditures and division of land parcels.


Protecting and Regenerating the Soils of Ihamizua

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The Centro de Formacao Agro-Pecuaria de Siloe is an agricultural training center located in Ihamizua, about 10 miles from Beira, Mozambique.  The center has a strong focus on social and environmental responsibility and trains youth in vegetable production, entrepreneurship, and small livestock and poultry production. Each year, 25 youth graduate from the center’s training on environmentally minded horticulture practices, including organic cultivation methods, integrated pest management and basic composting. In addition to youth education, the center produces food for a local orphanage for about 100 children, and sells the surplus vegetables and chickens for revenue to help sustain the organization.

Despite its success, Centro de Formacao Agro-Pecuaria de Siloe continued to look for ways to increase its social and environmental impact in the community. USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program, implemented by CNFA in Southern Africa, visited the center to explore ways the F2F program could strengthen one of the center’s key natural resources – the soil. CNFA fielded Ms. Matilde D’Urzo, a soil fertility expert who had previously volunteered with CNFA in Mozambique, to train the center on cost-effective and sustainable strategies to improve soil quality. Ms. D’Urzo provided the center with trainings on how to prepare compost and organic fertilizers, how to apply mulch to vegetable beds and how to increase production through the intensification and diversification of crops (soil management).