From Farm To Market
Farmer Field Schools
A new training project in Malawi is harnessing Farmer Field School (FFS) networks to strengthen the business skills of farmers and forge links between farmer organisations and markets.
The Capacity Development of Market Oriented Rural Enterprises (CADMORE) project is establishing a network of Farm Business Schools and Cooperative Business Schools in 2020, with 5,400 farmers recruited to a training programme that covers a range of topics, including market oriented production, bookkeeping and agri-finance training. The scheme is focusing specifically on supporting farming households to produce, market and sell three crops – soybean, cassava and groundnut.
Close to 100 local small and medium sized enterprises have been linked to the project, while 60 agro-dealers and 36 traders are participating in tailored training programmes that are designed to strengthen links between the marketplace and farmers who are producing the three crops.
Reviving African Cotton
Investments by Self Help Africa in indigenous cotton production will create jobs and markets for thousands in a once booming sector that has experienced decades of decline.
In African markets, the Kenyan traditional women’s kikoi and Zambian chitengi have long been replaced by second-hand clothing from the West, and by cheap linen, cotton and synthetic alternatives from the East. Kenya alone imports close to 100 million pieces of second-hand clothing a year, its cotton ginneries virtually obsolete.
Our Kenyan-based AgriFI Challenge Fund, backed by the EU and SlovakAid, awarded close to €750,000 to cotton processors Rift Valley Products Ltd, investing in the company’s plans to revive Kenya’s cotton sector by increasing its production from 5,500 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes of cotton lint annually. The Nakuru-based company aims to create 210 jobs directly and support more than 6,000 jobs in mills it will work with. The company will work with 18,000 small-scale farmers in cotton production, to meet the demands of its operations.
Meanwhile, another SHA project - Enterprise Zambia - launched its Challenge Fund in late 2020 and announced funding of more than €620,000, to Alliance Ginneries Ltd for Zambia’s first large-scale organic cotton programme. By obtaining Organic and Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA) certificates, Alliance can verify and showcase its work to the international cotton market while responding to the worldwide demand for organic certified cotton.
20,000 farmers will benefit from a guaranteed market, quality inputs and credit for growing cotton and cowpeas. The company, which also has operations in Zimbabwe and Tanzania, aims to create 65 full-time jobs and 130 part-time jobs at its plant in Kafue.
The vast majority of Kenya and Zambia’s cotton producers live on farms that are smaller than three acres, and grow small amounts of cotton for sale alongside traditional food crops.
Helping Agri Business to grow
Supporting agri-business to create jobs, markets and bring services to communities in remote areas are some of the goals of Self Help Africa’s Challenge Funds in Zambia and Kenya.
The inability of farmers to get their crops to markets where produce can be processed and value can be added is an economic obstacle for households in remote areas. Extensive data shows that the closer farmers are to large urban markets, the more they are likely to earn.
This applies not just to the capacity of farmers to sell their produce, but also to their ability to access inputs like seeds and fertilizer, and the services that will help them to farm more effectively.
The EU and SlovakAid funded AgriFI Kenya Challenge Fund has already backed a number of businesses in remote areas with investment finance, including Paves Vetagro Ltd, which is establishing distribution routes for veterinary supplies and training farmers as para-vets in the remote far northern counties of West Pokot and Turkana. The fund is also supporting Acacia EPZ to source Gum Arabic from semi-nomadic tribespeople in the arid and semi-arid regions around Samburu, Turkana and Marsabit.
Enterprise Zambia, also funded by the EU, is providing support to a cotton business that will purchase raw cotton from small-scale farmers in the country’s far west and far northern regions. The Challenge Fund is also providing support to CHC Commodities Ltd to invest in its agricultural warehousing, brokerage and agri-inputs in the country’s west and south west regions.
A network of local trainers, learning sites and ‘honey hubs’ where produce can be collected, processed and bulked for sale, are being established by the MORE-HONEY project, as it promotes beekeeping amongst small-holder farmers in Uganda’s north-west.
Recruitment of 2,000 farming households to the programme got underway in 2020, with the initial intake including 194 participants selected in collaboration with UNHCR from amongst Uganda’s large refugee community.
Although activities were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, MORE-HONEY’s efforts to develop the profitability for small-scale farmers of apiculture progressed throughout the year.
18 learning sites are being established, craftspeople are receiving artisan training to manufacture modern hives, while sites are being identified for five ‘honey hubs’ where beekeepers can bring their honey for aggregation, processing and collective marketing and sale. A honey traceability system is also being developed by the project.
MORE-HONEY is promoting best practice beekeeping in the region. It is working in collaboration with Uganda-based Golden Bees Ltd, Danish honey and wax brokers Swienty Commodities’ and German natural wax specialists Kahlwax, to improve the quantity, quality and traceability of honey and wax sourced from Uganda.
Home Grown School Meals
Creating markets where farmers can sell their produce to generate an income can be a complex process involving multiple steps. But there are times when the best solutions are the simple, local ones.
Self Help Africa’s pilot Home Grown School Meals project in Zambia illustrates that occasionally it’s just a matter of creating natural linkages between producers who have goods to sell, and buyers who are seeking the same commodities.
For two years, Self Help Africa piloted a project with the World Food Programme (WFP) that, amongst other things, forged a link between farmers and schools in their district.
With the objective of improving school nutrition and providing one good meal each day for school kids, the project worked with 60 schools, and linked them with farmers who had vegetables, pulses, cereals and other food crops to sell.
While a number of the schools also established ‘kitchen gardens’ at the school sites to also grow food crops and expose their students to horticultural production, in the main the project linked schools with farmers who had goods to sell. A new phase of this project, with 143 schools, was started by Self Help Africa in early 2021.
Finding the Refugee Market
Uganda hosts more refugees than any other country in Africa.
Self Help Africa is collaborating with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Uganda to support refugee families to produce food crops that are in turn sold back to the WFP, who currently provide food and cash assistance to one million refugees across the country.
Producers of maize, beans and sorghum also receive training in post-harvest handling, grain hoppers and sealable sacks from the WFP, allowing them to store their crops in a manner that protects them from pests and contamination, and ensures that they meet the standards required for procurement by the WFP.
A total of 1,900 refugee and 3,100 other households are involved in the project, which is part of a pathway to self-reliance programme supported by the WFP. Alongside cereal crops, participants are encouraged to produce nutrition-rich orange sweet potato and iron-rich beans, for which there are also local markets.
Increased production, consumption and income from dairy is the focus for a project in Ethiopia that also involves promotion work in schools and local communities. The information campaign in schools and communities was part of Dairy for Development, a five-year project that supported the creation of one dairy coop and the rehabilitation of plant and equipment with two other cooperatives, together with an ongoing programme to improve feed, animal care and husbandry. An ongoing AI programme to improve dairy breeds in Abichu Gna’a District of Oromia resulted in 342 new high yielding dairy calves being born in the programme in 2020. The project, which is backed by Jersey Overseas Aid, is supporting a total of 600 households to increase their income from dairy production. Awareness raising at agricultural field days, ‘school milk days’ and the creation of an information centre on dairy in a town market were all undertaken in 2020 to promote milk consumption and raise awareness of the benefits of dairy in family diets.
Breaking Down Barriers
Removing obstacles to trade in agricultural produce along one of Africa’s longest land borders is the focus of a new programme of activity in East Africa.
Doing business across land borders can be challenging and tortuous, with traders the victims of petty bureaucracy, extortion, endless delay and corruption. For women, the obstacles can be even greater.
A project along the border between Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi has worked with close to 2,000 women traders and border officials, in an effort to reduce incidents of harassment, discrimination and corruption for traders on the border.
The work is now being extended, with the newly established Export Capability Programme addressing some of the obstacles to DRC, the region’s largest country, becoming a significant contributor to regional trade.
The scheme is backed by TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), and is focussing on women-led and owned businesses with particular attention in the recruitment and retention process. Women are being organised into groups and cooperatives, provided with business skills training, and educated on their rights.