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P4P News

News on Purchase for Progress, both from the projects around the world and from WFP headquarters.

The government has started a P4P-like procurement programme.

SONAGESS, the national food reserve of Burkina Faso, has now committed to procuring 30 percent of its food needs from smallholder farmers. Government representatives have also visited Rwanda to learn about Common P4P, the Government of Rwanda’s smallholder-friendly market development programme.

P4P-supported smallholders sold US$ 5.7 million worth of commodities to WFP and other markets.

Crop failures and limited resources have constrained WFP’s ability to buy commodities from P4P-supported smallholders in Burkina Faso. Despite these challenges, small-scale farmers’ organizations have sold some US$ 1.6 million worth of commodities to WFP, and US$ 4.1 million worth of commodities to other private sector and institutional markets.

farmers food waste training burkina faso p4p wfp

New strategies are being used to reduce food losses.

WFP’s action research evaluation trial on “Reducing food losses in sub-Saharan Africa” allowed P4P-supported smallholders in Burkina Faso to significantly reduce food losses during farm-level storage through the use of simple, improved technologies, such as small metal or plastic silos, or hermetic storage bags.

Farmers’ organizations are playing a major part in decision-making.

To improve coordination and collaboration with technical partners, a Stakeholders and Partners Consultation Group was established, in which farmers’ organizations have been active participants. The group is co-chaired by WFP and the government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.

women farmers burkina faso smallholders p4p wfpWomen make up 50 percent of P4P-supported farmers.

Although women in Burkina Faso require further assistance to market their crops profitably, many have been enabled to participate in P4P. WFP is now emphasizing the procurement of crops traditionally controlled by women, such as cowpeas to increase women’s participation.

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P4P has assisted smallholders in Burkina Faso to improve post-harvest handling, increase yields and improve crop quality. This has enabled farmers’ organizations to market their surplus to private sector and institutional markets. Continue reading to learn five facts about progress made in Burkina Faso.

HarvestPlus works to reduce micronutrient deficiencies worldwide by developing and disseminating high yielding staple crops rich in vitamins and minerals. These crops are bred conventionally through a process called biofortification. New evidence has suggested that biofortification can be a particularly effective strategy to reduce micronutrient deficiencies, particularly when it can be complemented by other interventions, such as fortification and supplementation. Micronutrient deficiencies can occur even when individuals have enough staples to eat, but are lacking fruits, vegetables and animal products in their diets. This can lead to stunting, lower resistance to disease and increased risks during childbirth. Because it is a one-time investment, biofortification is considered to be both sustainable and cost-effective. Once seeds are adopted by smallholders, most of these nutritious crops can be grown year after year without requiring additional interventions or cost.

HarvestPlus’s Second Global Conference on Biofortification was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Rwanda from March 31 to April 2, 2014. More than 300 leaders from around the world discussed opportunities and affirmed commitments to scale up efforts to improve nutrition by increasing access to biofortified crops.

Increasing access to nutritious staples

To date, P4P has developed a partnership with HarvestPlus in three of their target countries: Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. To increase the amount of seed in circulation, smallholders are participating in multiplication activities, growing the biofortified crops and selling part back to HarvestPlus for re-distribution. They are also retaining a portion for household consumption. Since 2012, 19 farmers’ organizations in Rwanda have been involved in multiplying Iron Beans, selling some 210 metric tons (mt) (210,000 kg) back to HarvestPlus and 77 mt (77,000 kg) to WFP. The production of biofortified crops provides smallholders with a source of increased income. It also has the potential to improve their nutrition, as well as that of their families and communities, by introducing micronutrient-rich foods to their diets.

In Zambia, Vitamin A Maize is being multiplied by smallholder farmers’ organizations with the support of HarvestPlus. In 2013, 6 mt (6,000 kg) of biofortified maize was supplied to six schools through WFP’s school feeding programme to test its acceptability. While the maize was well received, greater quantities of seed are required to scale up efforts. In order to catalyse production, partner organizations have also linked smallholders’ surplus orange maize to millers through the AgResults programme, which promotes the consumption of industrially produced orange maize meal. In Uganda, HarvestPlus is supporting farmers to grow Iron Beans and Vitamin A Sweet Potatoes. Some of these farmers are also participating in P4P. 

Quick facts about HarvestPlus:

Increasing demand through awareness-raising

Unlike Iron Beans, the biofortification process causes crops such as maize and sweet potatoes change flavour and colour, becoming more orange. This may pose a challenge when introducing the unfamiliar variety into communities’ diets. In Zambia, a government-led awareness-raising campaign was fundamental to overcoming this challenge. When introducing orange maize to the home grown school feeding programme, WFP, in collaboration with HarvestPlus, held cooking demonstrations at school and community levels to illustrate the benefits of orange biofortified maize in comparison to the traditional white variety. These efforts proved successful, as the schools later requested orange maize seeds, which were donated by HarvestPlus for planting in their school gardens. Studies have shown that the orange colour of the maize does not pose a significant challenge to its acceptance when nutrition education is provided.

The importance of government ownership

P4P has learned about how to encourage the production and consumption of nutritious biofortified foods by working with smallholder farmers. Raising awareness about the advantages of nutritious crops has been particularly effective when health benefits are explained during training on agricultural production. As seen in Zambia, government involvement, particularly in advocacy efforts, is vital to the initiative’s success and can ensure its sustainability.

The Government of Rwanda illustrated their continued commitment to nutrition-sensitive agriculture by hosting the Second Annual Conference on Biofortification, where Prime Minister Pierre Habumuremyi said:  “Our time is now, to scale up what we know works to end hunger and malnutrition because we have the resources, tools and evidence at our disposal.”

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In Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, P4P is collaborating with HarvestPlus and national governments to increase the availability of micronutrient-rich staple foods. In these countries, P4P-supported smallholders have begun to cultivate Iron Beans, Vitamin A Maize and Vitamin A Sweet Potato, benefitting from improved nutrition and increased incomes from selling their produce, which is then used as seed or in school meals programmes.

P4P has worked to support agricultural cooperatives with capacity development in both agricultural best practices and organizational management and business skills. Throughout the pilot period (2008-2013), P4P has supported farmers’ organizations in 20 countries. The size and capacity of P4P-supported FOs varies widely from one country to another and includes a variety of structures, from small grassroots organizations to large farmers’ federations.

Examples of P4P efforts highlighted in local media on the International Day of Cooperatives:

In Rwanda, P4P has collaborated with FAO and IFAD to develop smallholder farmers’ cooperatives capacities in storage, marketing, financial management, and institutional strengthening. One smallholder benefitting from this work is a 46-year old mother of four named Murekatete Patricia. Patricia joined a cooperative in 2012, and after receiving training in post-harvest handling and storage, was able to market her maize collectively in order to make over US$ 1000. Read the article here

In Malawi, the home grown school feeding programme sources some of its food from smallholder farming cooperatives. This encourages student enrolment and ensures that schoolchildren have adequate nutrition. It also supports smallholder farmers by providing them with an assured market for their crops. One family benefits doubly from this programme. Through her farmers’ organization, Clara Bamusi markets her food to the school feeding programme, increasing her income, and providing part of the meals her daughter receives at school. “The greatest benefit has been the reliable market,” says Clara. “With my earnings I bought double the fertilizer and hybrid seed, and because of these inputs I was able to grow and harvest 65 more bags of maize this year compared to last.” Read the article here

For more details about how P4P has worked with farmers’ organizations during the pilot period, read the Final Consolidated Farmers’ Organizations and Capacity Development Report (January 2009 – December 2013)

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The 20th International Day of Cooperatives was celebrated on 5 July, 2014, emphasizing the important role which cooperatives play in sustainable development. Cooperatives are powerful tools which can be utilized by smallholder farmers to participate in formal markets. Because of their ability to organize farmers, P4P has used farmers’ organizations as an entry point, supporting smallholders to better access financial services, agricultural inputs, and equipment, and aggregate and market crops. According to FAO, one of the key organizers behind the International Day of Co-operatives: “cooperatives and producer organizations can play a key role in rural development and building a food secure world for all.” 

P4P in El Salvador focuses on capacity-building and strengthening farmers’ organizations. Due to reduced food assistance requirements, WFP does not constitute a significant market for P4P-supported organizations. Therefore, P4P focuses on strengthening relationships with private sector buyers, including agroindustry and retail markets, and carries out negotiation rounds to teach farmers’ organizations how to meet buyers’ requirements and to negotiate input purchases. Farmers’ organizations have also strengthened relationships with both private sector input suppliers and financial institutions. The Government’s new “Plan de Agricultura Familiar” (PAF), the Family Agriculture Plan, which is inspired by the P4P concept, also presents market opportunities for P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

Click here to read the two-pager about P4P in El Salvador.


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P4P-supported smallholder farmers in El Salvador have sold an estimated US$ 2,750,000 (5,866 mt) worth of commodities to sustainable markets including the agroindustry and retail markets. Despite these successes, further efforts are needed to increase national purchases from smallholders, and to support farmers to aggregate and market crops through their organizations. Read the P4P in El Salvador fact sheet to learn more.

In June, PAA Africa hosted an  Institutional Markets Knowledge Sharing Seminar in Addis where P4P and other partners met to discuss smallholder procurement and share lessons learned.

The initiative, which was inspired by Brazil’s national Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos (Food Purchase Programme), also aligns with WFP’s Home Grown School Feeding programme, in which commodities are often purchased from local smallholder farmers using P4P modalities. These efforts maximize programme benefits as they can not only improve small-scale family farmers’ access to institutional markets, but also encourage school attendance and improve pupils’ food security. PAA Africa has proven to be an excellent opportunity to strengthen collaboration with African governments and civil society, leading to greater sustainability of WFP’s smallholder procurement initiatives.

PAA Africa is being piloted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal since February 2012. Following an 18 month start-up phase, a further five year phase was launched in January 2014. WFP and FAO jointly support the implementation of PAA Africa with financial sponsorship from the Government of Brazil and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). In order to assist smallholder farmers to produce surplus of high quality crops and fresh food items, FAO facilitates access to inputs, and provides training in best agricultural practices and post-harvest handling. Building on lessons learned through P4P, demand for government and WFP’s school feeding programme provides the smallholders with an assured market, which can act as an incentive for them to invest in production.

Sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty

In order for local procurement initiatives to be sustainable, farmers must be able to access quality markets beyond WFP. In a video message to participants in June’s workshop, WFP’s Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said “The role of PAA-Africa is vital, as it is showcasing sustainable and innovative models for smallholder procurement that we can and will expand.” The added value of PAA Africa lies in the creation of innovative models to build sustainable institutional markets. For example, in Ethiopia and Malawi, funds have been transferred to district departments of education or directly to schools to manage procurement activities, purchasing food directly from local farmers’ organizations. PAA Africa continues providing them with support that fosters government ownership and builds local capacity. Government ownership and enthusiasm has been further strengthened through visits to Brazil where African leaders have been invited to learn from the Brazilian PAA model.

Drawing from the expertise of Brazil’s widely acclaimed national local procurement programme, five African countries are piloting their own indigenous models. This small-scale pilot project known as PAA Africa, is implemented by FAO, WFP, local governments, and the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since its inception in 2012, PAA Africa has developed a complimentary approach to P4P, promoting the use of food items purchased from local smallholder farmers in WFP and government-run school feeding programmes.

Overview - P4P in Uganda

In Uganda, P4P focuses on strengthening the capacity of farmers’ organizations to aggregate and sell commodities to quality buyers, such as WFP, local millers, traders for export and others. Through partnerships with the government, indigenous and international NGOs, and other partners, P4P has provided smallholder farmers with the necessary training and equipment to increase their production, improve crop quality and strengthen the marketing capacity of farmers’ organizations. P4P is promoting Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) to facilitate credit access among P4P-supported farmers’ organizations.

P4P also seeks to connect farmers’ organizations with institutional and private sector buyers that can provide an assured source of demand beyond WFP. This approach has built on WFP Uganda’s Agriculture and Market Support (AMS) project to enhance prospects for sustainability.

In Uganda, P4P has supported infrastructure improvements to facilitate smallholders’ aggregation of commodities and collective sales. Meanwhile, many challenges remain, especially related to crop quality and standards. Read the P4P in Uganda fact sheet to learn more.

A modified version of this blog post was published on the Guardian Global Development Profession Network 12 June 2014.

In developing countries, women are the backbone of the rural economy and are responsible for 60 to 80 percent of food production. They are also highly knowledgeable about crop varieties.

However, women face many challenges that can preclude them from independently owning or managing land and productive assets. In many households, men control the production and marketing of crops as well as household finances. According to UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), if women had the same access to these resources as men, they could increase agricultural yields by 20-30 percent, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger.

As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) is a major buyer of staple food, procuring over US$ 1 billion for cash annually. In 2013, WFP bought nearly 80  percent of this food in developing countries. Purchase for Progress (P4P) is a WFP pilot initiative which, over the past five years, has experimented with smallholder-friendly procurement models targeting smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The rationale behind P4P is to provide smallholders with the opportunity to improve their agricultural production, and an incentive to do so, as they benefit from an assured market in which to sell their surplus crops, dependent upon quality and price.

The P4P pilot specifically targeted women farmers in order to address the particular difficulties they face, with an ambitious goal to have 50 percent women participants. While P4P succeeded in tripling women’s participation in P4P-supported farmers' organizations from 100,000 to 300,000 during the pilot period, the experience demonstrated that mere numerical participation in a project does not directly translate into a positive impact on the lives of women farmers, nor provide them with the same financial gains as their male counterparts.

These are some of the key lessons learned that will help empower women and reduce poverty and hunger:

Read more about the lessons learned in the new report: 

Context-specific action plans

In order to empower women economically, the underlying causes of income inequalities must be addressed. Due to the immense variation between culture, religion, and infrastructure which can exist even in areas only a few miles apart, strategies to empower women farmers cannot be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Implementation must be informed by country-level, context- and culturally-specific assessments to determine the needs of women farmers on a community, regional and country level in order to tailor approaches which will address underlying causes of inequality while ensuring women’s well-being. This should be informed by a broader gender strategy which establishes long-term goals and guides the intervention.

Targeting women farmers:

Targeting women farmers can be challenging, because they may not be active in farmers’ organizations, and often produce crops for household consumption rather than for sale. Additionally, women farmers take on different and often overlapping roles; contributing their labour as unpaid family workers, taking on farm work as casual agricultural labourers, and sometimes as the principal producers of crops.  Women in the different roles will have different needs and interests and it is important to target support accordingly.

Equipment and capacity development:

Labour and time saving technologies and practices that contribute to reducing women’s workload and save them time are an important aspect to address if market development programmes are to succeed in empowering women, both socially and economically. Women also need assistance to develop the capacity necessary in order to increase their incomes. For this, a vital first step is to provide them with training as well as agricultural inputs and credit so that they can produce more, aggregate their crops, and market them collectively. However, giving women farmers the tools to produce more and market their crops does not guarantee that they will be able to do so or benefit economically from their work.

Inclusion of men:

Effective gender sensitization efforts incorporate the needs of communities, responding to the opportunities, challenges, and recommendations identified by country- and region-specific assessments. One effective method has been to ensure the inclusion of both men and women during gender sensitization, in order to acquire the buy-in of the most influential members of communities, such as religious and customary leaders, who are generally male. Within P4P, this has often been achieved by stressing the economic gains for households and communities which embrace gender equality. In many contexts, these methods have assisted men to understand that women’s empowerment does not mean men’s disempowerment. In the same way, male authorities and community leaders have played vital roles in supporting the increased agricultural production and economic gains of women farmers under the P4P pilot.

Be aware of the risks:

By overlooking generations-old cultural norms, initiatives which seek to empower women can cause social isolation and risk the safety of participants. Malawi is one example where some women farmers reported forceful resistance at household level, as the male heads of household resisted their wives’ efforts to independently earn and control income.  This highlights the importance of carefully designing culturally and context appropriate interventions in order to ensure the safety of women participants. Household negotiation is a powerful tool which can assist women to strategically gain voice and influence, while simultaneously reducing pressure within their households.

Tools for household negotiation:

A household negotiation approach emphasizes the inclusive management of household resources, assisting women and men to improve their collaboration at a household level. A woman farmer and field monitor named Mazouma, from Burkina Faso, says that in her community, many women are now able make family decisions in collaboration with their husbands, making it easier to manage their income. She also says that this has led to the increased inclusion of women in decision-making and planning in their farmers’ organizations and communities.

Any assessment of gender achievements must go beyond counting the number of women vs men involved. Nuanced examinations will inform new methods to more effectively facilitate the empowerment of women farmers. One such lesson learned for WFP was the importance of emphasizing the procurement of traditional “women’s crops”, such as niébé, in order to best increase women’s participation to sales. 

Blog post by Ken Davies, Global Coordinator Purchase for Progress (P4P)

After five years of piloting smallholder-friendly procurement models in 20 diverse countries, Purchase for Progress (P4P) has released a new report reviewing how market development can and cannot promote women’s empowerment based upon five years of field experience.

The results from WFP’s action research evaluation trial on “Reducing food losses in sub-Saharan Africa” clearly show the benefits for smallholders investing in post-harvest handling techniques and storage technologies. In the trial, 400 smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso and Uganda compared their traditional storage facilities with methods and equipment which have proven effective in developed countries, such as metal and plastic silos as well as different kinds of inexpensive hermetic (airtight and water-proof) storage bags. During the 90-day trial period, sampling and data collection were conducted every month.  The results show that participants in the trial retained at least 98 percent of their harvest when using the new storage equipment, regardless of the crop and duration of storage. The key to success was intensive training in proper use of the hermetic storage bags and metal and plastic silos, before using the improved technologies.

Seeing results

According to the project’s manager, Simon Costa, many farmers initially expressed scepticism about changing farming techniques which had been used for generations, and many believed that significant post-harvest losses were inevitable. However, Costa said that at the end of the trial: “It was quite emotional to see the reaction of some of the farmers when they opened their new storage units to check on their grain after a month had passed. After watching the grain in the traditional storage units deteriorate quickly, they expected the same (or worse) to be occurring inside the new units. Their disbelief quickly turned to jubilation when they discovered their harvest was in perfect condition.”

Results from the trial suggest that these improvements could potentially lead to a 64 percent gain in income for a single smallholder in Uganda. The improved storage systems also had a positive impact on women’s lives by reducing their workloads, as the storage units eliminate the time-intensive process of separating spoiled grains and re-cleaning.

Photos showing maize quality after 100 days storage using traditional storage (top) and new technology storage (bottom).

Increasing food security, improving lives

Decreasing food waste by reducing the post-harvest losses of smallholder farmers is a vital step towards meeting the world’s growing food needs, and is one of the pillars of the Zero Hunger Challenge. It also plays an important role in P4P’s objective to improve the lives of smallholder farmers, by making food more affordable and consistently available for poor households, leading to an overall increase in food security. The increased preservation of their crops also reduces the need for smallholders to purchase grains to replace the quantities lost during post-harvest storage. This in turn should increase smallholders’ disposable income, allowing them to make investments in better health, nutrition and education for themselves and their families.

Scaling up

Building on the successful results of the trial, WFP has launched a 14-month Special Operation targeting 41,000 P4P-supported farming households in Burkina Faso and Uganda. The operation aims to reduce post-harvest losses by 70% through the provision of specialized training and subsidized storage silos to protect harvested crops from pests, mould and moisture. However, without an assured market, smallholders may not have the confidence to invest their time, energy, and money in new post-harvest handling techniques and equipment. The presence of WFP as a buyer intend to give smallholders assurance that they will be able to sell their increased surplus. P4P will continue working to link smallholder farmers to quality markets beyond WFP in order to ensure sustainability.

A recently completed trial reveals how P4P-supported smallholder farmers drastically reduced their post-harvest losses, losing less than two percent of their harvest over three months of storage. WFP is now planning to scale up the successful initiative with a project that aims to reach 41,000 farming households in Burkina Faso and Uganda. By receiving specialized training and investing in subsidised storage equipment, these farmers are expected to substantially reduce their post-harvest losses and thereby also increase their surplus and sales.

Overview - P4P in Honduras

In Honduras, P4P focuses on providing a stable market to smallholder farmers. The implementation strategy focuses on investing in technology and building the technical capacity of farmers’ organizations (FOs). Infrastructure is created and rehabilitated through equipment provision and upgrading, and farmers have been linked to financial institutions to acquire credit through the use of revolving funds. Capacity development is carried out in postharvest handling and organizational strengthening. WFP offers P4P-supported farmers in Honduras an assured market by purchasing maize and beans to be distributed through the school meals programme.

Download the P4P in Honduras fact sheet to learn more.

Some 84 percent of WFP’s purchases from P4P-supported farmers in Honduras has been used for the government-funded National School Feeding Programme. This programme, which reaches 90 percent of schoolchildren in the country, not only provides smallholders with a sustainable market, but it also promotes attendance and improves nutrition among the pupils. Despite this success, further efforts are needed to more effectively link improved agricultural production to nutrition.

Overview - P4P in Kenya

In Kenya, P4P has strengthened small-scale farmers’ and traders’ capacity to engage with the agricultural market. P4P and partners assist farmers’ organizations (FOs) to increase their access to storage and facilitate their access to credit. They carry out capacity development in best agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and quality assurance. P4P has also connected FOs to rural agro-dealers to increase their access to inputs, production assistance, conditioning services, and markets. Currently, 74 FOs are registered as WFP suppliers, and P4P has supported 132 additional FOs to access other markets, such as government-run home grown school feeding. P4P has also engaged 35 small-scale traders and village level agro-dealers with the capacity to bulk grain and sell to WFP. In rural areas, the programme’s procurement strategy encourages resilience through diversification, emphasizing the commercialization of drought-resistant crops. This approach aligns with government strategies to promote high value nutritious crops grown in rural agricultural areas. P4P is currently being mainstreamed in Kenya, and emphasizes government ownership through links with home grown school feeding and nutrition.

In Kenya, over 13,000 farmers and other small-scale suppliers have been trained in topics including best agricultural practices, post-harvest handling and marketing. While significant progress has been made, some challenges remain, such as food quality and safety issues primarily caused by the prevalence of aflatoxin. This is currently being addressed in collaboration with FAO and the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa (PACA). Read the P4P in Kenya fact sheet to learn more.