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P4P Stories from the field

A closer look at the farmers whose lives are being changed by P4P.

Defining nutrition-sensitive agriculture

According to the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, nutrition-sensitive agriculture consists of interventions or programmes in the agriculture sector that address the underlying determinants of fetal and child nutrition and development—food security; adequate caregiving resources at the maternal, household and community levels; and access to health and a safe and hygienic environment—and incorporate specific nutrition goals and actions. Read more

In developing countries, 45 percent of deaths in children under the age of five are linked to undernutrition. Undernutrition affects billions of people worldwide, with irreversible consequences for mental and physical health and development, which in turn impact individuals’ ability to reach their full potential and lift themselves out of poverty.  With the majority of rural poor engaged in agriculture, farming has a recognized role to play in preventing malnutrition, as a provider of food, livelihoods and income. However, increasing farmers’ incomes and agricultural production isn’t enough – farmers and their families must have access to nutritious foods that meet their needs, as well as the knowledge to make informed choices about diverse diets and other nutrition-enhancing behaviours.

The P4P approach provides a range of opportunities to fully incorporate nutrition-sensitive efforts. Though the design of the P4P pilot did not explicitly include a nutrition component on a global level, some linkages occurred naturally in the field. These linkages have provided a learning opportunity on how future nutrition-sensitive approaches can be strengthened. Efforts have naturally developed across the value chain, from input supply, production and postharvest handling to processing, distribution and food utilization.

Seeds, storage and production skills, more nutritious crops

More nutritious staple crops have been introduced to smallholder farmers through the input supply channel, and farmers have been encouraged to increase production and consumption of crops high in nutritional value. Additionally, an emphasis on conservation agriculture in countries such as Nicaragua and Zambia aims to ensure the health of soils, which can increase the presence of nutrients in crops.

[photo|647391] In West Africa, WFP began purchasing a local variety of cowpea called niébé which is high in protein and nutrients. Niébé is traditionally grown by women farmers in small plots for household consumption. Encouraging women to increase production of niébéwhile teaching them about its health benefits can lead to its increased availability and consumption in households and communities. P4P-supported farmers have received support to produce other nutritious foods as well, including soya in Afghanistan, and groundnuts in Malawi and Zambia  or sale in local markets.

Some smallholder farmers are now growing biofortified varieties of local crops – such as maize, beans and sweet potatoes. Biofortified crops are traditionally bred to contain higher quantities of micronutrients. In Nicaragua, efforts are underway to introduce two varieties of biofortified beans produced by the Instituto Nicaraguense de Tecnología Agropecuaria (INTA; Nicaraguan Institute for Agricultural Technology). The beans, which contain 60 percent more iron and zinc than traditional varieties, will be purchased by WFP and used in school meals. P4P is also collaborating with HarvestPlus to increase the availability of biofortified crops in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. Smallholder farmers produce these crops and sell the surplus back to HarvestPlus as seed, or small quantities to WFP for food assistance – primarily school feeding and mother and child health and nutrition initiatives.

 An emphasis on crop quality and safety has raised awareness about the dangers of consuming unsafe food and improved the quality of smallholders’ produce, including that which is retained for household consumption. There has been a particular focus on reducing aflatoxin, a chemical compound unsafe for human consumption, which is also thought to contribute to stunting in children.

Linking farmers with millers and processors

[photo|647393]In many countries, P4P-supported smallholder farmers have been linked to millers and other processors who buy their surplus crops for the production of fortified foods such as flour blend and high energy biscuits. In Guatemala, a project under the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement is linking smallholder farmers to agro-industry companies that supply processed nutrient-rich food to WFP for distribution to at-risk populations. A similar project is carried out in Afghanistan, where P4P provides support along the entire value chain – from farmers to local millers and processors. Locally-produced wheat and soya are used in the production of fortified flour, high-energy biscuits and lipid-based nutritional supplements. Smallholder farmers have also been linked to private sector millers and processors in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda.

Distributing locally-sourced foods through school meals

[photo|647390]By linking local agricultural production to school meals, Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) capitalizes on the traditional benefits of School Feeding programmes and multiplies advantages for rural communities. HGSF contributes to the diversity and freshness of the food basket served in schools, which can improve students’ nutritional intake. Micronutrient powders can also be added to the school meals to combat micronutrient deficiencies as needed. Strengthening the nutritional value of school meals is one of the ways in which nutrition-sensitive agriculture can play a critical role in contributing to larger social protection initiatives.

In Honduras, school meals help improve schoolchildren’s food security and nutritional intake by providing them with diversified menus containing a variety of micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) based on local habits. School meals in Honduras now incorporate locally-produced vegetables, fruits, eggs and dairy products, most of which are produced by smallholder farmers, as well as fortified maize flour produced on the national level. A similar project is carried out in Malawi, under PAA Africa.

Nutrition education and awareness-raising

Nutrition-sensitive interventions can be used as a platform for delivering nutrition education and increasing the reach of nutrition communication efforts. For example, in Afghanistan, an advocacy campaign is being carried out with the Government’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to increase demand for fortified foods produced locally from smallholders’ produce.

[photo|647395]School meals also present the opportunity to teach schoolchildren about the importance of good nutrition, lessons which they can bring back to their families and household. An emphasis on nutritious fresh foods can promote diet diversification at home, a lesson which many schools, such as the Hanja Chafa Primary School in Ethiopia, reinforce through nutrition education. Similarly, when Vitamin A Maize was being introduced to school meals in Zambia, cooking demonstrations were held in schools and communities to illustrate its benefits and relative similarity to that of the traditional white maize – despite its different colour. After these demonstrations, the schools requested biofortified seeds for planting in their school gardens.

Because women farmers are often responsible for childcare and food preparation, P4P’s gender component has proven particularly effective for delivering nutrition education. For example, under the SUN movement in Guatemala, food insecure people, especially women, are assisted to create home gardens and carry out soil conservation activities. Mother-to-mother support groups discuss feeding and care practices, equipping mothers with the tools to provide their children with adequate nutrition. Similarly, in Mali sessions were held detailing the benefits of eating niébé at home.

Addressing risks and overcoming challenges

Agricultural development can play an important role in improving nutrition. However, at the most basic level, nutrition-sensitive interventions should be carefully designed to ensure a “do no harm” approach. For example, empowering women farmers to engage more fully in agricultural activities could mean less time for childcare and food preparation. In addition, increased emphasis on staple crop production could alter land use away from more nutrient-rich foods. Recognizing these potential risks, WFP will continue ensuring that nutrition is taken into account in its pro-smallholder market development efforts. Continued efforts will be made to provide nutrition education. Plus, solutions to ensure that women’s participation in agriculture does not negatively impact household nutrition will continue to be emphasized. WFP will continue supporting women to access the technology and skills to reduce the demands of their labour and help them better balance their time between responsibilities.

Moving forward, increased efforts to explicitly incorporate nutrition objectives and to track nutrition-sensitive outcomes are needed in WFP’s pro-smallholder programming. As P4P is mainstreamed into WFP’s regular work, there is an increased opportunity to build more conscious links with nutrition into its design. Using the nutrition value chain, potential entry points for adding or strengthening nutritional value to P4P activities can be systematically identified, and recommendations made accordingly. Moving forward, WFP will continue to develop guidance for best incorporating nutrition-sensitive efforts into its portfolio of work.

Read more about P4P and nutrition:

Efforts to enhance smallholder farmers’ involvement in agricultural markets under the World Food Programme (WFP) Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme have led to a variety of nutrition-sensitive activities. In many rural communities where P4P and partners work, these context- and country-specific efforts have begun to increase farming families’ access to nutritious food and their knowledge of good nutrition practices.

Innovative Aggregation Methods 

[photo|647097]In late 2014, Malawi hosted a delegation from Burkina Faso, including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers’ organizations and WFP staff. The delegation was particularly interested in the commodity exchange (CEX) and Warehouse Receipts System (WRS), mechanisms that enable smallholder farmers in Malawi to access storage facilities, credit and markets.

The Malawi experience is particularly relevant to Burkina Faso, where there are similar agricultural and economic conditions for smallholder farmers. Exchange visit participants visited stakeholders and structures critical in implementing the CEX and WRS – including government officials, farmers’ organizations, and private companies – to see how WRS and other tools can be adopted in Burkina Faso. Marie Thérèse Toé, who represented one of the farmers’ organisations from Burkina Faso, said she learned a great deal from the rigorous post-harvest handling and storage procedures Malawian farmers’ organisations use to manage their stocks to reduce losses and improve quality.

Strong Commitment to Smallholder Farmers

While acknowledging the differences between the two countries – the Malawian market is more liberalized – participants noted a variety of lessons which can be applied in the context of Burkina Faso. After observing Malawi’s effective warehouse receipts system, government officials and WFP staff emphasized the importance of strengthening public-private partnership and encouraging private sector investment in order to best support smallholder farmers.

The Government of Burkina Faso is developing a national strategy to create a warehouse receipts system. Under this strategy, part of the national budget has been allocated to fund the construction of storage infrastructure, with logistical support from WFP. A committee led by the Ministry of Agriculture is monitoring the implementation of specific recommendations from the visit.

“It has been a fruitful trip that allowed us to learn directly from farmers and the institutions they work with. We will use this knowledge to develop a strategy for implementing a warehouse receipts system,” says Denis Ouédraogo, Director of Rural Economy in Burkina Faso’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Government Ownership Lends a Strong Example

The Government of Rwanda was the first government to take full ownership of P4P, scaling up the approach across the country in an initiative called “Common P4P” (CP4P). Delegations from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Kenya have all visited Rwanda to learn first-hand from the government’s coordination of pro-smallholder procurement and how national governments can use P4P as a tool for agricultural development.

In Burkina Faso, lessons learned during the exchange visit provided the basis for a new agricultural inputs distribution system and encouraged SONAGESS, the national food reserve agency, to dedicate 30 percent of purchases to smallholder farmers. The inputs distribution system and institutional purchases under SONAGESS are important components of the Government’s efforts to use the P4P approach to support smallholder farmers.

Similar exchange visits and workshops have been carried out under PAA Africa, a joint project of WFP, FAO, local governments and the governments of Brazil and the United Kingdom. PAA Africa is piloted in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Senegal. The project seeks to strengthen South-South Cooperation by engaging host governments to build off from the learnings from Brazil’s widely acclaimed local procurement programme and from similar initiatives from other African countries.

In May 2015, a workshop held in Malawi included Mozambican government officials and civil society representatives, who visited several schools, learning about budget allocation to local governments, involvement of communities and civil society and local-level diet diversification programmes. Mozambique is building from these lessons by testing decentralized procurement in its school feeding programme. Through the WFP Centre of Excellence, a number of African governments, including Tanzania, have visited Brazil to learn more from the PAA approach.

Farmers Learning from Farmers

[photo|647098] Exchange visits have also been organized between farmers and their organizations through P4P. In Malawi, P4P-supported farmers visited the Mwandama Farmers’ Organization in November 2013. Farmers discussed business strategy, learning about how Mwandama grew into a self-sufficient business by asking detailed questions about legal resources, business strategy, member expectations and leadership skills.

One of the participants in the study tour was Clement Mpoto, from the Kaso farmer’s organization in the Dowa district. Through his participation, Clement saw the concrete benefits of investing in collaboration with his farmers’ organization. "After seeing the Mwandama model, I think it would be good to designate a certain amount of production that a member has to contribute to the cooperative’s stock in exchange for loans or inputs. This would make sure that the business moves forward as we could produce and sell more," he said.

Exchange visits have also been held in countries such as Kenya, Mali and Rwanda. In Kenya more than 30 farmers’ organizations participated in exchange visits from 2009-2013, sharing ideas and visiting aggregation sites.

Through exchange visits between or within countries, participants are exposed to new ideas and have the opportunity to see concrete solutions to challenges they face. Countries such as Rwanda and Malawi have become prototypes for others, demonstrating effective government ownership and innovative aggregation systems, respectively. High capacity farmers’ organisations have also hosted visits, giving smallholder farmers the opportunity to learn directly from their peers.

Scaling Up P4P

As P4P is incorporated into WFP’s regular work, other countries beyond the original 20 P4P pilot countries will benefit from the P4P experience. Exchange visits will have a major role to play in this process.

Read more:

In many countries where Purchase for Progress (P4P) is implemented, exchange visits are held to promote first-hand learning about effective approaches for supporting smallholder farmers. The exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between government officials, farmers and WFP staff develops crucial capacity and relationships between actors, fostering South-South Cooperation.

1. UN Agencies, NGOs and private sector work together to support smallholders

[photo|646941]In Zambia, P4P brings together numerous partners to help farmers access a broad range of services, such as training, equipment and inputs. Partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are particularly important, with FAO providing support to scale up conservation agriculture, and an agreement with IFAD for road rehabilitation. A local company called NWK services manages a revolving fund enabling farmers to access tractors on loan.

Gender sensitization efforts are carried out through the Kawambwa District Farmers’ Organizations and the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA).  Partnership with the Adventist Development and Relieve Agency (ADRA) strengthens linkages between smallholder farmers and the private sector, as well as the provision of warehouses and training in post-harvest handling and soya production.
 

[photo|646940]

2. Heifer International helps women farmers access draft power

In Zambia, P4P partners with Heifer International to provide women farmers with cattle for draft power. Access to animal traction, coupled with the opportunity to market their crops to WFP, can reduce women’s heavy workload, and increase their production and sales of quality crops. Cattle also provide a sustainable source of organic fertilizer and can improve household nutrition through the consumption of milk. Under Heifer’s “pass on the gift” principle, participants give their cattle’s first female offspring to another family in their community, fostering ownership and ensuring the project’s sustainability.

3. Smallholders are producing micronutrient-rich crops

P4P partner HarvestPlus works to reduce micronutrient deficiencies worldwide by developing and disseminating high yielding staple crops bred conventionally to be rich in vitamins and minerals. Smallholder farmers’ organizations in Zambia are growing Vitamin A Maize both for household consumption and sale. HarvestPlus redistributes a part of these crops as seed. A government-led awareness-raising campaign has been fundamental to introducing the orange maize – which has a different physical appearance than the white maize traditionally produced and eaten in Zambia – into the diets of households and school meals.

[photo|646939]

4. Equipment and infrastructure are making farming more lucrative

Two agribusiness centres have been built in Kasamanda and Kawambwa. The centres are hubs for communities to access agricultural information, storage space, processing equipment and agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. Though progress has been made, many smallholders still lack access to adequate storage facilities, and poor road quality makes it difficult for the private sector to access rural areas where smallholder farmers are located.

5. Nutritious foods are bought from local farmers for school meals

By linking local agricultural production to school meals, Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) programmes can multiply benefits for rural communities, increasing attendance, improving nutrition and providing smallholders with markets. In Zambia, biofortified maize, protein-rich pulses and dairy products purchased from P4P-supported smallholder farmers are used for nutritious school meals. The market for pulses has been particularly beneficial for women farmers, with 30–50 percent of pulses required for HGSF in Zambia being procured from P4P-supported women farmers’ organizations.

Ireen Musonda, Secretary, Chimbii Farmers' Cooperative, Zambia tells about her experience as a farmer working with P4P:

Read more:

Smallholder farmers account for 90 percent of national maize production in Zambia. However, small-scale farmers face a great deal of challenges accessing formal markets. Most are located in remote rural areas with poor infrastructure – especially roads – and little access to important price information. The World Food Programme (WFP) Purchase for Progress (P4P) project supports farmers to overcome these challenges by providing them with access to crucial resources and encouraging them to work together in farmers’ organizations.

Increasing farmers’ access to simple technologies for storage, treatment and processing can substantially improve grain quality and contribute to reducing post-harvest losses. In Burkina Faso, P4P-supported farmers’ organizations participated in a WFP action research trial, providing specialized training and access to storage equipment.

Today, P4P is building on the success of the trial in collaboration with a variety of partners, including local entrepreneurs, to provide smallholders with equipment for the post-harvest treatment of crops. Tools such as threshers and blowers can decrease the time and effort farmers spend treating their harvests, as well as improving crop quality and reducing post-harvest losses.

Promoting local innovation

Abdou Sanou is a farmer and an entrepreneur. Working from Bobo-Dioulasso, a hub for agricultural production in Burkina Faso, he has developed a number of agricultural tools which are now benefitting P4P-supported farmers’ organizations. “I’m interested in finding solutions to things that make small farmers suffer,” he says.

In 2012, Abdou was approached by Fédération des Professionnels Agricoles du Burkina (Federation of Agricultural Professionals of Burkina Faso, FEPAB), a national umbrella farmers’ organization that participated in the P4P pilot. FEPAB asked Abdou to design a new type of thresher for the diverse crops grown by smallholders in Burkina Faso—notably maize, sorghum, millet and cowpeas.  Most farmers grow at least two of these crops to feed their families and sell to local markets. Because other threshers work only with one crop – due to differences in grain or seed size and plant type – these farmers would need multiple machines.

Abdou immediately accepted the challenge. “I couldn’t sleep for days,” he recalls. “I kept a notebook next to my bed to sketch ideas as they came to me.” His dedication, and lack of sleep, paid off. The tool he developed has several easily-exchangeable sorters for use with differently sized grain, and a textured cover that can release even small grains of millet from their shells. This allows farmers to efficiently thresh maize, sorghum, millet and cowpeas without damaging the grain. This also simplifies the time-consuming and labour-intensive task of removing grains from shells or husks.

The thresher under construction in Abdou's workshop. Copyright: WFP/Ismael Nignan

Access to quality markets

Local manufacturers have the ability to create equipment which responds directly to farmers’ needs and make adjustments as necessary. Abdou was able to constantly improve his creation by communicating with farmers, particularly through consultation with the national P4P Stakeholder Consultation Group co-led by the Government and WFP. His latest model has wheels in response to farmers’ comments that the equipment was difficult to transport from one site to another.

With the farmers’ stamp of approval, P4P and partners have begun purchasing equipment from Abdou and other artisans. In early 2015, P4P provided post-harvest handling equipment to six farmers’ organizations, including four locally-manufactured blowers and mechanized threshers. The farmers’ organizations are responsible for the maintenance of the equipment, with individual farmers paying a small fee for its use. Each organization participated in training on the equipment’s use and upkeep organized by a team of local manufacturers and P4P staff. The engagement of artisans in these trainings allowed farmers to voice concerns with the tools and fix minor problems right away.

Farmers have quickly put the equipment to use, benefiting from the reduced time required to treat the grain. Union des Groupements de Producteurs des Céréales à Nyala (Union of Cereal Producing Groups from Nyala, UGPCER), has already processed 600 bags – 60 metric tons (mt) – of grain with Abdou’s universal thresher. When a replacement part was needed, farmers knew who to call—and Abdou had them up and running in no time. This resolved difficulties which can arise with imported equipment, for which it can be difficult to find replacement parts locally.

Looking forward

P4P also provided farmers’ organizations with management tools to record the amount of grain processed. This allows them to demonstrate the financial benefits of using the equipment as opposed to traditional techniques and encourages organizations to consider purchasing similar equipment on their own. Abdou is currently working to obtain a patent for his universal thresher, a tool unlike any other on the market. He also hopes to open a training center for youth.

P4P in Burkina Faso will continue to support innovation to reduce post-harvest losses. A joint effort to reduce post-harvest losses was recently launched by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and WFP to scale up best practices for reducing food losses.

Story by Eliza Warren-Shriner

Improved post-harvest handling techniques and technologies are key to increasing the quantity and quality of crops farmers and their families can sell and eat. In Burkina Faso, P4P and partners, including local entrepreneurs, are working together to support the development, manufacture and sale of equipment that can reduce post-harvest losses. These efforts are improving the tools available to smallholder farmers and supporting the growth of local businesses.

The Government is expanding pro-smallholder support under “Common P4P”

[photo|646431]The Government of Rwanda is taking ownership of and scaling up P4P under a state-run initiative called “Common P4P” (CP4P), which increases the reach of effort to support smallholder farmers.

Government efforts have been key in improving quality control, supporting farmers with inputs and training, and providing farmers with a market under the National Strategic Grain Reserve. Between 2011 and 2014, the Government of Rwanda purchased more than 10,000 metric tons (worth an estimated US$4.5 million) of commodities from cooperatives under CP4P for the National Strategic Grain Reserve.

Other buyers are making more purchases from smallholder farmers

Under P4P, milling companies such as SOSOMA and MINIMEX are linked to P4P-supported cooperatives to demonstrate the feasibility of buying from smallholder farmers’ cooperatives. Many other buyers have also learned from the P4P approach to pro-smallholder procurement, and are now making purchases from smallholder farmers in the country.

Major buyers include the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Rwanda Cereal and Grain Corporation (RGCC) and SARURA Commodities Ltd. These buyers learned from the P4P experience, particularly on good practices for contracting with farmers and ensuring quality standards. 

Land fragmentation limits production

As a small country with a large and growing population, land fragmentation poses a major challenge to agriculture in Rwanda. Much of the country’s land is broken into small fragmented parcels. This means that one family may have small plots of land in many different locations, reducing the efficiency of their agricultural labour and restricting the use of mechanization.

Since 2007, the government has implemented a Crop Intensification Programme to mitigate this challenge, increasing productivity through land use consolidation and increased use of agricultural inputs. P4P and CP4P both responded to and stimulated the production surplus created by these efforts.  

Smallholder farmers are accessing loans

[photo|646433]P4P and partners work with the Rabobank Foundation to help smallholder farmers’ cooperatives access credit. Cooperatives have undergone training in financial literacy, improving their ability to manage finances and increasing their access to loans. Access to credit is vital for farmers to invest in increasing productivity and aggregating crops for sale, enabling the timely purchase of farming inputs – such as seeds and fertilizers – and allowing farmers’ organizations to pay smallholders with cash as soon as they have delivered their crops.

Officials from other governments are learning from Rwanda

P4P has facilitated exchange visits to Rwanda by government officials from countries including Burkina Faso, Ghana and Kenya. These visits have provided insight as to how government ownership and pro-smallholder market development policies can generate meaningful and lasting change.

Agriculture is Rwanda’s main economic sector, employing around 80 percent of the population. Though there is great potential for growth, farmers are limited by small farm sizes, declining soil fertility and limited access to value addition services. In collaboration with the national government, the World Food Programme's (WFP) Purchase for Progress (P4P) project is working to help smallholder farmers meet their potential to improve livelihoods and strengthen the national economy.

Purchase for Progress (P4P) supports smallholder farmers to supply food for school meals through home grown school feeding (HGSF) projects. HGSF projects are implemented by governments with the support of partners, including WFP. By linking local agricultural production with school meals, HGSF can increase enrolment and attendance, improve food security of school children, provide farmers with an assured market for their crops and boost local economies. Though this model is ideal, the reality of linking smallholder farmers and school feeding programmes can be challenging.

Cash Flow Constraints

The Ghana School Feeding Programme uses a decentralized model in which local governments appoint school caterers to purchase food and prepare meals. The caterers must purchase the food with their own funds, receiving reimbursement from the government only after the meals have been provided. The reimbursement process can take between six and nine months. This means that most caterers are unable to pay cash on delivery of crops, but purchase food on credit from traders who can afford to wait for repayment.

Nafisa Iddirisu is a member of the Bobgu Nye Yaa farmers’ group. She earned 1,260 Ghanaian Cedi (approximately US$327) for her sales of processed rice.

“By accessing good markets, I am able to get money to take very good care of myself and kids. I am also in the position to further cater for my children’s school needs, improve upon their health status, I can and will buy them good shoes and clothes. And then, even me, I can get money so I can get fertilizer for the farm during the next farming season.”

Copyright: WFP/Shehu Abdul-Karim

In general, this procedure makes it difficult for smallholder farmers to sell to school caterers, because they need cash to meet their expenses after harvest. After exhausting much of their resources during the lean season, farming families need to pay for food, school fees and medical services. Many must also repay debts acquired during the harvest period for agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and tractor hire. 

Financial Institution Bridges Gap

In March 2014, the Bonzali Rural Bank signed an agreement with P4P partner Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), in collaboration with P4P and local government. This agreement provided school feeding caterers with loans, enabling them to pay farmers with cash on delivery. Under this agreement, SNV provided a fund as a guarantee against defaults and the Tamale government agreed to transfer caterers’ reimbursement directly to their accounts so the bank can deduct repayments automatically when due. This agreement allowed Bonzali Rural Bank to provide the loans with favourable interest rates and no penalty for late repayment due to delayed reimbursement by the government.

This partnership was the final step in a long series of efforts to link the Bobgu Nye Yaa Farmer’s Group to the school meals market. After the success of this a first round in May 2014, a second was extended to another 10 caterers in January 2015. Bobgu Nye Yaa, which receives support to improve production and marketing under P4P, has now supplied around US$6,230 worth (13 metric tons) of rice, beans and maize for meals in 15 schools.

“The proceeds of these sales have improved my business as well as the lives of my children. I also contributed some money to improving my wife’s business. I am also able to improve the dietary needs of my family. I also renovated my house and was even able to invest in my business by procuring more inputs and by investing in new crops like cowpea and rice,” said Alhassan Iddi, secretary of the Bobgu Nye Yaa farmers’ organization.

Challenges for Scale-Up

While sales made by smallholders to the Ghana HGSF programme are still small in scale, this agreement, carried out in close collaboration with partners, provides a potential good practice for future efforts. Though a great deal of progress has been made, challenges remain to apply this practice on a broader scale. Smallholder farmers require additional assistance to increase their productivity, storage capacity and access to credit to ensure they can consistently supply larger quantities of high quality crops throughout the year.

In Ghana, multiple challenges have been overcome to help a smallholder farmers’ organization market crops to the national school feeding programme. Small-scale farming families without household savings generally need immediate cash payments upon delivery of their crops, which most caterers supplying school meals in Ghana are unable to provide. Under Purchase for Progress (P4P), an agreement with a rural bank has helped bridge this gap, providing the Bobgu Nye Yaa farmers’ organization in the Tamale Metropolis with a new market.

Sierra Leone produced large quantities of rice before a protracted civil war. The conflict led to the prolonged displacement of people – most of whom were farmers – leaving many rice paddies overgrown and unusable. This made it difficult for farmers to rebuild their livelihoods once the conflict ended.

Today, smallholder farmers are some of the poorest and most food insecure communities in the country. To assist them to re-build their livelihoods, a Japanese bilateral project (JBP) is linking P4P with Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) to provide integrated support along the rice value chain. Under the FFA component, participants receive food assistance in exchange for work to improve infrastructure for rice production. Links with P4P provides other, higher capacity smallholder farmers with an assured market for their crops.

Support to vulnerable farming communities

Participants in the Japanese Bilateral Project harvest rice. Copyright: WFP/JBP

The WFP bilateral project – known as Projet Bas Fonds or in longhand “Community based sustainable food security of smallholder rice producer farmers in target countries of West Africa in recovery and development phase” – is being implemented in both Sierra Leone and Liberia. In Sierra Leone, the project works with 450 farming households, or 2,250 beneficiaries in Port Loko district.

Villagers receive technical support to rehabilitate 100 hectares of inland valley swamp with good water management infrastructure. Food assistance incentivizes and enables participants to undertake the physically demanding work to develop irrigation and drainage structures. It also ensures that participants have a secure food source until they begin profiting from their efforts after the first production season.

Mainstreaming P4P with FFA

Building upon the P4P experience, the programme requires that commodities used for food assistance be purchased locally using smallholder-friendly modalities. Wherever possible, commodities are gradually and progressively procured from P4P-supported farmers as their production increases. This promotes sustainability, boosting local economies. In 2014, despite challenges posed by the outbreak of the Ebola virus, WFP purchased more than 68 metric tons (mt) of rice locally for distribution to FFA beneficiaries in the Port Loko district of Sierra Leone. Farmers’ organizations and Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) based in parts of the north, south and east of the country contributed to bulk sales of rice, with some US$50,000 put more directly in the pockets of smallholder farmers despite the Ebola outbreak.

Woman farmer poses with fertilizer bags
"Last year was the first time we sold as a group to formal market. We were happy because we received the money in bulk. Thanks to the sale to WFP, we were able to pay our members, increase the area of cultivation this year and buy 50 bags of fertilizer," says Rugiatu Kamara, chairlady of Talanesu farmers’ organization. Rugiatu is pictured with some of the bags of fertilizer purchased. Copyright: WFP

 “We are happy to contribute to the efforts that other farmers are doing in Port Loko through FFA activities. We as an ABC now have the capacity to produce surpluses and thanks to the sales to WFP, the rice that we produce can have a positive impact in other districts in Sierra Leone,” says Lansana Kgue, member of Kona Pindibu ABC, which contributed 15 mt of rice to these sales.

Sustaining and strengthening productivity

Synergies will continue to be strengthened through the continued emphasis on local purchases under the 2015 JBP Procurement Plan. Additionally, groups which have taken part in the rehabilitation project will be included in P4P training activities during the coming season. Topics include post-harvest handling, quality control and how to do business with WFP, providing farmers with the skills needed to graduate from FFA. This year, Food Assistance for Assets participants will be assessed for inclusion in WFP’s supplier list as potential vendors. P4P will continue to facilitate links between local rice suppliers, processors, private sector buyers and the farmers’ organizations participating in FFA.

A great deal of challenges remain to move toward long-term recovery following the Ebola outbreak. In the past year, restrictions on travel and gatherings meant that the expected level of support for infrastructure rehabilitation and agricultural practices could not be provided. Great strides have been made, including the start of local procurement in Sierra Leone under P4P. However, further efforts are required to increase smallholder farmers’ productivity. Integrated livelihood projects are crucial for the country’s long-term recovery to boost local economies and improve the food security of targeted groups.

Story by:

Diaby Bakalilou, Project Technical Adviser, Japanese Bilateral Project

Marta Ortiz, Sierra Leone Country Coordinator, (P4P)

In Sierra Leone, WFP is supporting smallholder farmers, paving the way for recovery after more than a decade of conflict. To boost local economies and improve food security, vulnerable farming families undertake swampland reclamation to build community agricultural assets. Smallholders with a higher capacity are supported by P4P to supply food for the programme.

"Busha budete.” These two words keep recurring as Yonal Lamiso speaks during a community conversation in Anja Chefa, a village near Hawassa in southern Ethiopia. The phrase means “bad culture,” and it refers to what women are not allowed to do in the community under customary law. 

His wife, Nigist Melese, elaborates: “In our culture women are not allowed to learn, wives are prepared to get married,” she says, before describing how things are beginning to change, at least in their family.

Now, she says, she and her husband have discussions and mutual agreement about the products of their farm, what type of business to set up, and how to use the household money. 

Nigist says the changes are among the benefits of P4P-sponsored community conversations focused on addressing cultural and traditional behaviors that limit participation of women in agricultural farming practices.

These community conversations started two years ago involving more than 1,000 men and women in 16 groups in the Amhara, Oromiya and SNNPR regions. Read more…

The P4P approach aims to promote gender equity and the economic empowerment of women. However, in Ethiopia, engaging women farmers in P4P proved particularly challenging due to cultural and traditional practices which limit their participation in agriculture. In response, a country-specific gender initiative was launched. Here is a story from Anja Chefa about some of the promising results:

Many smallholder farmers, especially women, struggle to access productive resources and profit from their agricultural labour. P4P’s gender strategy suggested the provision of time- and labour-saving technologies as a vital step towards improving women farmers’ agricultural productivity and access to formal markets. Emerging lessons learned confirm the benefits these technologies can have for women farmers, who generally profit little from their long hours of manual labour. To address these challenges in Zambia, WFP has partnered with Heifer International to provide women with draft power through a project called Women’s Empowerment through Animal Traction (WEAT).

Women’s Empowerment through Animal Traction

WEAT is implemented in the Mazabuka and Kawambwa districts. Women farmers who faced particular challenges were selected to receive two heifers each, as well as a ripper or plough, bean seeds and an animal health drug kit. Participants also benefit from training on animal draft power, cattle management, record keeping and conservation farming. Using the heifers, these farmers are now able to plough more land and plant crops in a timely fashion. WFP provides an assured market for participants’ surplus, enabling them to earn an increased income.

So far, cattle have been distributed to 30 women using Heifer’s “pass on the gift” principle. This means that participants pass on their cattle’s first female offspring, as well as their training, to other families in their community. This fosters ownership and ensures the sustainability of the project.  In August 2014, eight of 20 heifers in the Mazabuka district had given birth, and the rest were reported to be in calf. The calves will be distributed to other families in early 2015.

Increasing production and increasing incomes

[photo|644443] WEAT participant Esther Lumamba, and her husband Severino, are now producing cowpeas for sale to WFP. Previously, due to poor health, Esther faced difficulties engaging in manual labour such as ploughing her field.

“We used to hire our friends’ cattle to plough our fields, and it delayed the planting time as they only released their cattle when their own fields were done. This used to cost us heavily as we would have poor yields because the maturity period in which moisture is most critical would have passed. This year, the story changed, as we were able to cultivate our field in good time just at the onset of the rainy season using our own cattle,’” says Esther.

Under WEAT, emphasis has been placed on increasing the production of pulses, because they are traditionally considered “women’s crops”. This enables women to take part in sales to WFP without competing with the men in their households. In Zambia, WFP has procured nearly 3,000 mt of beans and cowpeas from these and other P4P-supported farmers for the home grown school feeding programme. With their increased incomes, women are now better able to invest in their homes, bicycles and pay their children’s school fees. Participants have also marketed maize and cassava to the National Food Reserve and private sector buyers.

Additional benefits and sustainable solutions

[photo|644442] Heifers provide a variety of other benefits to the participating farmers and their communities. The animals’ manure is now being used as an organic fertilizer, leading to improved productivity and reduced costs for inputs. The milk produced by the cattle is also improving household nutrition, and the surplus is sold for extra income. For example, Martha Miyoba milks around 5 litres of milk a day, and sells half. She says this extra income has allowed her to better care for her family’s needs by purchasing soap, vegetable seeds and medicine.

Participants undergo training on how to care for and feed their heifers to ensure they can provide for the animals' health. Plus, community members are trained and certified as para-vets through the Zambia Institute for Animal Health. This provides these community health workers with an income generating activity and ensures the recipients will have access to the appropriate vaccinations and medicine to keep their cattle healthy. Despite these efforts, some technical challenges were encountered. In some cases, a shortage of proper spraying facilities for the prevention and control of pests proved challenging. To remedy this, knapsack sprayers were provided. When these proved not to be powerful enough, they were replaced with larger and more powerful boom sprayers.

In Zambia, P4P partners with Heifer International to provide women farmers with cattle for draft power. Access to animal traction, coupled with the opportunity to market their crops to WFP, can reduce women’s heavy workload while increasing their production and sales of quality crops. The cattle have the added benefit of improving household nutrition through the consumption of milk and providing a sustainable source of organic fertilizer.

While women in Burkina Faso are active in the agricultural sector, few own land, instead working on family farms owned and managed by their husbands or male relatives. Because of this, women reap few of the financial benefits of their labour. Further, the additional burden of household chores—placed solely on women in most homes—limits the time they can work on whatever small amounts of land they may control. The buy-in of community leaders and involving men is vital to remedying these issues and supporting the increased economic gains of women farmers.

Farmers’ organizations leading change

P4P and partners carried out a campaign to empower rural women in the North and Boucle du Mouhoun regions, reaching some 37,500 smallholder farmers and their communities. Training activities promoted women’s access to productive resources and their equal participation in decision-making at household, farmers’ organization and community levels. As respected and credible actors in their communities, P4P-supported farmers’ organizations provided an important point of entry.

Leaders of these organizations took ownership of the gender campaign, working alongside trainers from local NGOs to conduct public meetings and organize theatre presentations on gender issues. Farmers’ organization leaders also met with cultural and religious leaders in their communities to mobilize their support for the project, and created action plans to promote gender equity.  Men and women members were identified to become community focal points and role models. These individuals are responsible for ensuring the ongoing discussion of gender issues and responding to questions within organizations and the community at large. The gender campaign was carried out in collaboration with the government’s Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Gender and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Men’s participation shifting cultural norms

[photo|643654] Ali Ouattara, head of agricultural programmes at the Association Formation Développement Ruralité (AFDR), a P4P-supported farmers’ organization comprised of village-level farmers’ groups, notes that both behaviors and mentalities have changed since the gender campaign began. He observes that increased dialogue and autonomy have allowed women members of AFDR to triple their cowpea production during the 2013 agricultural season. Acquiring the support of men such as Ali has been vital in achieving the gains made by women farmers. Today, many husbands and male family members are sharing farming inputs with women and providing them with more land to farm. According to data gathered by P4P, 70 to 80 percent of women in participating communities have expanded the size of their plots. This is in part thanks to training which has given women the confidence to ask for more land, as well as men’s understanding of the benefits of doing so.

In Burkina Faso, P4P’s ambitious goal of reaching 50 percent female participants in farmers’ organizations has been reached. In the CAP-Yako farmers’ organization, female membership rose from 33 to 55 percent after the initiative began. Male and female members of farmers’ organizations note the difference made by increased gender awareness, with women speaking more in meetings and their suggestions being taken into consideration more often than before.

These efforts have also had an impact at the household level. Both men and women report better communication, empowering women to take part in decision-making where their voice was often unheard previously. For example, decisions on when and where to send children to school—not to mention how to pay for schooling—are more frequently being made together. At the community level, traditional practices have been nuanced towards ensuring the well-being of women and their families.

Men in the North region worked with religious authorities to ban a practice called mondodin, in which men close grain reserves to avoid depleting the family’s reserves during the lean season, leaving their wives to feed themselves and their children. This practice has many negative impacts on families, frequently leaving women unable to adequately provide for their children’s nutrition. After raising awareness about the harmful effects of this practice, women confirm they now have access to granaries and family stocks all year. Elsewhere, women have been put in charge of community grain reserves. This has reduced waste, as women are often best placed to assess household needs since they are in charge of preparing meals for their families.

Moving forward

Despite these gains, many women require additional support to increase their productivity, and are still limited by a lack of equipment. Martine Sawadogo, a member of AFDR and president of the Nabonswindé women’s group, has tripled her acreage and nearly quadrupled her production over the past three years of association with P4P. However, without access to animal traction or money to pay for labor, she is unable to continue increasing her production and sales.

In 2014 and beyond, WFP will continue supporting the Government of Burkina Faso to build on progress made. A continued focus will be placed on increasing the participation of women in the agricultural sector, both as producers and as leaders in their farmers’ organizations and communities.

Article by Eliza Warren-Shriner, P4P, Burkina Faso

Women farmers in Burkina Faso face a number of barriers to increasing their agricultural productivity and income. Many are the product of cultural norms that limit women’s access to productive resources including land and agricultural inputs. Utilizing the leadership potential of farmers’ organizations and acquiring men’s support have proven to be effective in addressing these norms and empowering rural women.