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P4P Stories from the field

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

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.
 

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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.

By seizing the opportunities presented to them through P4P, these five women farmers have made great strides, leading to improvements in their own lives and those of their families. Read on to learn more about their successes, as well as the challenges which they still have to face.

[photo|643538] Chaltu Bultom Ede, Bechbech Kebele, Ethiopia

As a widow, Chaltu is the head of her household, and must provide for the survival of her family by farming her small plot of land. Like most of the other women in her community, Chaltu wasn’t able to afford oxen with which to plough her field for much of her life. This meant that of the small amount of grain she grew, a large portion went as payment to the men she hired to plough her field. In order to earn extra income, she worked as a day labourer for other farmers, earning only 10 birr (US$ .50) a day.

Since becoming part of a P4P-supported cooperative, however, Chaltu has learned basic business skills, and acquired a loan from her cooperative, which she used to buy oxen and agricultural inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer. She is now able to support her two children independently thanks to her increased productivity and income earned from sales to WFP. With this money, she was also able to rent another hectare of land. She is now planning on sending her children to university. Chaltu says that she has seen great changes in her community, thanks to a conversation session that brings together community, religious and judicial leaders with cooperative members’ wives and husbands. Together, the community decided to better balance the work loads of husbands and wives in the household and on the farm. “I am glad to see my neighbour caring for his children when his wife is cooking,” she says.

[photo|643539] Generoza Mukamazimpaka, Bibare, Rwanda

Generoza works hard to care for her family and make a living on her family farm, waking up early and resting very little. At harvest time, her husband, like many other men in her community, used to sell most of the crops, leaving her without income. Generoza says that in general, women are afraid to try and change this situation for fear that their husbands will beat them. Although there are laws which protect them, she says, most women are unable to learn about their rights because they cannot read.

After joining the Amizero farmers’ organization in 2010, Generoza’s life began to change. She is now able to produce higher quality crops and market them to WFP through her cooperative. “I’m so happy because now I have money to solve my own problems,” she says. Now, Generoza is able to provide for her children’s education and pay for medical care for her family. She has also purchased a cow, and uses its waste to generate biogas for cooking to reduce the time she must spend preparing food.

[photo|643540] Carmelina Oloroso, El Rodea, Guatemala

Since she began participating in P4P, Carmelina has learned how to use new and more effective agricultural techniques, allowing her to nearly triple her yields of maize and beans. Thanks to her increased income, she has opened a savings account for the first time, and has purchased additional land. She has also been able to improve her house and better care for her six children’s needs. Though she has benefitted greatly, Carmelina still sees challenges ahead. While her cooperative has been able to access credit, the interest rates are very high, and the group still lacks an assured formal market beyond WFP.

Carmelina says that she has benefited greatly from exchange visits with other farmers, and hopes that she will get the opportunity to meet women farmers benefiting from P4P from all around the world. “The trainings specifically aimed at women have been motivating me, because they value us, give us the opportunity to express ourselves, bear us in mind. They also encourage us to excel and to empower ourselves through our economic activities,” she says. Carmelina is the secretary of the board of directors of the Asociacion De Desarrollo Empresarial Comunitario El Rodeo Camotan-Adecro, which has been working with P4P for three years.

[photo|643541] Koné Korotoumou, Zantiébougou, Mali

Koné is the president of the Sabati women’s group, which was originally formed to pool their resources and assist one another with farming and household work. They joined P4P after seeing increased opportunities for their work, and are now marketing their crops collectively along with 30 other women’s groups in the area. Today, the women of Sabati feel that they have a greater sense of cohesion and loyalty thanks to their work. Under Koné’s leadership, they have opened a bank account, allowing their savings to accrue interest. They have also been able to pay for literacy courses and contributed to purchasing land for a warehouse built with support from WFP. With her increased income from sales to WFP, Koné has been able to purchase a cart to transport her produce to market. However, Koné and the women in her community still aren’t able to afford the farming equipment they need to more efficiently plant and harvest their crops. This means that they must pay for the use of the equipment, once the men have finished working on their own land, reducing their profits and risking losses in crop quality.

[photo|643542] Esinta Jickson, Chiseka, Malawi

Before taking part in P4P, Esinta profited little from her agricultural labour, making occasional sales to local people and small traders. Today, Esinta is the treasurer of the Chiwoza farmers’ cooperative, which has more than 400 members. In 2013, her cooperative marketed 50 metric tons of maize to WFP. This maize was used in the school meals programme to provide students with nutritious porridge. “With WFP, we can sell more produce and also make a quicker profit,” says Esinta. “We also have a guaranteed market with WFP, so we can plan a bit more for our future.”

Read more about P4P's work with rural women:

Rural women in developing countries generally work around 16 hours a day. Not only are they responsible for tending their family farms for little or no profit, they also engage in a great deal of unpaid work, such as childcare and household duties. This work is both physically demanding and time-consuming, especially as women often don’t have the resources to purchase technology which could lighten their workload. Despite their hard work, women are generally excluded from decision-making within their own households and communities.

In the municipality of Jalapa, Nueva Segovia, flat land in this generally mountainous area, and high agricultural potential has led to the extensive use of mechanized farming, particularly since the introduction of tobacco cultivation. Many years of utilizing traditional mechanization has led to soil compaction and erosion, which can deplete the soil of vital nutrients and reduce yields. To promote improvements in agricultural production, P4P and partners are supporting small-scale farmers with a variety of sustainable techniques and technologies.

New sustainable farming techniques

Smallholder farmers in Jalapa are now utilizing minimal tillage systems, which allow them to cultivate land with minimal disturbance to the soil, reducing nutrient loss. Minimal tillage systems are comprised of seeders, which are either hand-held, or trailers pulled by tractors. Minimal tillage also benefits smallholders by decreasing the time and labour required for planting and soil preparation, and can reduce costs by over 30 percent. Plus, fewer seeds and fertilizer are needed, with less lost in application. The equipment also improves the spacing between crops, which can lead to higher yields. Technical assistance has been provided by the government’s Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA). P4P shares the cost of the equipment with the cooperatives.

The Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples Campesinos Activos de Jalapa (CCAJ) and the Asociación de Campesinos para el Desarrollo Integral Sostenible (ACADIS) have been supported to create production plans to best provide planting and fertilization services to member organizations. Improved technologies have been further promoted through exchanges, field visits, internships and small trials, benefitting cooperative leaders and key P4P partners such as INTA. While this new technology is already yielding results in Jalapa, scaling these practices to other farmers is challenging, with many smallholders still utilizing traditional techniques. Lessons learned confirm that scaling up will require additional technical support and awareness raised about the benefits of high-performing, environmentally-friendly technologies and techniques.

Conserving soil, improving production

P4P-supported cooperatives are also learning to utilize environmentally-friendly organic amendments, as well as agricultural techniques to promote the conservation of soil and water. For example, the Cooperativa de Servicios Múltiples Santiago is now cultivating slopes along the contour, where natural barriers such as shrubs and trees protect the soil and prevent erosion of nutrients. "If we do not implement techniques to conserve the soil it will erode, and there will then be a need to use more fertilizer. This is an unnecessary costly expense," says the cooperative’s technician Elmer Sarantes.

In collaboration with the Agricultural Technology Integration System Network (RED-SICTA), P4P is working to introduce low-cost hermetic “cocoon” storage systems. These airtight bags reduce crop losses, in part by preventing infestation by weevils and other pests without the use of toxic insecticides. While the introduction of new storage systems at cooperative level are making great strides in improving crop quality, smallholders in Nicaragua require additional support to access storage facilities on a larger scale.

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In the Nueva Segovia region of Nicaragua, P4P is supporting farmers’ organizations to utilize low-cost, environmentally-friendly techniques and technologies. These sustainable practices, which include minimal tillage farming and the use of organic materials in soil enrichment, are enabling smallholders to benefit from increased yields, improved crop quality and reduced production costs.