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P4P Stories from the field

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

Agricultural production in Sierra Leone is currently recovering from the decline caused by a decade-long war, with about two-thirds of the population dependent upon subsistence farming for their livelihoods. These smallholder farmers have limited access to the resources necessary to effectively aggregate and market quality crops, including storage facilities and training in business and best agricultural practices.

ABCs

The P4P pilot has tested innovative methods of supporting smallholders by responding to context-specific challenges in 20 countries. In Sierra Leone, working with the ABCs has proven to be particularly effective. Within the ABCs, smallholders can purchase inputs, hire equipment, undergo training and access services such as processing, storage and group marketing. The agro-centres are governed by farmers’ organizations, with support from FAO, IFAD and government agencies. This fosters ownership of the ABCs, which is an important step towards sustainability. To date, 193 ABCs have been established.

In Sierra Leone, IFAD, FAO and WFP collaborate with the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) to implement the government’s Smallholder Commercialization Programme (SCP). The SCP aims to increase smallholder farmers’ capacities and improve their ability to aggregate and market quality crops collectively to formal markets. Under the SCP, smallholders are grouped into farmers’ organizations, and supported with training in agricultural production and collective marketing. Several organizations then work together within an ABC to process and store crops.

WFP as a source of assured demand

P4P facilitates the link between the ABCs and WFP demand, providing farmers’ organizations with an incentive to improve the commercialization of staple crops such as rice or pigeon peas, as well as practical experience selling to an institutional buyer. P4P also provides smallholders with training in post-harvest handling and quality control, assisting them to produce high quality commodities. This should prepare smallholders to ultimately access commercial markets beyond WFP on an increasingly competitive basis.

Mariama Koroma, the chairwoman of Holima Agricultural Business Centre, says: “I have gone through a lot of training orchestrated by FAO, World Vision, WFP and others, so I have acquired a wealth of knowledge and experience in governance and management. That is why we don’t have problems in our farmers’ organization. I am confident that I can comfortably manage this Agricultural Business Centre.”

Progress made but challenges remain

Local food prices in Sierra Leone are volatile and often higher than the international price of the same commodity, notably for rice. Because WFP’s procurement policy obligates the organization to buy maximum quantities of food at no more than the import parity price, procurement from smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone has been limited. Despite these challenges, in total, WFP has procured some 1,100 metric tons of food commodities from smallholder farmers’ organizations in Sierra Leone since 2009. Of this, four ABCs have contracted with WFP to date, selling a total of 140 metric tons of rice, 15 metric tons of pigeon peas and 5 metric tons of gari, a form of processed cassava. These crops are then distributed in WFP’s School Meals and Food for Assets programmes.

In 2013, a joint assessment was carried out by the Programme Advisory Group (PAG), GAFSP, FAO and P4P to evaluate the ABCs in terms of their skills and capacity. As a result of this evaluation, 21 ABCs were identified as potential WFP suppliers. Though procurement by WFP has been limited, smallholders have been effectively prepared to produce and market higher quality staple commodities. Efforts to facilitate linkages to quality markets beyond WFP, such as government or eventually private sector traders and millers are ongoing.

Article written by Marta Ortiz Nuñez, P4P country coordinator, Sierra Leone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In Sierra Leone, government partners, FAO and IFAD have established Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs), providing smallholder farmers with access to training, equipment and storage. Since 2010, P4P has linked the ABCs to WFP’s demand for quality crops, providing smallholders with an incentive to invest in production and taking advantage of capacity development opportunities.

The post-conflict environment presents unique challenges for P4P’s work promoting smallholder market access.  In DRC, the country’s transportation infrastructure has suffered from destruction and a lack of maintenance due to armed conflict. Lack of road, rail and water transportation in combination with large distances between smallholder farmers and markets often limit smallholders to selling their crops through barter systems close to their farms. In the Kabalo and Bikoro territories, where P4P works, communities have been fractured by years of armed conflict. The country’s agricultural production has also been reduced to a subsistence level despite DRC’s agricultural potential.  DRC has more than 80 million hectares of fertile land that could be cultivated year-round, but less than 10 percent is cultivated each year.

Photos of the same location before (top) and after (bottom) rehabilitation.

Partnerships and community ownership for improved infrastructure

Implementing P4P in DRC meant that WFP not only needed to design a programme that developed the capacities of farmers and their organizations, but also focused on rebuilding infrastructure.

P4P is working in close collaboration with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Through a joint funding mechanism supported by the Belgian Government, the two UN agencies are working hand in hand to support the government to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers and rebuild agricultural markets affected by years of disruption and armed conflict.

Since 2009, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), as a P4P partner, has worked with local companies to reconstruct sections of roads and build culverts. P4P and partners have facilitated community cohesion and ownership by supporting the formation of community-led road maintenance committees and involving local government and local businesses in the work. Communities were encouraged to contribute with materials and labour through WFP’s Food for Assets programme, which provides food in exchange for work on the rehabilitation projects.

Making connections: positive impacts      

Road rehabilitation has been crucial to revitalising markets and connecting farmers to economic opportunities, allowing smallholders to transport their products to larger structured markets with shorter transportation times. With access to these markets, farmers are able to obtain a better price for higher quality grain than at the farm gate. P4P also partners with OXFAM to better facilitate the aggregation of crops and to reduce post-harvest losses by constructing warehouses along the rehabilitated roads midway between communities and markets.

“This project taught us how to farm and how to save in order to increase our production.” says Florent Banza, a P4P-supported farmer who opened a small village pharmacy with profits from increased production and sales.

Roads open new business opportunities

One of P4P’s key objectives in DRC is to link smallholder farmers to traders in order to re-establish trader networks and link farmers’ organizations to sustainable markets. Before the road rehabilitation project started, traders were wary of buying from smallholders due to their unreliable and long transportation times. As a result of the new roads and improved transportation, traders started negotiating with smallholder farmers directly, now more confident in receiving their purchased crops on time.

Road rehabilitation efforts have also had other benefits. Links to urban centres have improved, which has increased access to health services for nearby communities. Plus, the warehouses constructed along the rehabilitated roads have provided new employment opportunities to rural individuals and have reduced post-harvest losses, successfully enabling farmers to sell higher quality grain. In the future, links between smallholders and processors along these rehabilitated roads could open up possibilities for the production of value-added foods.

More efforts needed to support smallholders

Despite the many successes of the rehabilitation project in Kabalo and Bikoro, challenges remain for smallholder farmers. Due to limited access to vehicles, smallholders still require WFP logistical support to transport commodities to warehouses. Transportation over greater distances, where roads have not yet been rehabilitated, still proves challenging.

Due to the limited production among smallholders, storage facilities were operating at only 20 percent of their total capacity between 2010 and 2013. Further capacity development is needed for smallholders to increase their production and maximize the use of warehouses.

Article by Daphne Hendsbee, P4P

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), P4P has explored how infrastructure improvements can catalyse agricultural development. Nearly 200 km of rural farm to market roads have been rehabilitated in partnership with the government, FAO and UNOPS. This project, combined with community-led maintenance on another 300 km of rural roads, has successfully linked previously-isolated farmers to traders and more profitable markets.

In Afghanistan, micronutrient deficiency is widespread, with 55 percent of children stunted due to malnutrition. In order to improve nutrition, P4P facilitates the local production of fortified flour and other nutritious food using staple crops grown by P4P-supported smallholders whenever possible. One vital component of this work is the development of a market for soya and soya-based products in partnership with Nutrition and Education International (NEI), with financial support from the Republic of Korea. P4P and NEI are engaged at all levels of the soya value chain, working with farmers to expand production, assisting processors to increase capacity and implementing an awareness-raising campaign in order to educate the public about the benefits of fortified soya and wheat blended flour.

Nutritious food produced with smallholders’ crops

The initiative emphasizes soya because it is rich in protein and amino acids, and adding soya flour to micronutrient-fortified wheat flour can also increase vitamin and mineral absorption. In Afghanistan, fortified flour is produced by local millers using the wheat grown by smallholder farmers, who are supported by P4P in collaboration with the Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED).  This flour is also used to process high energy biscuits for use in WFP’s emergency programme.

As soya production expands, it too will become a vital component of high energy biscuits, as well as a fortified wheat and soya flour mix. This will boost the effectiveness of these nutritious foods, and provide P4P-supported farmers with a market for their crop. An advocacy campaign carried out in collaboration with NEI aims to raise awareness on the importance of micronutrients and increase demand for locally-produced fortified foods, which will help to develop a sustainable market. The campaign is being carried out in collaboration with the government’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

Increasing production of soya

NEI and P4P have supported smallholder soybean farmers with the provision of pre- and post-harvest agricultural equipment to increase their yields and improve crop quality. Over 10,000 smallholder farmers have been organized into associations and trained in soybean cultivation by NEI, including topics such as pre- and post-harvest handling and storage. In 2012, P4P-supported smallholders produced 1,700 metric tons (mt) of soya, which was purchased by NEI, private sector soya flour processors and soybean seed producers. It was also used to supplement nutritional intake at the household level. In order to more effectively utilize their land, farmers will be trained to diversify crop production by producing both soya and wheat. This will allow them to benefit from soya’s capability to enrich soil after it has been depleted by the wheat harvest. At the moment most smallholders produce only one of the two crops. Women’s involvement has been encouraged by P4P and partners, with over 3,200 women farmers supported to grow wheat and soya. Women are also trained to utilize soya flour as well as wheat when preparing naan bread for household use in order to improve nutrition.

In February 2014, a workshop was held to train agronomists on soybean research and production in order to facilitate the development of soybean seed varieties suitable for the climate and soil conditions in Afghanistan. This is expected to have a ripple effect as the agronomists share their learning with the farmers they support. One participant, Mr. Nasrullah, a research agronomist at the Kapisa Farm Service Center, says, “we were given important tools that will help the Kapisa team better train and oversee the 200 farmers producing seeds for the coming season.” Sixty agronomists from 13 provinces participated, including members of the Agriculture Research Institute of Afghanistan (ARIA), which has worked with NEI to develop and release five new climate-suitable soya varieties since 2005.

Reduced WFP demand encourages sustainable solutions

Though the project has already made significant achievements, challenges still remain. WFP’s reduced demand for high energy biscuits has made for a slow start, as the project lacks the catalyst of an assured buyer procuring large quantities. However, steps towards a more sustainable solution are being taken: it is planned that these nutritious foods, produced by local processors from soya and wheat grown by smallholder farmers, will enter directly into local markets in Afghanistan.

In order to reduce malnutrition in Afghanistan, P4P works with Nutrition and Education International to support smallholder farmers and agronomists to produce soya for use in locally-produced nutritious foods. These products will enter into the market in Afghanistan to increase the protein intake and micronutrient absorption of vulnerable populations.

Some basics on aflatoxin:
  • Aflatoxin usually develop on food such as maize and groundnuts, in regions or countries with climates of high temperature and humidity.
  • Aflatoxin is a type of mycotoxin, which result from fungal growth.  This is normally caused by the improper drying or re-wetting of crops.
  • Once aflatoxin occurs, it cannot be eliminated without making food unsafe for human consumption.
  • High aflatoxin levels can be prevented by improving farming, storage and transportation practices.

WFP sets quality requirements for the commodities it procures to ensure that beneficiaries receive food which is safe for consumption. The same standards are applied to purchases from all suppliers, be they smallholder farmers or large companies, without exception. This has posed a challenge for P4P, as smallholder farmers often lack the knowledge and resources to produce crops that meet these standards. Plus, smallholders are sometimes located in difficult-to-access rural areas where inspection companies and local laboratories may have a limited presence.

The prevalence of aflatoxin, a poisonous chemical compound linked to liver cancer if consumed regularly over an extended period, poses a particular threat to food safety. Aflatoxin generally develops on crops such as maize or groundnuts due to insufficient drying, as the presence of excess moisture allows the growth of aflatoxin-producing moulds. This can be prevented through appropriate post-harvest handling techniques. At an early stage of the P4P pilot, purchases from P4P-supported smallholders highlighted the need to address the root cause of quality control problems. This triggered the creation of WFP’s Food Quality and Safety unit  in November 2009.

Preventative and proactive approaches

Aflatoxin poses a concern because of the large volume of maize procured through P4P. In order to address this problem, a field testing kit called the Blue Box was developed in collaboration with P4P Guatemala. The project was launched after several incidents in which commodities supplied by P4P-supported farmers in Guatemala were rejected by WFP because they did not meet quality requirements. The Blue Box was designed to screen grain quality and detect problems such as the presence of aflatoxin at an early stage, therefore reducing rejections.

Each Blue Box contains grain sampling and grading equipment, a moisture metre, an aflatoxin test kit and other supplies to allow on-the-spot screening of food quality parameters and grading at any stage of the supply chain. The Blue Box has been effectively used by farmers’ organizations, storage facilities, and WFP procurement. Since 2011, 26 WFP Country Offices, 14 of which are P4P pilot countries, have begun incorporating the Blue Box into their programming.

In order to address quality issues, both early detection and prevention are necessary. While the Blue Box facilitates early detection, capacity development is vital to preventing the development of food quality problems. Along with training on how to use the equipment, P4P and partners have provided training sessions in post-harvest handling. Topics include drying, sorting, storage and transport, as well as inspection and testing. Additionally, P4P has supported the provision of equipment and infrastructure to improve post-harvest handling, such as improved storage facilities and drying equipment on a cost-sharing basis.

The Blue Box

The field testing kit was originally named the "Blue Box" because the equipment was housed in a blue container. Today it is no longer blue, but the name is still commonly used.

Positive results for farmers and governments

The early detection of quality problems has reduced the number of rejected deliveries and led to savings for farmers, who then do not pay unnecessary transportation costs for commodities that might ultimately be rejected. In addition, the Blue Box, as well as related food quality and safety initiatives, have raised awareness about the risks of aflatoxin. When Bornwell Kaunga, a farmers’ organization manager from Malawi, spoke at P4P’s fifth Annual Consultation, he described how increased awareness about food safety has been vital to his community. He shared the story of one mother, who previously sold the healthy part of the grain while feeding the diseased parts to her children. After learning about the dangers of this practice, Bornwell quoted her as saying, "This is one of the most important things we have learned, I am now able to keep clean grain in my house and that gives me happiness in my heart.” Through these efforts, more farmers have also learned that quality crops can generate higher prices.

WFP’s increased advocacy for the enforcement of national quality standards, the establishment of quality monitoring protocols, and the adoption of best practices contributes to the global agenda to address major food quality and safety issues. This also enables WFP to take part in broader discussions about global health policies. In South Sudan, the Blue Box launch, as well as dialogue around aflatoxin, catalysed improvements in the national laboratory capacity, and initiated systematic screening of local maize produce. The Blue Box also enabled WFP to increasingly influence and contribute to local policy design and execution. For example, in Ethiopia, aflatoxin testing is not required by national standards, but thanks to WFP’s extensive collaboration with the government, it has been endorsed systematically through support to Cooperative Unions. Similarly, in Kenya following severe aflatoxin outbreaks, WFP has collaborated with the government to increase public awareness, improve post-harvest handling and storage, and increase testing capacity.

Lessons learned about equipment & training

The challenges faced by the WFP Food Quality and Safety unit, and the Blue Box initiative in particular, have generated lessons and technical knowledge about how to deliver training effectively, and what kind of equipment is most suitable in the field. Comprehensive guidance has been developed to increase the effectiveness of Blue Box training sessions. The Food Quality and Safety unit has found that that in order to be most effective, hands-on training should be carried out by WFP staff in the local language immediately after the delivery of the kit. Lessons learned indicate that participants benefit most when specific individuals are assigned to take responsibility for quality control, undergoing training and using the Blue Box tools. Efforts to improve food quality were most effective when combined with pre-existing national policies, standards and market infrastructure. Incentives, such as higher margins for quality crops, proved particularly effective.

Procurement from P4P-supported smallholder farmers has played an integral role in changing the way WFP approaches food quality and safety. These purchases have illustrated the importance of addressing the root causes of quality issues through prevention and early detection, and have enabled WFP to take a leading role in advocating for better food quality standards.

Niébé is a variety of cowpea grown by many smallholder farmers, primarily women, throughout West Africa. The drought-resistant bean thrives even in the dry, arid soils of the Sahel and neighboring countries and improves soil quality by fixing nutrients.  The crop is also highly nutritious, acting as a common source of protein. Because niébé is often farmed and controlled by women, it provides them with an entry point to earn income within the agricultural sector, while simultaneously improving nutrition and resilience.

Despite the benefits niébé offers, a number of factors have made local purchases of the bean difficult. In Liberia, for example, production has been kept at subsistence levels. “Farmers are not used to growing beans as an independent crop,” says James Legg, P4P country coordinator in Liberia. In Mali, niébé is usually grown alongside other crops in small quantities, keeping production at subsistence levels. Elsewhere in the region, high-quality seeds can be expensive, and acquiring enough land to grow large quantities can be difficult for women, who sometimes struggle to access land. Niébé is also difficult to store properly. Without proper preservation techniques, the bean is prone to infestation, which has deterred many farmers from growing it for sale.


Triple bagging of niébé 

Improving niébé production

In order to help farmers in the region to increase production levels and improve crop quality, P4P and partners provide support to smallholders that reflects production conditions in the country. This support includes training, agricultural inputs and tools specially designed for niébé. In Mali, for example, P4P-supported farmers’ organizations are equipped with triple bags (PICS) specifically designed to extend its shelf life. The benefits of these bags, combined with proper storage techniques, have been clear to many farmers’ organizations, allowing them to aggregate and sell larger quantities when prices are high. The bags were so successful that one farmer’s organization, the Sabati Women’s Association, in Zantiebougou, Mali, decided to buy them directly from the supplier. “The women saw how well they worked and wanted to buy the bags themselves,” says P4P regional coordinator Isabelle Mballa.

Learning and innovation has been another important component to assisting smallholders to grow niébé as a commercial crop. In Ghana, WFP partner, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), has worked to establish crop demonstration plots and Farmer Field Schools for each of the 26 P4P+supported farmers’ organizations in the region. These one-acre plots have allowed ADRA and Ghana’s Crops Research Institute (CRI) to identify high-yielding niébé seed varieties to be used as “foundation” seed. WFP plans to distribute these seeds to the 26 organizations—which have a membership of 48 percent women—and will also continue to work closely with government partners to train farmers in best practices.

Empowering women and improving nutrition

Across West Africa, more farmers’ organizations are now producing higher quantities of niébé, in some cases allowing for purchases by WFP and other buyers. Five out of seven large P4P-supported farmers’ organizations in Burkina Faso are now growing the crop, as are all participating farmers’ organizations in Mali. In Burkina Faso, WFP is planning to purchase 920 metric tons (mt) of niébé through forward purchasing facilities. Farmers’ organizations in the country have also sold niébé to markets beyond WFP.

In Burkina Faso, 96% of participants in cowpea sales to WFP are women.  Similarly, among farmers’ unions now producing niébé in Liberia and Mali, the members are primarily women. This means that much of the money earned goes directly into women’s hands, giving them a stronger voice and raising their status in their households and communities. P4P and its partners are also raising awareness for the added benefits of women controlling their own land. Preliminary monitoring data shows that women’s access to inputs and land has improved in some countries during the course of the pilot.

“By giving women the necessary means and specific training to increase production, they were able to increase their revenue and gained autonomy,” Yves Aklamavo P4P country coordinator in Burkina Faso, says.

Thanks to money earned through cowpea sales, Azeta Sawadogo, from Pella, in northern Burkina Faso, was able to buy a bicycle. This allows her to balance the time between farming and caring for her family. Because the bicycle saves both time and labour, she is now able to go to markets to sell cowpeas and spices, and can quickly return home from working in the fields to prepare meals for her family. Communities are also increasingly taking advantage of the legume’s nutritional benefits. In Liberia, niébé will be used in WFP’s school meals programme. In Mali, efforts are also being undertaken to improve nutrition by educating women about the benefits of consuming the crop.

Moving forward

Although great strides have been made to make niébé a viable commercial crop in West Africa, procurement is still limited due to high prices and low production capacities. In Liberia, niébé is still very expensive, and in Ghana it is too costly for WFP to procure from local smallholders. To address some of these challenges, work is ongoing to implement the infrastructure necessary to increase production and improve market access. A recent networking meeting in Liberia brought together actors with a stake in the agricultural sector to identify opportunities and possible synergies among producers and buyers. However, it may take three to four years before farmers produce enough to sell to these markets. In Burkina Faso, WFP plans to construct two 50 mt storage facilities on a cost-sharing basis to improve post-harvest handling, enabling farmers’ organizations to aggregate niébé and sell it collectively.

Other commodities in West African countries have similar benefits. One example is pigeon peas, which are widely purchased and consumed in Sierra Leone. Because of their nutritional benefits, these peas have already been incorporated into WFP’s school feeding programme. After a successful first purchase of 10 mt in 2013, WFP plans to purchase 60 mt of pigeon peas for school meals in 2014.

Story by Eliza Warren-Shriner, WFP, West Africa

In West Africa, P4P is working closely with partners to develop the capacity of smallholder farmers to produce a protein- and nutrient-rich crop called niébé (cowpeas/black-eyed peas).  Through training as well as the provision of equipment and improved seeds, P4P has helped smallholders engage in collective sales and access new markets, opening up opportunities for farmers—especially women—across the region.

Proper food and nutrition play an essential role in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, allowing patients to stay healthy longer, increasing the effectiveness of the treatment and reducing its side effects. However, due to the effects of the disease, HIV-positive individuals often face increased difficulties providing for themselves and their families. The combination of food insecurity and HIV/AIDS can result in higher levels of poverty, malnutrition and increased health risks. This in turn can act as major barriers to seeking and adhering to treatment.

The three-headed monster

“In Sub-Sahara Africa, HIV/AIDS is intimately enmeshed with its dreaded twins, poverty and hunger. The three heads of this monster feed off of each other and no medical care system can by itself expect to break the vicious downward cycle,” says Cleophas Chesoli, Associate Safety Net Programme Manager, Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH).

AMPATH works with the Government of Kenya to provide medical treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, most of them residing in farming communities with high agricultural potential. The majority are food insecure due to poverty compounded by the effects of HIV/AIDS, which has an impact not only on those living with it, but also on their households and communities.

WFP has partnered with AMPATH since 2005, with the provision of vital food assistance to compliment medical treatment provided to patients. Since 2009, P4P has added a new dimension to the partnership. The main goal of P4P’s engagement with AMPATH has been to complement food assistance and medical treatment by supporting beneficiaries to exit food assistance and become self-sufficient. This has been accomplished by assisting HIV/AIDS-affected farmers to increase their agricultural production for household consumption and also for sale to the market. Not only has this provided farmers and their communities with a sustainable source of income and food, but has also increased their resilience to shocks.

ABOUT AMPATH
  • The Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) is collaboration between Indiana University, Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and other North American universities.
  • Since AMPATH began working with the Kenyan Ministry of Health, they have treated over 160,000 HIV-positive persons at over 500 clinical sites throughout western Kenya.
  • WFP and AMPATH feed 31,000 HIV-affected persons daily.

Giving back to the community

One participating smallholder was previously unable to continue working on her farm due to the effects of HIV. However, food and medical treatment provided by AMPATH and WFP enabled her to regain her strength, and support from P4P allowed her not only to begin farming again, but to learn more productive farming practices and gain larger profits on a sustainable basis.

The trust built by AMPATH throughout years of living and working in the targeted communities has been vital to reaching HIV/AIDS-affected smallholders. Today, 40 percent of AMPATH’s patients are members of farmers’ organizations supported through P4P.

Not only have members of P4P-supported farmers’ organizations contributed to their own food and income security by producing more and selling to WFP, they have contributed to their community as a whole. In December 2012, two farmers’ organizations donated staple crops to AMPATH to be distributed to other patients who require food assistance.

Lessons learned from targeting

At the beginning, the initiative faced challenges due to the vulnerability of HIV/AIDS-affected households, and the stigma associated with the disease. At first, new farmers’ organizations were created entirely of smallholders living with HIV/AIDS. However, it was soon discovered that integrating these households into pre-existing farmers’ organizations was more effective, as the community and other service providers were more receptive to this method. This also provided farmers’ organizations with a better platform for business success. Today, many farmers involved in P4P have been able to overcome the stigma attached to their disease and regain ‘normal’ lives.

As lessons from the five-year pilot project are being compiled, the example of P4P’s collaboration with AMPATH is emerging as a successful and sustainable model for addressing the food needs of HIV/AIDS affected people. The potential benefits of encouraging newly infected individuals to embrace this model to attain food self-sufficiency at an early stage of the disease have also been recognised.

In Kenya, the P4P pilot has enabled a remarkable transformation of WFP’s support to HIV/AIDS-affected farmers. By further developing WFP’s partnership with the health sector organization AMPATH, the project has combined medical treatment for HIV/AIDS-affected smallholders with capacity development and organizational support. Now, farmers who were once recipients of food assistance are increasingly supplying food for themselves and the market.

In Guatemala, poverty and malnutrition are widespread. Chronic malnutrition or stunting occurs among 50 percent of children under the age of five, the fourth highest in the world. The Maíz Chapín contra el hambre project seeks to address malnutrition by promoting the consumption of nutritious foods and food supplements. It will also bolster the Government of Guatemala’s efforts to fight hunger and rural poverty by supporting P4P’s work in developing the capacities of smallholder farmers and their organizations.

Linking smallholders to the private sector

Through this programme, WFP will provide processed, nutrient rich foods to at-risk populations. These supplementary foods will be bought from agro-industry companies which have agreed to purchase the necessary basic grains from P4P-supported farmers’ organizations. This will provide smallholders with a new market for their yields, thereby providing opportunities to increase their incomes.

In Guatemala, P4P’s focus has been to strengthen farmers’ organizations by providing technical assistance and capacity development. The Maíz Chapín contra el hambre project will scale up capacity development in areas including improved agricultural production, storage and transformation, environmental practices, commercialization and institutional strengthening. . The links to credit and insurance already initiated through P4P will be reinforced and expanded.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT SUN

  • Under the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, national leaders in 46 developing countries, including Guatemala, have committed to prioritizing efforts to address malnutrition.
  • Participating countries are supported by four global networks: development partners, UN Agencies, Civil Society and Business. All four networks operate under the SUN Lead Group, which is appointed by UN Secretary General.
  • SUN supports specific nutrition interventions including food fortification, micronutrient supplementation, and treatment of severe malnutrition.
  • The initiative also encourages various nutrition-sensitive approaches which prioritize agriculture, clean water and sanitation, education and employment, health care, support for resilience and women’s empowerment.

Improving nutrition

The supplementary foods will be distributed to targeted beneficiaries. The project specifically targets pregnant and lactating women as well as infants and children aged 6 to 23 months, to foster healthy cognitive and physical development, combatting the effects of malnutrition and breaking its intergenerational cycle.

Through the project, WFP will also establish partnerships to assist food insecure people, particularly women, to create home gardens and soil conservation activities to increase targeted households’ resilience against natural and economic shocks. WFP and its partners will also form mother-to-mother support groups. These groups will discuss feeding and care practices, equipping mothers with the tools to provide their children with adequate nutrition.

Focus on women

The project will especially emphasize the participation and leadership of women in farmers’ organizations and their communities. Gender equality training will be provided to both men and women to demonstrate the tangible benefits of increasing women’s active participation in and gains from farming activities. Women will be specifically targeted for leadership training. The initiative will also work with farmers’ organizations to develop and implement gender equality policies, and to organize knowledge fairs and exchanges of experience between both men and women participants.

Women play an important part in improving nutrition, as women are generally the primary caregivers of children and take the leading role in food preparation. Women have been found to spend their increased incomes improving the lives of their children by investing in education, health care and nutritious foods.

Partnerships vital to project

Maíz Chapín contra el hambre is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada (DFATD), and has been made possible by partnerships between WFP, the national government, the private sector, and NGOs. It will be implemented in eight departments and target some 42,000 beneficiaries.

 

WFP recently launched a new project in Guatemala linking P4P with the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) movement. This initiative, called Maíz Chapín contra el hambre (Guatemalan Maize Alliance Against Hunger), aims to improve nutrition and increase farmers’ income by using their surplus to create supplementary foods for at-risk populations.

Smallholders in Uganda are often unable to access formal markets. One of the challenges facing them is poor quality grain caused by the lack of appropriate practices and modern warehouses. Because of this, one of P4P’s key activities in Uganda has been to work with farmers and private sector actors to improve storage facilities through the provision of modern grain processing equipment, which is used to clean, dry, grade and bag grain. This helps smallholder farmers improve the quality of their grain and store it more safely, which in turn allows them to access quality-driven markets beyond the farm gate. The equipment installed in Jinja is one of eight units purchased by WFP and leased to the private sector and cooperatives. The ownership of the equipment remains with WFP until the company has completed the five year lease repayment plan.

Investment to remedy challenges with grain quality

P4P is supporting the Ugandan government’s efforts to establish a national warehouse receipt system (WRS) through a consultative working group made up of key stakeholders. Under the WRS, warehouse managers – licensed by Uganda Commodity Exchange –oversee the cleaning, drying, grading, bagging and storage of agricultural produce from farmer groups, traders and processors in exchange for a fee.

The WRS initiative has faced many challenges and delays, often due to poor quality grain and limited awareness about the benefits of structured trading. However, the installation of grain processing equipment in locations such as Jinja is a major step in the right direction.

National warehouse receipt system

According to Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, who was the honourable guest at the ceremony in Jinja, “warehouse upgrades are critically important in our joint efforts with WFP to enhance the warehouse receipt system in Uganda.” She added that “the warehouse receipt system is a means to integrate small-scale farmer groups and traders into the East African Community market.”

To support the warehouse receipt system, WFP invested US$2.4 million to procure the eight units of grain processing equipment to be leased to regional warehouses. In addition to the equipment commissioned in Jinja in November,  the other units are operating in the towns of Kasese, Gulu, Masindi, Lira, Kapchorwa and Soroti, assisting farmers and traders to process maize, rice, sorghum, beans and other agricultural produce.

Enhancing infrastructure - a priority in Uganda

“WFP’s vision is that Uganda is increasingly able to access regional markets with quality grain, and that small-scale farmer groups in particular are able to get better prices for their surpluses,” said Alice Martin-Daihirou, WFP country director and representative in Uganda.

Agriculture and market support are among WFP's priorities in Uganda, where it assists individuals to increase their incomes in order to become food secure. Through the P4P initiative, farmers like Ivan Allan Aisu have raised yields and ensured the quality of their crops, thanks to training in post-harvest management and farming as a business.

“I used to harvest 8-9 bags of maize a year. Now I make between 30 and 34 from the same land,” Ivan says. “Plus, I am able to successfully store up to 2,600 kg in a crib I have built from the P4P training.”  He has learned that a properly constructed crib prevents or reduces insect and rodent damage to his crop.

Aligning P4P with government and donor strategies

WFP’s collaboration with the government, partners and donors has been essential in efforts to increase crop quality and strengthen farmers’ access to markets. Together with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, WFP has signed a joint agreement to support agriculture and the expansion of market access in Uganda. The agreement is aligned with the National Development Plan and the objectives of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Compact (CAADP).

The Minister of State for Agriculture, Zerubabel Nyira who also attended the commissioning ceremony said that the warehouse upgrades complement his ministry’s Development Strategy and Investment Plan.

Other P4P partners in Uganda include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), who provided for the technical and administrative costs.

The Government of Uganda and WFP are combining their efforts to assist smallholder farmers increase production and improve grain quality and crop value. Recently, they marked the commissioning of a cleaning and drying facility installed at the Upland Rice Millers warehouse in the town of Jinja. The new grain processing equipment has been leased to the local milling company, to benefit smallholder farmers in the area. 

One of P4P’s main activities in Nicaragua has been to provide capacity building among smallholder farmers and to increase their productivity, achieve better yields, and grow higher quality products. The use of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers, insecticides and improved seeds, are key to achieving all of these goals. Throughout the pilot, P4P and partners such as Disagro and Formunica, have arranged training sessions addressing the use and importance of agricultural inputs.

Commercial partnerships and negotiating purchases

P4P has also assisted farmers’ organizations in forming sustainable commercial partnerships with several agricultural input suppliers. During a series of P4P-sponsored negotiation rounds with suppliers, representatives from 15 selected farmers’ organizations learned how to meet suppliers’ demands, and how to successfully negotiate input purchases. They also developed their entrepreneurial skills, and established sustainable commercial partnerships with the inputs providers. Since 2009, over 9,000 smallholders from the participating farmer’s organizations have benefitted indirectly from these negotiation rounds.  

Additionally, in 2013, representatives from 15 P4P-supported farmer’s organizations established two Advisory Committees to facilitate the joint negotiation of better purchase conditions in order to reduce the cost of agricultural inputs.

Ana Rosa Romero, who belongs to an organization represented by the Advisory Committee, said: “Before P4P, the Cooperative La Union didn't have the option to take part in these events, nor to negotiate prices and volumes with commercial suppliers. However, thanks to P4P we are now part of an Advisory Committee. Through the committee we compare the prices offered by different suppliers with those of the market. We are seen as reliable potential clients for input providers, who offer us loans for the purchases and even technical capacity-building workshops.”

Credit secured but still challenges

Farmers in Nicaragua have also improved their access to credit through revolving funds, and by fostering relationships between farmers’ organizations and credit institutions.  This is fundamental for the purchase of inputs, because it ensures that farmers will not need to rely upon seasonal incomes, as these are often not available when the inputs are needed.

The nine farmers’ organizations making up the Advisory Committee in Nueva Segovia were able to invest a total of US$ 221,000 in agricultural inputs in 2013.  Almost 60% of this was purchased using credit.

Despite significant strides, one of the programme’s major challenges in increasing smallholder productivity is the limited access to credit for purchases of seeds, fertilizers but also other necessary investments in the commercialization phase. P4P continues to work with partners on capacity building to strengthen smallholder farmers’ commercial skills. P4P is also using revolving funds, enabling farmers to build up a credit history that makes them more attractive to creditors. Meanwhile many P4P-supported farmers have also been successful in accessing loans when using WFP contracts or letter of intent to purchase as a guarantee.

Story by Marta Ortiz

Access to agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers have helped P4P-supported farmers in Nicaragua to successfully increase their crop productivity, and therefore meet market demand. The strengthened link between smallholder farmers and agricultural input providers can be traced to the smallholders’ improved negotiation skills and access to credit, allowing their organisations to negotiate and buy inputs in bulk.

The Mwandama farmer’s organization is located in the Zomba district in southern Malawi. It was formed in 2005 with initial support from the Millennium Village Project. Mwandama first sold to WFP in early 2010, and is now among the most active and successful farmers’ organisations on the P4P roster. The organization has been awarded a total of 11 contracts, amounting to nearly 750 mt of commodities, valued at US$176,000.

After almost five years of P4P participation, the members of Mwandama farmers’ organisation are no longer subsistence farmers, but are active members of the commercial agricultural market.  They sell in bulk to private buyers such as government boarding schools, a processing company and a government fisheries company.  They have also bid for and won competitive WFP tenders through an online commodity exchange. By 2009 the organization constructed a 2,500 metric ton grain bank to store surplus produce. A small percentage of this surplus is set aside to purchase agricultural inputs such as fertilizer.

Business strategy and cooperation

Members of Mwandama now use a portion of their profits to employ a full-time warehouse manager, Bornwell Kaunga, who oversees the cooperative’s business activities and storage. His presence not only assists the farmers in successfully marketing their products, but also improves their knowledge of business practices and strategy.

"Thanks to the support from P4P, Mwandama has increased its sales, sells at better and fairer prices and now understands how to deliver food that meets globally accepted quality standards to many buyers on the market," Kaunga said. He also noted that the group’s sales to WFP allowed them to see the tangible benefits of working as a cooperative, as well as the potential for growth through reinvestment.

A learning opportunity for others

In response to suggestions from farmer’s organizations interested in learning from Mwandama’s successful experience, P4P helped organize the study tour in November. Representatives from seven farmers’ organisations participated, and were especially keen to learn how the organization grew into a self-sufficient business. They posed questions to the farmers about everything from legal resources and challenges to business plans and strategies, 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, Mpoto became inspired to expand and reinvest through cooperation. "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.

Tools for success

Smallholders, such the members of Mwandama, have been provided with tools in post-harvest handling, marketing and management, through trainings by P4P and its partners. This study tour is an example of the P4P ripple effect, as farmers’ organisations learn from and teach one another skills achieved through the programme.  This allows smallholder farmers to create sustainable skill sets which can be passed on to others in their families, communities, countries, and even on an international scale like in the case of Rwanda.

This article is based on a story by Sarah Rawson, WFP Malawi.

Throughout their participation with P4P, the Mwandama farmers' organization accrued knowledge and agricultural skills allowing them to successfully expand their business and sell to a variety of buyers. In order to share their accomplishments and inspire others, they hosted a study tour for seven other Malawian farmers' organizations.  Business strategy was one of the key topics discussed among the farmers.