Stories tagged: CNFA

CNFA & Partners Announce New Steps to Cultivate Quality Cocoa in Cote d’Ivoire

By Sheryl Cowan, Vice President of Programs, CNFA and Marc Steen, CNFA’s Chief of Party of the Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity (MOCA)

Cote d’Ivoire is the largest cacao-producing country in the world, and earnings from the cultivation and sale of cocoa support 3.5 million Ivorians, including many smallholder farmers and their families. Yet, the cocoa industry in the country has been primarily geared towards production and less on quality, preventing farmers from supplying to and reaping the benefits from the growing fine chocolate industry.

From seedling to tree, the status of successful cultivation mirrors the financial health of the communities that depend on cocoa cultivation. However, smallholder Ivorian cocoa farmers have limited capacity to increase the amount of quality beans they can sell, and often lack access to competitive markets, which would otherwise be a viable means of increasing their income and improving their livelihoods.

Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), an international agricultural development organization, announced that the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) and the Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity (MOCA) project, implemented by CNFA, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at FCIA’s Elevate Chocolate Summer 2018 meeting to address this challenge.

CNFA’s Alex Brandes shares information on USAID’s Maximizing Opportunities in Cocoa Activity during FCIA’s Elevate Chocolate Summit on June 30 in New York City.

MOCA, a project funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food for Progress program provides capacity-building, training and other support services to cocoa producers, cooperatives and exporters in Côte d’Ivoire with the aim of improving the supply of high-quality cacao beans and increasing farm incomes. Activities to improve and expand the trade of cocoa and cocoa products focus on improving the quality of the crop, the processing and post-harvest handling techniques, and strengthening the market linkages and organization of groups towards more adequately meeting existing market demand.

FCIA, whose members focus on the production of premium chocolate and encourage utilizing the best practices in cocoa production and processing, will collaborate with MOCA to support the project through its membership activities.

“This collaboration enhances the individual efforts of MOCA and FCIA to improve the efficiency of the cocoa value chain in Côte d’Ivoire,” said CNFA President and Chief Executive Officer Sylvain Roy. “FCIA’s counsel will help farmers and businesses refine their production to meet the needs of the fine chocolate market—and MOCA’s training and guidance will improve the crop quality, processing, post-harvest handling and market linkages necessary to produce those high-quality products and get them to market.”

“This memorandum of understanding establishes a strong mutual bond between two parties who share a keen interest in cultivating the finest, high-quality cocoa,” said FCIA President Clark Guittard. “Through our new relationship with MOCA, our organization gains an informed, on-the-ground presence in the world’s leading cocoa-producing region.

The main thrust of the three-year MOCA program is to increase the productivity and efficiency of stakeholders in Côte d’Ivoire’s cocoa value chain to boost the quality of crops, expand cocoa trade and ultimately improve the incomes and livelihoods of cocoa farmers.

This partnership will provide added impetus to the most important goal of the MOCA initiative—generating increased incomes for the 600,000 smallholder farmers and families in Côte d’Ivoire who produce more than a third of the world’s cocoa supply, but live on less than $2 a day.

Featured image credits: CNFA, Nestlé

Fueling Economic Growth and Stability by Creating Opportunities for Youth in Agriculture

Africa’s youth population is growing, while demand for global agriculture production is continuing to rise. Heidi Graves, Communications Officer for Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) blogs from the Chicago Council’s 2018 Food Security Symposium.

The world’s youth population is steadily rising. 2.3 billion people—a third of the world’s population—are between the ages of 15 and 34. And it is projected to keep growing. Yet, many of today’s youth, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are met with the same reality: unemployment. Faced with a lack of opportunity, youth unemployment can stagnate economic growth and fuel political and social unrest.

Amid this rapid increase in the number of youth, known as the “youth bulge,” a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs puts the connection between youth and agriculture at the forefront of the discussion surrounding food security. Why? Many of the regions experiencing the largest growth in the youth population are also the most susceptible to food insecurity. Launched at the Council’s two-day Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, the report – Youth for Growth: Transforming Economies through Agriculture – highlights that investing in agricultural development and harnessing the potential of youth is essential to alleviating poverty, addressing food security, and ensuring stability worldwide. Continue reading

#FillTheGap! Women in Burkina Faso warrant greater credit

This is the eighth post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.

For smallholder subsistence farmers, one of the greatest barriers to developing their business is a lack of available credit for what is often written off as too risky an investment. For female smallholders, the prejudices are greater still.

Yet bridging this risk-averse preconception can have a transformative effect, not only for the women it affects but for her family and community as well.

Continue reading

International Women’s Day: Eight Women Who Have Filled the Gender Gap in Agriculture

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, IFDC‘s Deputy Director for North and West Africa Oumou Camara blogs for Next Billion, sharing the stories of eight extraordinary women that have succeeded in bridging the gender gap in agriculture. Read the original post here.

Women account for more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide but they own less than 20 percent of the world’s land, earning just a fraction of what their male counterparts do.

As the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women explores how to empower rural women, Farming First is sharing stories of women all over the world that are bridging this gap in agriculture.

Jahanara Begum: Proof is in the profit in Bangladesh

In a country where less than 60 percent of women are economically active, female farmers like Jahanara Begum, 45, face negative comments and scepticism from their communities and even their families. But for Begum, the results spoke for themselves after she became a Farm Business Advisor and started selling vegetable seeds and other inputs like fertilizers, vermicompost and pest management tools to farmers with the support of PROOFS (Profitable Opportunities for Food Security), a Dutch-funded project led by iDE and partners. Jahanara used previous contacts in her network to her advantage – not only to reach 250 producer groups as part of the project, but to go beyond that to reach more groups in the remote riverine islands. She later took out a loan from a financial institution, overcoming social norms and gender bias to expand her business and strengthen her linkages with private companies. Her business track record ensured that the financial institution did not deem her too risky to give out the loan.

Jahanara Begum, Farm Business Advisor (Photo: iDE PROOFS)

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo: Climbing the ladder in Peru

As Esperanza Dionisio Castillo rose up the ranks to become general manager of the Pangoa Cooperative, a cocoa growing union in San Martín de Pangoa, Peru, she found few other female role models to follow. She experienced greater scrutiny and mistrust in leading the cooperative as a woman. But after proving herself by bringing higher and more consistent incomes to rural families, Castillo wanted to ensure that other women found an easier path. So she offered rural female members support through health services, leadership training through the co-op’s Committee for the Development of Women and access to credit via social investment fund Root Capital.

Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager of C.A.C. Pangoa

Fatima Nadinga: Credit where it’s due in Burkina Faso

Accessing credit is often a challenge for smallholder farmers, and it is even harder for women. That’s why a USAID-funded project implemented by non-profit CNFA is training women in the “warrantage” credit mechanism. The system allows farmers to use their grain as collateral to obtain credit from a bank or microfinance institution rather than selling their harvest all at once. Under this system, farmers like Fatima Nadinga can deposit their crops and access credit to invest in their farms and generate more income, while also strategically selling their crops at the highest price.

Josefina dos Santos Lourenço: Give a little to get a lot in Mozambique

Josefina, a young Mozambican, had aspirations of owning her own business. But she wasn’t earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Her situation is not uncommon; women account for almost 90 percent of the work force in Mozambican agriculture, but represent just a quarter of the land owners holding official user rights. But Lourenço’s prospects improved when she was recruited by Export Marketing Company Limited, a major agricultural trading company, with support from Fintrac’s Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program. Lourenço received three training sessions in the first six months and a 50 percent discount on her initial inventory of inputs, like fertilizer and crop protection products for her input shop. She now serves almost 1,000 farmers and has become financially independent.

Lidia Grueso: Paying it forward in Colombia

In Colombia, where women make up 40 percent of the cocoa growers’ association COMCACAOT, Lidia Grueso, 41, has already overcome gender bias and prejudices to become a union manager. But the five-year-old association has still faced the challenge of accessing credit and loans for its members. USAID’s Rural Finance Initiative has helped individual farmers access loans, vouching for almost 375 of its members. This allows women to afford inputs like fertilizer to improve their business and to better pay the staff harvesting the cocoa.

Yinka Adesola: Field school founder inspires youth in Nigeria

After attending trainings sponsored by IFDC’s 2SCALE project, Yinka Adesola learned how to increase farm productivity with good agricultural practices and integrated soil fertility management. She was also taught business management strategies such as marketing and selling crops. She knew she needed to inspire others with what she had learnt. “I wanted to hold other trainings to attract more youth to agriculture, to show that agriculture is a lucrative business,” she says. Now, every three months, trainees from all around Nigeria come to her field school, the Entrepreneur Youth Multipurpose Cooperative, to learn vegetable production and farm management.

Ethel Khundi: Doubling down on diversity in Malawi

The impact of the gender gap in agriculture worldwide results in a yield gap of up to 30 percent because women are unable to access the same resources as men. But a Self Help Africa program in Malawi has trained female livestock keepers in conservation farming techniques that use zero tillage to safeguard moisture in the soil, allowing them to diversify their farms. As well as raising her pigs, Ethel Khundi, 36, has also been able to produce three times more maize, which was a valuable insurance when she lost her entire drove of pigs to swine flu. Instead, her maize harvest offset the losses and kept her on track to expand her home and set up a village shop.

Ruramiso Mashumba: Female agripreneurs on the rise in Zimbabwe

Agribusiness in Zimbabwe is dominated by men, of whom almost 70 percent are employers. Meanwhile, women are much more likely to work unpaid in agriculture than to be a paid full-time worker. Yet women like Ruramiso Mashumba are blazing a trail for more female agripreneurs. After returning to farming in Zimbabwe following her studies in Agriculture Business Management at the University of West England, Mashumba was elected as the national chair of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Young Farmers’ Club in 2014. She also founded Mnandi Africa, an organisation that helps rural woman to combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping them with skills and knowledge in agriculture. 

Learn more about the rural women filling in the gender gap in agriculture at, or follow #FillTheGap on social media.

Behind the Success of the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Approach

In this guest post, Sylvain Roy, CEO of Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) champions the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program as a highly effective approach to improving the productivity and sustainability of agriculture in the developing world.

The U.S. Agency for International Development’s John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program (F2F) is very likely our nation’s single most cost-effective and successful effort to assist developing countries around the world.

The concept of F2F is simple. U.S. volunteers with decades of experience in farming and agriculture-related fields—as well as those with expertise in banking, business, academia and government service—spend about two to four weeks in a developing country working with local counterparts to help improve agricultural productivity.

Since the inception of F2F more than 30 years ago, showcasing the best of ‘citizen diplomacy’, nearly 17,000 American volunteers have shared American know-how and worked to improve agriculture in 112 countries. Armed with experience working in our own nation’s vast range of climates, ecosystems and soil types—as well as our strong tradition of agricultural research—these American volunteers are uniquely equipped to serve the needs of many different developing countries.

F2F volunteers work on assignments all along the agricultural value chain—from the field to processing to sales in the marketplace. To ensure the sustainability of these improvements, volunteers also work to facilitate access to credit, encourage environmentally friendly techniques, and equip participants with business skills. The use of volunteers for all of this keeps program costs down, ensures the dedication of participants, and allows thousands of experts to contribute their valuable knowledge to international development.

F2F volunteer Matt Cleaver worked with farmers in Malawi to implement improved mushroom processing and production techniques. Image credit: CNFA

F2F volunteer Matt Cleaver worked with farmers in Malawi to implement improved mushroom processing and production techniques. Image credit: CNFA

While farmers in developing countries are often knowledgeable about raising their crops and livestock, improved methods developed in other parts of the world can be slow to arrive. This is where the practical experience of F2F’s volunteers is most useful. In most cases, their introduction of new and simple techniques that use inexpensive, locally available products can provide the key to significantly improving production.

Using these techniques, farmers gain the tools they need to advance beyond growing only enough food to feed their own families, and to begin growing and selling surplus products to generate extra cash. That means more food to feed growing populations—as well as higher incomes to reduce the exodus of rural people to the poverty of megacities.

F2F volunteers also help countries avoid some of the problems developed nations once faced as they moved from subsistence farming to more intensive agriculture. For example, the introduction of dry-land farming techniques can help a developing nation avoid a disaster like the Dust Bowl that hit United States in the 1930s.

I personally witnessed the considerable benefits generated through the F2F program through my own experience with CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture), one of seven implementing partners of F2F today.

In Malawi, for example, one of our F2F volunteer experts worked with a mushroom cooperative to improve the pasteurization techniques that allow their mushrooms to grow without competition from other, undesirable fungi. After implementing some additional, simple changes in growing techniques—such as covering the buildings where they grow their mushrooms with clear plastic to better regulate temperature—the cooperative’s weekly sales of oyster mushrooms rose from 96 kg to 168 kg.

In many countries, farmers looking to earn an income or simply feed their family face many challenges during the dry season, especially as a changing climate has increased the variability of its timing and intensity in recent years.

F2F assignments allow implementers to provide a rapid, tailored response in communities in need of climate-smart agriculture techniques. This includes everything from starting preparations early enough to harvest currently available rain water to more effectively manage the soil in ways that minimize loss of moisture moving forward.

This year, one of CNFA’s volunteers Phineas Ellis supported Face-to-Face village facilitators in Malawi using a “training of trainers” approach. By helping these local lead farmers develop practices to get rain and moisture deeper into the soil, cover cropping and dry season indigenous plant cultivation, as well as to teach the importance of perennials and perennial foods, they are able to disseminate these practices to farmers long after the conclusion of Phineas’ assignment. As a result, a single volunteer’s impact is extended and more at-risk farmers are able to benefit from plants that are able to access deeper ground water and are more resilient during droughts or in dry areas.

When participants make this sort of progress, other farmers strive to imitate their success. In this way, good practices spread to help many more people beyond the initial beneficiaries of our efforts.

The U.S. benefits in ways beyond simple moral satisfaction. We gain security when higher incomes in these nations provide stability and reduce the risk of civil conflict. We gain trading opportunities by building a middle class that can purchase not only our agriculture-related goods and services—but also many other U.S. products.

And most importantly, our volunteers gain a deep understanding of the challenges faced by those in other countries and cultures—understanding that they can share with other Americans on their return home. And through their interactions with beneficiaries abroad, they also serve as “citizen diplomats” who represent the United States as a positive force in the international sphere.

And we get all this at a modest price. Between 2004 and 2014 alone, F2F assisted more than 460,000 people in dozens of countries, adding nearly quarter billion dollars to the gross annual incomes of these beneficiaries.

By using dedicated, expert volunteers to teach, train and facilitate, F2F provides the proverbial fishing pole rather than the fish. For more than 30 years, Farmer-to-Farmer has leveraged its humble budget to provide an enormous impact on international agricultural development. We need to keep it going for another 30.