Stories tagged: CNFA

10 Ways Agriculture is Improving Lives in Asia

In this latest instalment of our “Supporter Spotlight” series, we take a trip to Asia to learn about the innovative projects Farming First supporters are working on all over the continent to improve food security and farmers’ lives.

1. Fintrac: Beating Drought with Smart Water Management in Cambodia

When the rains did not come in 2015, one group of farmers in the northeastern province of Pursat not only survived, but thrived. They had banded together to form a Water User Group, that managed farmer access to the Polyum Canal. By maximising efficiency and eliminating conflict around water use, and using good agricultural practices taught by the Cambodia HARVEST program, group members have increased their productivity from an average of 2,500 kilograms per hectare to more than 4,000. As a result, their household incomes have increased by 536 percent! Read more >>

2. GAIN: Meet the Wheatamix Women in India

Through funding from the Bestseller Foundation, GAIN is working in the states of Karnataka and Bihar in India to improve the nutrition and lives of groups of semi-literate women. These women are trained to run their own factories producing a quality blended complementary food product called ”Wheatamix” in Bihar and “Shakhti Vita” in Karnataka. This complementary food product, fortified with vitamins and minerals, has the potential to reach thousands of women, adolescents and children in the region. Read more >>


3. CropLife: An Indian Farmer Perspective on Biotechnology

In this interview with CropLife International, Balwinder Singh shares his experience of planting an insect-resistant strain of cotton. “I was lucky to be part of the trial when Bt cotton came to India, and when I saw the benefits of this technology; I was the first person to say, this is what is going to save us,” he said. “I took a gamble, and took an additional 50 hectares of land on lease to sow Bt cotton.  It has paid off and my family is enjoying a decent living.” Read more >>

4. IPNI: Healthier Soils Make Indian Farmers More Maize

Access to water has created a challenge for many Indian farmers, increasing interest in alternative crops to flooded rice. Working in West Bengal, research staff at the International Plant Nutrition Institute have focused on developing a rice-maize rotation as an alternative to rice to address the water challenge. Research showed that adding potassium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc in order to grow maize effectively added US$80 – $290/ha to the farmer’s income. Not only was the maize yield increased, but similar responses were recorded in the rice in these on-farm trials. Read more >>

5. CNFA: Building a Network for Agro-Input Services in Bangladesh 

CNFA implements the USAID-funded Agro-Inputs Project (AIP) to improve the knowledge of and access to quality agricultural inputs for farmers in Bangladesh. CNFA provides trainings and technical assistance on business management and ethics, basic agronomics, safe use and handling of pesticides and other related topics to 3,000 agro-input retailers. Of this, 300 women-retailers are specifically targeted. These agro-input retailers are expected to serve 1 million smallholder farmers, impacting more than 5 million individuals across 20 southern districts of Bangladesh, generating more than $100 million in sales. Read more >>

6. Livelihoods: Mangroves Restore Agricultural Land in Indonesia 

In 1987, Northern Sumatra had 200,000 hectares of mangroves. Today, less than half of that amount remains, with only 83,000 hectares standing. This Livelihoods project has restored mangrove forests, and as a result, increases the safety of the local population. Replanting coastal mangroves significantly buffers coastal communities from future tsunamis akin to that of the 2004 tsunami. Mangrove forests also help to restore vital agricultural land. Additionally, this project generates new sources of economic income. Local villagers are able to increase their revenues by selling the by-products of the mangroves such as fish, mollusks, batik dye and honey. Read more >>


7. HarvestPlus: Iron Pearl Millet Enriches Diets in India

Iron deficiency is rampant in India, affecting 7 out of 10 children. It impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying during childbirth. HarvestPlus is working with partners to promote varieties of pearl millet rich in iron, to help combat malnutrition. Read more >>

8. iDE: Saving Time and Earning Money Through Water Access in Nepal 

Rural villages in Nepal lack several basic services, but the primary issue for many is access to water. Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are an improved approach to water resource management, which taps and stores water and distributes it to households in small communities to meet both domestic and household agricultural needs. In addition to dramatically decreasing the workload of women and girls, MUSs provide benefits in health and sanitation, as well as enabling communities to improve their decisions on the allocation of water resources. “After we got the water it was easy to grow vegetables,” says Kamala Pariyar, a rural farmer in Dikurpokhari. “I used to ask my husband for money to buy basic things. Now, by selling the vegetables, I can earn 600 rupees a day. I have enough money.” Read more >>

9. World Vision: Mangrove Planting Revitalizes Philippine Fishing Community

When a fishing village in the western part of Leyte in the Philippines was struggling to catch enough to feed their families, World Vision helped to implement a mangrove planting initiative. Each family was provided with an average of 1,000 mangrove stalks to plant in the area near their house, to provide a safe habitat of various species of fish, where they can lay their eggs without being disturbed by double net fishing. There is now abundant fish for catching once more, and the community is protected from the risk of typhoons. Read more >>


10. IFA: Combatting Iodine Deficiencies Through Fertigation

Globally it is estimated that 2.2 billion people in the world are at a risk of iodine deficiency, which causes a wide range of physiological abnormalities, mainly related to defective mental development and brain damage. The content of iodine in food depends on the iodine content of the soils in which crops are grown. In Xinjiang Province, in the North West of China, the soil is particularly poor in iodine with an associated high infant-mortality rate. A project was put in place to supply the water irrigation system with iodine using an iodine fertilizer dripping technique, called fertigation. With this technique, the iodine from the treated water is absorbed by the soil and progresses through plants, animals and humans that eat the iodine-rich plants. Thanks to this project, rates of infant mortality halved and local livestock production increased by 40% in the first year! Read more >>

Do you have an inspiring story about Asian agriculture? Tweet @FarmingFirst and tell us about it!

Let Communities Take the Reins on Building Resilience

This blog is part of Farming First’s new #SDG2countdown campaign, a five-week effort exploring each of the five targets of SDG2 on ending hunger. Ed Keturakis, VP of Program Development, and Simone Schenkel, Program Coordinator work at CNFA, and help us continue our week exploring SDG2.4 on resilient food systems.

United Nations member countries in 2015 adopted a Sustainable Development Agenda titled “17 Goals to Transform Our World, to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

And that, of course, is a tall order. Ours is a world of moving targets, a dynamic and rapidly changing environment in which technology, population growth, urbanization and climate change are fast altering the long-established order of things. Continue reading

Alexis Ellicott: Bringing Gender Parity to the Agricultural Inputs Sector

In this guest blog post, Alexis Ellicott, CNFA Chief of Party on the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project tells Farming First how women are being empowered to enter into the male-dominated sector.

Women produce more than half of the world’s food. Global population is forecast to reach 9 billion by 2050, and the world’s women will continue to shoulder a huge share of the responsibility for feeding all those additional mouths.

But time is not on women’s side. According to the World Economic Forum, we still will be more than 120 years from full gender parity in 2050. It is no stretch to foresee that this continued lack of parity, should it persist as forecast, will severely hinder the ability of women to perform their key role in feeding the world’s population—and produce a potentially disastrous shortfall in the global food supply.

Given these facts, it is clear that if we are to meet our future food needs, we must put increased emphasis on empowering the world’s women farmers and rural women entrepreneurs. And we must act quickly.

Empowering women in many – perhaps most – areas of the world is not a simple task. As anyone involved in global development can attest, efforts to promote gender parity must clear hurdles unique to the social and cultural setting of each initiative.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day — “Be Bold for Change” – hits close to home for me. For the last two years, I have lived in Bangladesh, working with Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), which is implementing the USAID/Agro-Inputs Project (AIP). The effort has been a broad success, not only for men, but also for women. Through the creation of a local Agro-Input Retailers Network (AIRN), AIP now provides funding, training, and technical advice to more than 3,000 retailers selling inputs such as seed and fertilizer – including more than 200 women in what previously had been an almost entirely male-dominated sector.

AIRN has a trainers’ pool comprised of experts and retailers who deliver hands-on, easy-to-understand training on quality inputs and business management.

AIRN has a trainers’ pool comprised of experts and retailers who deliver hands-on, easy-to-understand training on quality inputs and business management.

This initiative has revealed examples of the sorts of obstacles women face when attempting to play a greater role in rural economies. Through research conducted in 2013, AIP learned that the small number of women-run agro-input (farm supply) businesses that then existed typically operated out of a woman’s home, and that women primarily sold only seeds due to societal “taboos” against women handling other inputs such as chemicals. AIP also discovered that 87% of the households in the surveyed area were headed by men, and that nearly 74% of men claimed sole household authority for decisions regarding the purchase of inputs. These societal attitudes are deeply ingrained, so the key to empowering these women to achieve success in agriculture and agribusiness meant designing solutions that conformed to the local cultures, rather than trying to change those cultures outright. That meant using tools within the cultural and societal environment itself to overcome obstacles that prevented women from gaining gender parity in the agro-inputs sector.

Under AIP, for example, even after receiving verbal and written consent from family and local community leaders—a critical step in ushering women into agribusiness–we learned that a woman’s acceptance by male peer retailers was ultimately the critical factor in her ability to successfully enter the agro-inputs sector.

CNFA therefore adjusted its approach to leverage more than 300 male “champions” – local agro-retailers who provided interpersonal counselling during the launch stages of the women retailers’ new businesses. In this way, CNFA was able to directly support the success of these women, while more effectively normalizing the notion of female business ownership within a male-dominated sector. In fact, over time, experienced women retailers also began to serve as champions to others through formalized visits and discussions, and more than 30 women now participate as leaders in AIRN local committees.

AIRN members keep sales records, which helps them to get better idea of inventory needs.

AIRN members keep sales records, which helps them to get better idea of inventory needs.

Empowering women in these efforts also required other adjustments. Due to their generally lower levels of education, lack of business expertise, limited freedom of movement, and the general gender segregation in Bangladesh, training had to be held in areas close to the women’s residences and teaching styles had to be modified. For many women, this was their first formal professional training. We found that participatory exercises increased engagement and adoption of the material over more traditional “classroom” approaches. And to ensure the sustainability of these new retailers, additional initiatives were designed to enhance their leadership and decision-making skills.

For Swapna Mondol, the training has given her a new confidence. “I used to sell agro-inputs, clothes, and rice from one store,” she told us. “When I joined AIRN, I found out that having inputs and food together can be hazardous to me and to my customers. So, I shifted my agro-inputs to another shop and feel more comfortable now to run the business.”

Another AIRN participant, Swapna Begum, can now play a bigger role in supporting her family. “Earlier, working as a day laborer and tea stall owner, I faced difficulty in supporting my family. That’s why I wanted to serve in a role that would benefit my family and community better. AIP’s matching grants program has pushed me forward to be a successful woman entrepreneur in agro-inputs business”.

Efforts have paid off, but the lessons learned from them must be passed on, refined and repeated in rural areas around the world.

I can attest to the fact that these important and critical changes are possible even in a country where rigid societal and cultural attitudes prevail – as long as those attitudes are respected and carefully addressed.

It is in fact time to be “bold for change,” to empower women in rural societies, and prepare them to assume a greater role in addressing the challenge to feed our growing world.

Governments, nonprofits and other organizations must continue to work together to make this happen. All of our futures depend on it.

Sheryl Cowan: Private Sector Drivers for Sustainable Growth in Agriculture

In this guest blog post, Sheryl Cown, Vice President of Programs at CNFA highlights the ways the private sector can catalyse sustainable agriculture and tackle global food security issues.

With the world population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, FAO projects that food and feed production will need to increase by 60 percent to meet the world’s food needs. The questions that arise are – Can we meet this growing demand? And can we meet this demand in a sustainable manner without harming our earth’s resources?

The answer is – Yes we can.

But no single organization or sector can address the problem of hunger on its own. However, it is widely agreed that both public and private investment in developing country agricultural productivity is a top priority. Continue reading

Input Supply & Farm Service Centers in Ethiopia

30, 000 Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia have increased access to the inputs they need.

Minda Ayalew, a farmer and customer of the new Bishoftu Farm Service Center became a farmer 5 years ago. He soon realized he needed different types of high quality seeds, fertilizers and other inputs to be a successful vegetable farmer but was confronted with a shortage of these products.

To bring solution to the many constraints faced by farmers such as Minda, USAID adapted CNFA’s model for enterprise-based delivery of farm supplies and services through a network of private Farm Service Centers (FSCs) in the Oromia region.

Photo by CNFA Ethiopia CFSP

Photo by CNFA Ethiopia CFSP

The FSCs are a one-stop shop providing farmers with agricultural inputs, services and technologies to help them produce surpluses and link them to markets. Currently six FSCs exist throughout Oromia serving farmers by providing them the inputs they need to be successful commercial farmers. Read more >>

Serving Malawi Farmers by Reducing Credit Risks for Agrodealers

CNFA established credit insurance in 2001 in Malawi to guarantee repayment of half of the money borrowed by agricultural input retailers to stock their shops.

This greatly expanded the number of rural distributors and decreased the distances farmers travelled to obtain inputs, sometimes quite dramatically, resulting in savings in both time and travel costs.

By 2005, retailers covered by the guarantees earned more than $1 million (plus a significant amount not underwritten by the credit insurance). Their success boosted local economies, raised Government tax receipts and increased the provision of non-agricultural services.

After the 2005 food crisis, the Government distributed seeds and fertilizers in order to prevent the situation from worsening. The 2006 maize crop rebounded significantly, but the impact on private-sector retailers was devastating: commercial sales of fertilizers slumped by 60-70 per cent.

A coalition engaged with the Government to transform the support programme into a private-public partnership. Retail sales have since recovered.