Stories tagged: Yara

Video: From Subsistence to Success for African Smallholder Farmers with Terje Tollefsen, Yara

Ahead of the International Fertilizer Industry Association’s Annual Conference in Sydney next week, Farming First talks business with Terje Tollefsen, Head of Strategy and Business Development at Yara International ASA.

Tollefsen highlights the efforts made by Yara in unlocking value chains in Africa. He points to the company’s work with Masara N’Arziki, which aims to increase maize production in northern Ghana.

We “put together in excess of 10,000 farmers. They all work together in terms of securing the inputs that we assist in supplying. And there is a clear off-take mechanism, so they can sell their grains at the end of the harvest,” Tollefsen says, adding that the project has led to a tripling of yields.

Tollefsen stresses that the success of Masara N’Arziki shows that it makes business sense to help smallholder farmers thrive: “For us there is no inherent trade-off between rural development while [creating] value for the farmers and then at the same time deliver value for our shareholders.”

Watch our video for the full interview with Terje Tollefsen.

Pierre Herben: Dreaming of a Green Desert

This week, Farming First spokesperson Pierre Herben, Chief Technology Officer of Yara participated in the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture conference held in Abu Dhabi.

Among the many innovative projects bringing food security and environmental sustainability to previously disused land, the Sahara Forest Project was showcased as an exciting example. In the following blog for Reuters Alertnet, Mr Herben explains how this pilot facility in Qatar provides a blueprint for ‘greening’ desert lands.

Sahara Forest Project

View the full article on Reuters Alertnet here.

Maize Partnership for Prosperity in Ghana

Effectively engaging smallholder farmers in profitable production, public-private partnerships with a value chain approach has proven a promising track. The Ghana Grains Partnership (GGP) is an innovative example of a scalable model for improving agricultural productivity and enhancing rural livelihoods. By offering vital inputs and facilitating a market for the crops, the partnership increases local food production, food security and smallholders’ income levels.

Agriculture remains a backbone of Ghanaian society; yet, agricultural sustainability remains low, largely due to depleted soils and low productivity. Although the absolute number of poor people has fallen as a result of consistent economic growth, one third of Ghanaians still live below the poverty line. Furthermore, the prevalence of poverty in the arid north is twice as high as in the south, and the great majority of growers are smallholders producing at subsistence level.

According to Dr. James Mantent Kombiok, “Soil depletion is an epidemic” in Northern Ghana. Kombiok, a crop scientist with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), says poor soil fertility is the major problem: “Without fertilizer the soil will have no nutrients; without fertilizer no cereals can be produced here.”

Productivity challenge

Low agricultural productivity – and profitability – is the main challenge facing food production in large parts of Africa. Although output has increased in Ghana, this is mainly due to farmland expansion rather than improved productivity. Ghana’s Ministry for Food and Agriculture concedes that yields for most crops are typically 20–60% below levels achievable with the use of available technologies.

A major obstacle facing smallholders is the inadequate access to high-quality, yet affordable agricultural inputs – and application knowledge. Accessibility has to do with physical availability as well as financial means to procure the inputs.

Innovative model

In 2008, the global crop nutrition producer Yara and the local inputs provider Wienco initiated the GGP, a public-private partnership working to improve the efficiency of the maize value chain in Northern Ghana. Building on existing studies of commodity value chains, the partners explored the potential of a novel approach, catalyzing the establishment of a farmers’ association – Masara N’Arziki (‘Maize for Prosperity’ in Hausa). Entering 2013, more than 8,000 farmers had joined, having seen yield levels triple compared to the average.

Masara acts on behalf of its members, purchasing inputs and selling the crops, while the GGP provides seeds and fertilizers on affordable credit terms, as well as storage and transport facilities – helping to reduce losses and increase profits. Thus, the risk for the individual farmer is reduced, as is the threshold for investing in improved technologies. Luuc Smits, Masara General Manager explains that “All the partners involved, like the suppliers and the farmers themselves, are in this model equally. Everybody understands that the success of one is success for everyone.”

Through the partnership, Yara offers its agronomic advice by inviting smallholders to Crop Clinics, sharing its crop-specific knowledge. Experience with local conditions have been gained from field trials, and are shared through practical demonstrations and discussions. One on the smallholders having taken advantage of program, Mohammadu Nindow of Duyin village explains that inputs and advice have raised yields and increased income – and improved livelihood. He is also encouraged by environmental impacts: “We can see the root go down and get strong. Even with heavy rain it will not cause erosion, but tie the ground. It supports the environment of the land.”

Moving forward

Based on studies of Ghanaian maize value chains, it has been estimated that value may be added through efficiency gains, from improved seeds and fertilizer use and reduced losses. Consequently, warehouses constitute a main component of the GGP, reducing product losses and increasing incomes, also because farmers do not need to sell when market prices are at their lowest.

“The value chain is the key,” says Yara country manager Mehdi Saint-André. As is the intrinsic business approach: “The GGP is a viable business model, able to tackle the smallholders’ challenges.” Among the challenges facing the model, are – in addition to those created by nature – the lack of coordination between agricultural development projects in the region, lacking group cohesion, and the low level of literacy amongst smallholders. The latter is addressed through the development of education in practical and innovative ways, bringing knowledge to the farmgate; the first are met though partnerships and coordination.

“The Ghana Grains Partnership is a wonderful model for agricultural development,” states Emmanuel Asante Krobea. The Director of Crop Services with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture hails the GGP as the way to address the critical challenge of productivity, wanting the model to be scaled up.

Through the Grow Africa partnership platform, building on the experiences with the GGP, Yara has committed to explore the opportunities for a rice value chain in Ghana and in neighboring Burkina Faso.


Delivering agricultural inputs in Tanzania

Almost seven years ago, the Tanzanian government approached fertilizer company Yara regarding a fertilizer partnership that would provide a stable supply of mineral fertilizers for the country’s farmers. Two years later, in 2006, the idea for the project expanded: realising that the real challenges extended beyond the supply of crop nutrients, the partnership needed to address the entire agricultural value chain. In 2008, The Tanzania Agricultural Partnership was launched.

The TAP consists of public institutions, private companies and national and international organisations coordinated by the Agricultural Council of Tanzania (ACT), the umbrella organisation for the agricultural private sector in the country. The partnership aims to reduce rural poverty by delivering appropriate agricultural inputs and improving output markets for Tanzanian farmers. It aims to blend commercial and developmental goals: its success will be determined by both business activities and effective public service delivery.  After an initial fast track pilot scheme in 2006, national roll-out has been going on since 2008 to cover 25 districts.

Yara play an active role in the partnership, with a special priority given to the distribution of fertilizer, including establishing credit facilities for farmers and setting up storage with a warehouse receipt system.

The Ghana Grains Partnership

Smallholder farmers in Ghana typically face several challenges preventing them from producing better yields. Among the lack of access to credit, inputs, storage facilities and infrastructure, a big influence on them is the belief that increasing production only serves to make the local market crash and prices plummet.

Back in 2008, fertilizer company Yara initiated a partnership with local growers in Ghana to address these challenges from production to market.  Working with local government, donors, private sector, scientists and farming communities, they commenced on working to provide the apparatus for marketing, warehousing, logistics and input services that would help farmers to stabilise and optimise their production and market prices.

The Ghana Grains Partnership focuses on maize, of which low production is a major problem in Western Africa. The initiative set to offer a holistic approach to the challenges faced in the agricultural value chain. Yara Ghana, together with Ghanaian inputs trader Wienco, financed the initial inputs requirements and coordinated the supply of fertilizers. A revolving credit fund was established, helping to attract further private sector participation in rural agriculture.  Along with Yara and Wienco, the partnership involves a variety of both public and private institutions: the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), farmers’ associations, the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture, commercial banks, output buyers and traders.

Ensuring that the farmers could make the most of the partnership, training in accessing appropriate credit, suitable inputs, and profitable output value chains was also provided.

After a successful fast-track plan in 2008, a larger scale model, including the launch of the growers’ association Masara N’Arziki (“Maize for Prosperity”), is now being rolled out over Ghana’s three northern regions. The association offers a programme package including provision of fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, spraying equipment, and technical advisory and training services.

In order to explain the benefits of joining the association to farmers, a sensitization project was undertaken initially, following which about 2,200 farmers signed up and over 10,000 acres were cultivated. Through relevant training, extension and inputs distribution, average yields improved significantly by the end of the first year.

Building on the success of Malawi’s fertilizer subsidy programme

Since its introduction in 2004, the Malawian government’s subsidy programme, which gives smallholders vouchers to buy seeds and fertilizer, has more than doubled farmers’ harvests. The example of Malawi is cited regularly as a symbol of how African agriculture can lift itself out of low productivity.

In order to continue the programme’s success, in 2007 fertilizer company Yara initiated the Malawi Agricultural Partnership (MAP) whose focus was to make the subsidy initiative more effective and reduce costs along the fertilizer supply chain.  Taking part in the MAP are AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), local authorities and the Norwegian government, amongst others. Working between government, private sector and donors, an investment plan has been created that alleviates the systematic problems in the fertilizer supply chain, in turn helping to share the risks with all involved in the scheme.

The MAP works on three objectives: i) to create an enabling environment by addressing subsidies, legislative and trade reform, fiscal policy and infrastructure; ii) to create an efficient value chain by supporting input suppliers, retailers, farmers and markets, and iii) to create the business services needed for each of the parts of the value chain to succeed.

In Malawi, Yara also contributes to Mwandama, a Millennium Village project supported by the UN, where inhabitants are the recipients of high levels of development aid, including seeds and fertilizer on a more generous basis than the nationwide scheme, and advice on diversifying their production into cash crops.