An Inclusive Systems Development and Investment Promotion Programme set to Commercialise Smallholder Farmers

Malawi, Uganda, Nepal
‘No Poverty’ and ‘Zero Hunger’ are two out of 17 global goals for sustainable development which the UK Department for International Development (DFID) programme aims to achieve by 2030. Agriculture sector growth, where it can be achieved cost-effectively, is likely to have a bigger impact on poverty reduction than growth in other sectors as it offers the most direct route of raising returns to the rural poor’s main assets, land and labour.

DFID has designed a strategy that if rightfully implemented, will help improve the lives of millions of people globally. It incorporates three main activities. Stepping Up – promoting growth in commercial agriculture and agribusiness to raise incomes, create jobs and lower food prices. Stepping Out – promoting labour-intensive growth in manufacturing and services. Hanging In – investing in agriculture as a holding strategy during the transition process alongside interventions to promote mobility.  The latter considerably forms the backbone of the Commercial Agriculture for Smallholders and Agribusiness (CASA) programme which is set to be implemented in Uganda, Malawi and Nepal. The 5-year programme will be executed on the premise that promoting agricultural transformation requires a specific focus on market and value chain development to help smallholder farmers become sustainably profitable and respond effectively to market demand.

In March 2019, Swisscontact as part of a consortium signed a contract to implement the fully-funded DFID programme in collaboration with NIRAS Development Consulting, the lead agency, and other subcontracted organizations - the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) and LTS International (who recently merged with NIRAS). The consortium mentioned will pull in its highly experienced resources to implement Component A and C, while TechnoServe will be responsible for delivery of Component B.

The £30 million funded programme aims to improve the livelihoods of 565,000 smallholder farmers and their families in Uganda, Malawi and Nepal by stimulating investment in emerging agri-markets. The CASA programme design is one of its kind as it not only focusses on the smallholders, as common with many development programmes but looks at enabling and commercialising the whole value chain. The programme will focus on different complementary value chains in each country. In Uganda, it will seek to create a meaningful impact in the sesame and beans sectors, in Nepal in the dairy and vegetable sectors and in Malawi, in the poultry and aquaculture sectors. These sectors were selected after extensive research and obvious growth potential in the various countries.

‘Sesame is a climate resilient crop capable of withstanding high heat and drought conditions. It predominantly performs well in the Northern Region of Uganda. Currently, many smallholder farmers growing sesame are using low-quality inputs and conventional agronomic practices such as little or no fertiliser and broadcasting instead of line planting. Sesame has a high potential to address food security as the incomes generated from retailing a kilogram range from CHF 1 - 2. We anticipate that once farmers adopt the new technologies and innovations, their production and incomes will double. At present, the crop is predominately female-driven at the production level. However, they drop the ball at some point and men take over the marketing part. We would like to uplift both genders throughout all processes within the sector,’ explains Mr. Stephen Anecho, the Sesame Market Manager, CASA Uganda during an Inclusive Systems Development mentorship meeting held in Kampala from 4th to 6th June 2019.

Mr. Hans Muzoora, the Uganda Country Manager explains that the CASA project is designed to achieve DFID’s goal of economic transformation which aims to create employment opportunities for smallholder farmers and increase their food security. ‘A big opportunity lies in linking the smallholder farmers to commercial markets. We understand the gaps in the market that affect production levels and are eager to work closely with the different market actors to strengthen the sectors. In Uganda, approximately 75% to 80% of smallholders practise subsistence farming for their consumption, 15% are involved in semi-commercial activities while less than 5% are involved in commercial activities. It is evident that many agribusiness enterprises lack the know-how to grow their outputs and are not investment ready. Produce aggregation and cohesion are also major challenges. We are eager to ensure the CASA programme maps out the underlying issues and facilitates the processes to achieve the desired results.’

Sustainability is Key

The CASA programme seeks to increase sustainable investment in agribusinesses with smallholder supply chains and increase the involvement of smallholders capable of stepping up in those supply chains thus demonstrably attaining higher incomes. These outcomes will drive impacts of increased smallholder incomes, improved food security and inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Gender and social inclusion, climate change and environment and food security and nutrition are key cross-cutting priorities across the board. 

Swisscontact takes the role of country-level programme implementation in Nepal but provides extensive backstopping and incubation on the Inclusive Systems Development approach in all 3 countries. This senior technical mentorship is provided on the basis of years of successful implementation of the approach in several projects within the inclusive agricultural market space. So far, all country teams have been trained on the approach and are now going through close mentorship from the Swisscontact champions; Ms. Ailsa Buckley and Mr. Anirban Bhowmik. In June 2019, Swisscontact’s mentorship provided guidance in market sector analysis, mapping, problem analysis, the vision of change and the development of an inclusive growth strategy for all sectors.

‘The training has allowed me to understand and appreciate the dynamics of adopting an inclusive systems approach to economic development that is way different from the conventional market systems development approach. The mentoring sessions have enhanced my ability to carry out detailed problem analyses; delving deep into understanding the root causes affecting the market system - especially issues within the support functions or business enabling environment. I’m now confident I will design effective project interventions,’ expresses Ms. Christine Kiwanuka, the Beans Market Manager, CASA Uganda.

The CASA programme is currently in inception phase till 8th September 2019 with implementation expected to begin from 9th September 2019.